There are a number of professional coaching associations set up globally with the aim of helping set and maintain standards of coaching, promote good practice, and provide training, development, supervision and accreditation of coaches.
Unlike other professions, such as counseling, psychotherapy and accountancy, coaching is not regulated by legislation. This is partly because it is a relatively new profession and some argue that owing to the diverse types of coaching and approaches used in coaching it is difficult to define ‘best practice.’
However few people who would argue against having ethical guidelines and promoting the ongoing professional development of coaches both of which can only serve to help the development and credibility of coaching as a profession.
So if you are a coach, referring to the professional coaching bodies in your country is a good starting point if you want to understand more about coaching standards, best practice and coach accreditation and development. However do this with the caveat that these standards are set by the organisation itself, are self-regulated and there may be several organisations claiming to be the ‘number one coaching association’ in your country. Also before you rush into paying any membership fees do your research and speak with other coaches to find out what they have gained from being members.
Likewise if you are considering using a coach it can be useful to look at the professional coaching associations. They can help you to understand more about what constitutes good coaching so you know what you can expect when being coached and you may be pointed to a directory of coaches accredited by that professional body. However, do check out what accreditation actually means and also check out choosing a coach, as an ‘accredited coach’ doesn’t necessarily mean they are the best one for you. Also, check out the authenticity of the coaching body - are their aims to improve the standards in the coaching profession or are they just a commercial organisation promoting their own courses?
Think carefully about the benefits that joining would bring to you. Is it to gain accreditation, to be part of a network of coaches, to develop as a coach, or to be an integral part of promoting good coaching?
Whatever your reason ensure you do your research and look into all those profession ‘bodies,’ ‘federations,’ ‘associations’ and other coach training ‘organisations’ to see what each offer. Find out from other coaches too what membership has brought them.
There are a number of USA professional coaching bodies that serve to set and maintain standards, develop and accredit coaches and promote best practice throughout the coaching profession. Although US based a number of these organisations such as The International Coach Federation and the International Association Of Coaching operate worldwide.
In the US coaching is not regulated so any accreditation provided by coaching associations is based on their own standards. There is much debate about regulating the industry. Those in favour see that regulation will ensure standards are in place which have to be maintained by legislation and therefore help to ensure that potential purchasers of coaching are protected.
Those arguing against say that since types of coaching are so broad and approaches diverse it would be difficult to define the ‘right’ standards. Also regulation in the US at state level would also mean that a coach would have to be licensed to operate in each state that their clients were based as with other professions such as lawyers.
In the UK coaching is not yet a regulated industry and as such there are no officially recognised UK professional coaching associations which are responsible for overseeing the coaching profession.
However there are a number of professional bodies which have been set up with the aim of setting and maintaining standards in coaching, promoting good practice, developing its members and providing accredited training which can only be great news for the coaching professional as a whole.
Several of these associations work closely together and in February 2008 four of the key ones in the UK signed an agreed ‘Statement Of Shared Professional Values’ which is intended to give all purchasers of coaching clear ethical guidelines as to what constitutes good quality coaching.
So if you live in the UK you may want to take a look at these organisations if you want to find out more about coaching, becoming a coach, what ethical standards you can expect from coaching or if you are looking for a coach.
However if you are searching for a coach don’t discount those which aren’t members of professional associations as there are many highly experienced and accredited coaches who choose not to join an official association. It's also fair to point out that just because a coach is a member of a professional association is doesn't guarantee that they are the right coach for you or indeed guarantee the standard of their coaching. See choosing a coach for guidance on this point.
Founded in 1995, with 15,000 members in 90 countries The International Coach Federation (ICF) claims to be the largest worldwide resource for both professional coaches and those seeking a professional coach.
It is a non–profit making organization with aims to advance the coaching profession by setting professional standards, providing independent certification, and building a network of credentialed coaches.
The ICF is also one of the professional coaching associations at the forefront of developing standards of competence and ethics and through the ICF Regulatory committee provides a system of self-regulation.
So, if you are a professional coach, whether business, executive, life or other type of coach you may want to consider membership.
But as with any professional coaching associations, think carefully before you join to ensure you really know what you want to get from membership and whether in realty you will be able to take advantage if membership benefits. Many coaches join professional coaching bodies just to get the badge without thinking what they will really gain.
If you are currently a member of the ICF (or have been) and would like to share your experiences please let us know.
For more information about the ICF and their full range of services click here