I am a qualified Life Coach, I have a piece of paper that confirms it. I have a diploma in Life Coaching and according to this cardboard printout, I am qualified to help you create a better life.

The problem is though, anyone can print off a similar piece of paper that says “Life Coach” and begin coaching people. Unlike counselling or psychology, it is a completely unregulated industry and that means that the market place is awash with people with the best of intentions, but no idea what they are doing. Though many do have qualifications, you do not actually need a single qualification or background check to announce that you are a Life Coach.

Despite the fact it may not share the regulations of more well-known treatments, like Psychology, I honestly believe in the benefits of coaching. It has helped me in many different ways and has helped me create the life I now lead and I am forever indebted to one or two of my coaches who enabled me to get out of my own way. The right coach is like having someone on the sidelines, who is not playing the game and can help you figure out your next move, but the wrong coach will hep you throw money away, perhaps give you false belief and take some huge unnecessary risks. I have along my travels met some awful coaches and whilst their hearts might be in the right place, without the right tools, experience and training they can end up doing more harm than good.

Recently I was asked about my coaching background, how I got into it and why I don’t really do it anymore and I reflected that in the past, I have helped company directors, kids, lawyers and people with depression kick on and achieve more. But whilst I was coaching, despite my qualifications, I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that I was a fraud. Here I was telling people that they can do anything they want with their life, they can achieve their goals, get promoted and follow their dreams, telling others to go for it, but doing nothing to follow my own inner desires and dreams. Talking the talk, but not walking the walk.

This is the problem with many coaches I have met along the way, some coaches have never achieved a single thing and have some pretty intense personal issues - they deflect this by helping others. Whilst their hearts are in the right place I am sure, nearly all of these types of coaches will fail to see the irony in helping people chase their dreams whilst hiding from theirs.

By using great coaches you can accomplish many of your dreams just like I did, it was these great coaches that inspired me to also listen to my own advice and training. As a result, I have achieved things I hadn't dare even dream about - I didn't just talk the talk, I walked the walk. This article is beginning to sound like a humble brag, but in truth, I am very passionate about the benefits of coaching, but I am also passionate about the integrity of this very unregulated industry.

It is because I believe in and have directly benefitted from Life Coaching that I wanted to share some important factors to consider for those of you who may consider taking on a coach:

1. Think honestly, do you need a coach?

Stuck in a rut? Have a feeling that there’s more you could be achieving? Struggling to hit goals? Struggling to motivate a team? Then yes, coaching could be for you. You may benefit from an external person helping you discover obstacles and come up with ideas to get around them. If you are deeply depressed or believe you have something deeper rooted, then perhaps counselling or a psychologist would be more effective for you. Maybe you just need some advice to get over a certain problem or issue, you could benefit from a mentor - think about someone in your organisation or social circle that has had to deal with these things, they may be willing to give you some advice to help address a certain issue.

2. What to look for

Find a coach that has real qualifications. Not someone who has printed off their own qualification, or done a 1-week course on coaching. Do not believe someone who tells you that just because they are successful that they can coach you to achieve similar results.

Coaching is not just about a person's success or experience in their field - good coaches are adept at the systems and tools of coaching. A good coach with extensive training and qualifications could coach a sports star, an executive and a child who is struggling at school with the same approach. They don’t necessarily need experience in the field you need help with because they are good with the application of coaching.

Find a coach who has studied the craft for multiple months, maybe even years. In my example, I studied coaching for more than 2 years and gained a level 5 diploma in Professional Management Coaching (UK foundation degree equivalent) from the Institute of Leadership and Management. Look for a coach with a similar qualification, because to get a qualification like this, you will have had to complete 200 hours of SUPERVISED coaching before you can pass.

3. Listen to how they communicate with you in your first session

Most coaches begin with a kind of freebie orientation session. Here they should tell you a little about themselves before asking you questions about the kinds of issues you’re having. Even after this first session, you should come away with some useful thoughts and ideas about how you can get around your problem.

Some warning signs to look for are if they talk about themselves constantly, or want to tell you about themselves and how they got over similar issues. Or they tell you directly what you “should” do instead of letting you figure it out for yourself. This isn't coaching, its mentoring, or just flat out bragging.

A good coach should also be able to estimate in your first session how many coaching sessions you may need to move you past your problem if it’s any more than 6 then I would suggest that some caution should be taken. I have never had a student I couldn’t move past their particular issue in less than 6 sessions.

4. Consider how much the investment is worth

Coaches will charge anything from 50 to 500 euros an hour. Consider how much you want to invest. Sometimes a good coach will be worth the large investment, but you have to be clear about what you want from your coaching. For instance, if you want a coach to help you get a promotion, and that promotion is worth 10’000 Euros a year extra and your 6 coaching sessions will cost you 1000 euros, then it’s might be a good investment. IF your coach is good.

5. Look at their track record

Can they give you examples of people that they have helped? Referrals? Testimonies? can you find them on YouTube giving talks about performance? Does their website contain blogs about performance and coaching, did a friend recommend them to you?

Any coach worth his or her salt will have their own ideas and tools of how to maximise your potential and they will not be shy about sharing it. Read through their ideas, watch their vlogs, speak to past customers of theirs, don’t just trust your gut. Many coaches I have met can talk a great game but are not effective as coaches because they are obsessed with themselves. You will end up paying 100 euro a session to hear someone talk about themselves.

At the end of the day, coaching is an amazing tool because it focusses on you, your resourcefulness, your ideas, your success and it is future focussed and solution orientated. It leaves you feeling far more confident positive and resourceful than you ever have before if you use the tips above, it will help you pick the right coach.