Life coaches, like good friends, are there for you. They are confidants and cheerleaders, motivators and mentors. For a price, you can bask in their rapt attention, burden them with all your problems and map out solutions to any number of life’s dilemmas. In this relationship it’s all about you.

These modern-day gurus, who provide a sympathetic, non-judgmental ear may be the ultimate selfish luxury in a culture that’s become remarkably comfortable about buying services.

A survey of Internet sites reveals there may be as many as 30 different kinds of executive, corporate and personal development coaches.


Because the industry is not regulated, there’s no saying how big it is or how fast it’s growing. But the 12-year-old International Coach Federation estimates there are 30,000 coaches in the world (about 10,000 in North America) and about a third are federation members. This represents a 300 per cent increase since 2000. And according to the Business and Economic Review, “In 2006, PricewaterhouseCoopers found professional coaching to be a $1.5-billion (US) global industry.”

Some coaches are in private practice. Some work in the human resources departments of big companies.

Sometimes they are registered psychologists. Often they have entrepreneurial or career management experience or some history in behavioural sciences. Many cite professional coaching certificates and affiliations with coaching associations.

The bottom line is, anyone can call themselves a coach.

Elsbeth Tate is a Toronto-area coach with the letters CPCC and PCC after her name. That makes her a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, a designation attained from the Coaches Training Institute, based in San Rafael, Calif., and an accredited Professional Certified Coach through the International Coach Federation.

“Most of my clients are professional people, dentists and certified accountants who are looking for balance in their lives,” says Tate.

Tate suggests the field is growing so fast because too many people are feeling dissatisfied and unfulfilled, even though they are working very hard and have accumulated a lot of material goods. And in today’s service-oriented culture, asking for help is no longer a sign of weakness.

“Last year Duke University found that the number of people who said they had no one to discuss important issues with doubled to nearly 25 per cent from 1985 to 2004,” an Associated Press article reported.

Paul Coputt, 46, of Dundas, Ont., is both coach and consultant. He calls himself a personal brand career coach. Before entering the field six years ago, he worked in executive and professional recruiting, specializing in sales and marketing.

He suggests the modern business climate is responsible for the growth in coaching. “Employees, for example, are rarely handed their next opportunity. For past generations it was normal to stay in one job for decades. But today the average tenure in any job is four to five years. They may end up having four to 12 employers over a career.”

But, says Coputt, a lot of people do not know how to clearly articulate their values and goals. A lot of people have trouble identifying what they are about, particularly younger people, who are not exclusively pursuing work for the financial rewards.

For them it’s about engagement, not money and benefits.

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