life coaching

The harmful side of the booming coaching industry.

Money. Nutrition. Relationship. Career. Side Hustle. Life. For every problem, a ‘coach’ is ready to help you up and out.

It’s become so common that you might wonder if coaching is legit!

The field of coaching is booming. Don’t let that disturb you – the coaching industry is real. Know the warning signs to avoid emotional, mental, physical, or spiritual harm.

As the world recuperates post-COVID, people want help navigating how they can live intentionally, engage, and incorporate the expansive definition of wellness into their lives. As life coaches, we help individuals do tough and new things, which often entails simultaneously intertwining several dimensions of “wellness” into their lifestyle. 

Many top coaching certifications cost several thousands of dollars and help provide tools and frameworks for coaches. While certifications aren’t everything, it’s essential to consider them to measure substance and dedication. No standard signifier reveals coach training, education, and certification, like that of MDD for doctors or LCSW for social workers.

The International Coaching Federation is the globally recognized governing body of the coaching profession. This list includes all types of coaches: Business coaches, leadership coaches, career coaches, communication coaches, productivity coaches, sales coaches, marketing coaches, love coaches, spiritual coaches, purpose coaches, ADHD coaches, recovery coaches, parenting coaches, wellness coaches, style coaches; you name it, it includes them all.

According to the International Coaching Federation (ICF), there are approximately 71,000 life coaches in 161 countries worldwide. This statistic increased from 53,300 coaches in 2018 to a 33% increase! 

If we account for the fact that life coaching is a concept that’s only 30 years old or so, it becomes even more impressive that this industry now has a $1 billion value in the US. As a percentage of the global industry, the US comes out as the industry’s primary stakeholder.

The estimated global revenue from coaching in 2019 was $2.849 billion. Yep, $2.849 billion. That’s a 21% increase over the 2015 estimate – a massive overshoot!


Low barriers to entry are allowing more people to give a name to themselves as coaches – and that presents some issues.


Devoting your life to empowering others to envision and reach their full potential is a noble and beautiful goal. There’s also reason to be discomforted about the level of understanding, training, credentials, certifications, and overall competence in this field to “work” with others feeling stuck, recovering, or worse, depressed and suffering in silence.

According to a Gallup poll, 36% of US employees currently show engagement in their work and workplace — which matches Gallup’s composite percentage of engaged employees in 2020. Globally, 20% of employees show attention at work. Nearly 70% of people feel stuck, trapped in a life or dead-end job, and millions are disappointed. We need more coaches in the world, no doubt. But we need coaches who are honest about the services they can provide to their clients. And more importantly, to be just as authentic about the services they are not qualified to offer. 

Many markets use money-making sales techniques, services, products, and communities, saying they will fix your problems in any area of life. No wonder people, including loved ones, scoff, criticize, avoid, show no support, nor seek understanding of the complexity of coach training through ICF coaching standards. These seemingly accessible market concepts are dangerous and do not serve people responsibly. 

If you are interested in self-development, healing, recovery, or growth, please know regardless of the route taken on your journey to a better self, it is vital to thoroughly vet anyone representing tools and support for your health and well-being.


Coaches partner with others in many capacities; those in recovery and healing are not to take lightly.

This statement is especially true regarding substance abuse, addiction, trauma, anxiety, depression, or other mental health concerns.


The key to helping others is to fully experience and understand human pain and suffering, specifically yours, before working with others in a vulnerable state of mind.

There are dangers present with this new dynamic. If you fall prey to, by no fault of your own, a fake-it-till-you-make-it coach, they are misleading people at best and potentially harming their lives.

Professional Certified Coaches receive training and education to notice when the client may be suffering from issues beyond the scope of coaching. We stand prepared for client referrals to the appropriate practitioners.

If you don’t have coaching qualifications from an accredited coach training program, please STOP referring to what you do as coaching!

I know this request isn’t realistic. No law says you have to have coach training to help people, so too many people still take advantage of that and include the word ‘coaching’ in their offerings.

What Is Coaching?

The ICF defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”

People hire coaches when they want to talk to a professional about living their lives in the best possible way, achieving goals, finding solutions, taking on new challenges, and up-leveling their success, happiness, and well-being. Coaching is not therapy, advice, training, counseling, or consulting.

When not adequately trained, it’s easy to venture into the mental health professional field, which I’ve seen in many cases and experienced in my practice the first year many times. This practice can harm both the client and the so-called coach.


Ask questions to choose a coach perfect for you!


Do they have certifications?

While many coaches undergo training, nothing stops anyone from sliding the word coach into their Instagram bio or LinkedIn. Coaching is a skill that needs to be honed and practiced. A coaching conversation is different than giving advice.

Look for the letters ACC, PCC, or MCC after the name. If you don’t see these letters, your coach is not an ICF-credentialed coach.

And while not every likely client may be rushing to unpack their most deep trauma, stakes run high when issues typically handled by a highly trained psychotherapy professional fall into the hands of an undertrained “coach.” 

Make sure that before you hire ANYONE who claims to offer coaching services of any kind, they have credentials that the ICF recognizes.

Do they have references?

One quick way to validate a coach is to ask for references. If experienced and influential, they will have excellent references. 

If the coach is too new to have references, that’s ok. Yet, they should be upfront about it. Then you can make a judgment call based on how you feel about them and their pricing. 

Do you relate to them?

Do they get you? Can they relate to what you’re going through? Many cannot connect without complete experiential understanding and compassion. If you seek personal help, ask if this coach has been through and overcome the things you’re experiencing. 

Some examples might include unworthiness, stuckness, low self-esteem, work/life balance, self-care, limiting beliefs, self-sabotage, trust, relationship, parenting challenges, divorce, and loneliness.

On a professional level, ask if this coach has started a business, created wealth, or reached the joy or fulfillment you want to achieve. Ask them about their career and what they’ve accomplished. For instance, having a job does not make them qualified to be career coaches. 

While you want someone who can empathize and understand what you’re going through, their personal experience alone is not enough. Please beware of the coach who overshares their stories. If it feels egotistic to you, it’s probably best to trust yourself and move on. 

Have they been coached?

A promising coach usually has a coach. They understand what it feels like to be on the other side of the coaching discussion. They know first-hand that coaching can be uncomfortable. They know what it means to be vulnerable and how complex it is to change systemic beliefs. Correspondingly most sports coaches have played the game. 

How long have they been doing this?

When researching a coach, inquire about their experience level regarding the number of clients, years of practicing, and hours of coaching. The latter is the best sign of credentials. Every credentialed coach has to track coaching hours. If they’ve just started, it’s reasonable to presume they don’t have the expertise or may not be as devoted to the work. If you see some history, that’s a great sign they are determined, experienced, and have value to exchange.

Everyone deserves the opportunity to start from somewhere, yet an inexperienced coach can charge as much as an experienced coach. It’s essential to understand the value exchange. 

An honest, legitimate new coach commonly offers pro-bono and reduced-cost sessions. They are upfront with you that they are practicing. Don’t pay top dollar for an amateur coach. 

How likable is the coach?

In this digital age, our first impression is usually online. Navigate the website, and research the coach on social media. Listen to your gut as you scroll through Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Do they have a good photo so you can see who they are? Yes, that is important for first impressions. Or is every other post a picture of them followed by a caption saying, “Listen, blah blah blah advice?” 


Here’s who I AM!

Hi, I’m Shawntell, ACC II Ontology Coach. For myself, it took devotion to an ICF year-long coach training program in California, Accomplishment Coaching. I traveled each month from Colorado, surviving on food assistance, donations, and a full-time hairstylist, a hustling photographer, and a graphic designer. During the year-long training program, we had 14 student contact learning hours each weekend, totaling 168 hours provided. I had weekly one-on-one coaching providing an additional 44 hours of real-time contact for 212 student contact learning hours offered throughout the program. 

During my years of coach training, we explored the differences between coaching and therapy within each lesson. We trained not to cross the line into treatment. Because no single regulating body imposes negligence in the life coach industry, its potential for damage is ascending. Most well-trained coaches know about psychotherapy. 

Below are the program’s measurable objectives for my success: the ability and facility to demonstrate tools, concepts, and practices crucial to coaching.

  1. Generating a 70% or higher score on all written exams and a passing score on the Final Oral Exams.
  2. They are achieving their goal of creating a coaching practice and fulfilling their leadership objective.
  3. Maintaining their coaching business over time and expanding their leadership in their organization.
  4. Producing increased levels of competency in their coaching as evaluated by Program Coaches and Program Leaders throughout the program.
  5. Producing specific, measurable results with their clients/employees.
  6. Maintaining ethical boundaries.
  7. They are producing a fundamental breakthrough in their lives and their way of being human beings and leaders.

Training isn’t a one-time thing. Most loyal coaches are life-long learners, engaging in new methods and practices to stay current and relevant. For me, I found my passion and purpose!

I spent the last four years walking the talk, partnering with coaches, therapists, expert professionals, medical physicians, community leaders, researchers, nonprofits, finance specialists, chambers of commerce, and attorneys. The list goes on. Planning a service life and dreaming of the fulfillment of others who have suffered long enough; years of hard work, research, data, case studies, diving deep into mental health, addiction, cycles of abuse, healthy communication, cognitive skills, behavioral traits, meditation, and trauma recovery work, with a willingness and fire to engage in a new way of being in my life. I’ve invested $40k+ on coach training, CEUs, workshops, mentoring, learning, living, and familiarizing the most influential foundations of mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual practices and beliefs. This industry concern comes because I am working and supporting others in the trenches. It’s vital to know the differences between a coach and a healthcare professional so as not to cause harm to one another.

With access to inherent love, peace, and joy, I co-founded Jobash LLC, an online self-development program for women and Define Your Shine®️, to foster and achieve self-realization. I utilize the practices in private coaching, group coaching, and charitable coaching services for low income. I am thrilled to be in the final stages of the DYS™️ Foundation, a 501c3 Nonprofit Organization. Each of these interchanges leverages my training, experience, and resources gained throughout years of growth in service.

Define Your Shine® is a lifestyle based on moral & spiritual principles. We immerse into the practices by courageously exploring deeper into soul qualities.

Begin the journey of unlearning conditioned fear from unworthiness by connecting to soul qualities and moving from the painful feelings attached to guide our soul forward with love and acceptance.

This knowledge offers many ways to help others overcome difficulties due to systemic issues, most often leading to a life of addiction, despair, mental health issues, poverty, homelessness, and death.

If you want a free shine session, more information about hiring me as your coach, communication about qualified or ethical coaching, or any other questions or concerns, please contact me directly! I’m here for you! Let’s Chat!

Love and Light,

Shawntell H


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