Types of Coaching, Coaching Styles, and Certifications – Which One Is Right For You?


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By: Corry Robertson, PCC

What are the different types of coaching? What about coaching models, styles, and coaching certifications? There are so many different types of coaching and coaching styles that it can be confusing, but let’s dive in and talk about what kind of people become coaches, and the types of coaches that they become.

What types of people become coaches?

Usually, coaches are people who are called to make the world a better place by using their gifts, knowledge and experience to help others improve their lives.

They’re usually the type of people who want to help others by connecting them to their path of health, happiness and success.

Often, they are inspired by the idea of coaching as a way to help their clients do what they need to do to achieve their goals.

When people call me to enquire about the coach training offered by The Coaching Academy for Leaders, they often tell me that they would like to know how to coach so they can best help their colleagues transform. 

They tell me things like:

          “Corry, people often ask me “ What should I do?” but I can’t tell anyone what to do, it’s not my place.”

          “After a conversation with me, my people want to talk about what’s next for them but I’m not sure that I will say the right thing.”

          “I want to coach but I wouldn’t feel right doing that because I haven’t been trained or certified.”

          “I have so much knowledge and experience and now I want to pay it forward and to help others.”

People who want to coach believe that becoming a coach will bridge the gap between what they can and cannot do for their others.  And they’re right!

Coaching types

Many aspiring coaches want to know what the different types of coaching are, as if coaching can be categorized into completely separate fields.  But at its core coaching is coaching, regardless of the type.

That being said, many professional coaches have a specialty and that is perfectly ethical if the coach is qualified in the subspecialty. 

Often coaches specialize in areas where they believe there is a need and where they want to have the most impact based on their values and life purpose, and what types of conversations they are comfortable with.

One way to do market research and see if you can find a right fit for your own coaching services is to look at opportunities on websites like Jooble where you can browse hundreds of job listings. For example, here are some listings for Life Coach.

Let’s have a closer look at some different types of coaching or subspecialties:

Life Coaching

A coach will choose to do this type of coaching because they want to support their clients in discovering their purpose, living the life they dream of, and finding happiness. 

Life coaches work with clients who feel stuck and know that there is something out there for them but they can’t figure out what that is. The life coach will guide their client through the process of self-discovery, then help them chart the course to build a new life. A life coach does not diagnose the client’s problem or tell the client what’s wrong with their life or provide the prescription for happiness – the life coach helps the client figure that out for themselves.

Types of Coaching - woman being coached

Spiritual Coaching

Spiritual coaching is much like life coaching but it’s unique in that both the spiritual coach and the client who seeks spiritual coaching have a connection to a higher power and want to nurture their connection to the divine as a way of living their fullest and happiest life.

Spiritual coaches are often helpers, healers or transformational guides who have their own spiritual gifts that they want to share with the world.

Health and Wellness Coaching

This type of coaching work is offered by coaches who are interested in helping their clients achieve health and wellness in their lives. Often, health and wellness coaches also have areas of expertise such as fitness training, naturopathy, homeopathy, nutrition, and weight management.

Like the life coach, this type of coach will guide their client through the process of self-discovery, and then help them chart the course to build a new life. 

Where this may differ is that the coach may have a deep subject matter expertise and be properly qualified to diagnose the client’s problem or tell the client what’s wrong with their health or wellness and may well provide a formula or protocol to follow.

The diagnoses or protocol may become part of the mandate and the coaching becomes about supporting the client who is embracing and following the advice.

Relationship Coaching

Relationship Coaches tend to have a special interest in interpersonal dynamics and communication. This type of coach wants to support people as they work through challenges in their relationship with their life partner or their children.

Relationship coaches often work on conflict and resolution skills with clients and can work with individuals or couples.  They may also offer tools to deepen intimacy and connection.

Business Coaching

This type of coaching is a huge sub-specialty and can be divided into many topics such as entrepreneurship, executive coaching, manager coaching, leadership training, team coaching, organizational culture and so much more.

This type of coaching is done by coaches who have a special interest in business planning, organizational development, interpersonal dynamics in the workplace, and performance.  Let’s explore a few of the more popular types of business coaching here:

Executive Coaching

Just like the world’s best athletes who rely on continuous coaching to achieve and sustain performance, business leaders who want to accelerate success hire executive coaches.  Executive coaches work with CEOs and leaders of all kinds to help them gain self-awareness, clarify their goals, achieve their objectives and act as an external sounding board for them to unlock their potential.

Leadership Coaching

Similar to executive coaching, leadership coaching is a personal development style of coaching where the coach accelerates success and helps their clients gain self-awareness and become a more effective leader.  Leadership coaches may coach groups of people or teams within an organization, or they may work one-to-one coaching managers or high potential employees.

Types of Coaching - health and wellness coaching

Career Coaching

Career coaches offer support, help and guidance for individuals wanting to map out their career path or achieve career goals.  These types of coaches often have extensive experience in recruiting or human resources and they help their clients accelerate their career through career planning, negotiation and interviewing skills.  This type of coaching often leaves the traditional path of “coaching” and veers more towards the skill set of a consultant or advisor, depending on the specialty of the coach.  

Performance Coaching

Performance coaching is a subspecialty of coaching that is often used in conjunction with the different types of business coaching, like executive coaching or leadership coaching, however it can also be its own specialty.  Performance coaches enhance a client’s ability to do something, often using techniques employed in the professional athlete world but applying them in a business context.

Types of Coaching Certifications

While there are many types of coaching certification programs available for aspiring coaches, professional coaches most often rely on the gold standard of ICF (International Coaching Federation) certification.  

Coaches become coaches by earning the title through study, practice, ongoing self-improvement, and ongoing credentialing.  You can read more about getting certified coach training and becoming eligible to earn a credential through the International Coach Federation (the ICF) in the article linked here.  

Types of coaching certifications include:

ACC – Associate Certified Coach – A coach who has completed at least 60 hours of coach specific training through an accredited or approved training program and who meets the ICF requirements for this credential.

PCC – Professional Certified Coach – A coach who has completed at least 125 hours of coach specific training through an accredited or approved training program and who meets the ICF requirements for this credential.

MCC – Master Certified Coach – A coach who has completed at least 200 hours of coach specific training through an accredited or approved training program and who meets the ICF requirements for this credential.

ICF requirements for credentialing involve more than just training. These levels require proof of practice and private mentoring. First time credentialing also requires that you complete a Coach Knowledge Assessment. 

Types of Coaching - Happy people

Types of Coaching Styles

What is the difference between the types of coaching styles?  The answer is very simple – not much.  Coaching is coaching regardless of the type or style. 

For example, on my LinkedIn profile you will see that I have Executive Coach in my title.  I have had many executives sign up for coaching to improve their leadership skills with the end goal of improving their workplace but often the conversation shifts to something else like parenting, or Spirituality or life purpose, or wellness, or money management, and then just as often will trackback to workplace leadership.

Or, someone will hire a life coach with the intention of embarking on a spiritual quest and before long they are realizing that they will fulfill their highest calling by starting a business that they have always dreamed of. 

And just like that, what started as life coaching has shifted to business coaching. And you know what? The life coach will do a brilliant job if they have professional coaching qualifications.

This happens because coaching helps people discover and remove obstacles and barriers in any and all aspects of their lives. Although there are different styles of coaching, all types of coaching address the whole person, not just the symptoms that are showing up as problems in the moment.  

This is why it’s essential that people who offer coaching services are properly trained to do so and that people who are looking to improve an aspect of their lives do their due diligence and ask about the coaches’ qualifications. 

In the end, a client may not need a coach. They may actually want or need a consultant, an advisor or a trainer. These professions are not coaching styles but different vocations altogether. A professional coach will assess the client’s needs and know if they can take them on as a client or if they need to refer them to an expert, based on the intake conversation.

Regardless of the type of coaching style or model that a coach chooses, we all start out in the same place. We sign up for a Coach Specific Training Program such as an ACTP or ACSTH and we learn how to coach.

From there we know where and how to draw the line between our subject matter expertise and our coaching expertise so that we are always serving our clients with the highest integrity and the best that the coaching industry has to offer.


Business coaching, executive coaching, life coaching, health coaching – there are so many different types of coaching in the world. If you are the kind of person who wants to make the world a better place by helping others improve their world at work, at home or within, there is probably a type of coaching that inspires you.

For myself, over the years I have developed a deep well of knowledge in the realm of leadership and organizational development. Although I am not an advisor or consultant, there are times when I share this knowledge with my clients by way of models, theories, cases and accounts of experiences that I have witnessed. 

But as a coach, even as I share, the client is always in the driver’s seat and I never tell them what they should do with what I have shared or what will happen if they don’t.  

Sometimes by sharing, the client learns something that they did not already know and they tell me that they are glad that I shared and they walk away with something that they can try out. 

And I feel pretty good about that.

But there is an even better feeling than that: how I feel after a session where I remain fully and completely in my role as coach. 

When I am fully present as a coach the client is in the territory where they can have a breakthrough. When that happens they tell me:

          Corry, this conversation blew my mind!

          Corry, this aha moment is a game changer for me!

          Corry, I finally know what was getting in my way. I feel so relieved!

How would you feel if you heard those words? If you think it would make you feel overjoyed because your career has meaning and purpose, and you are making the world a better place by helping others transform into the best, happiest, healthiest, and most successful version of themselves, then maybe you have the heart of a coach.

If it’s time to start your coaching journey, I invite you to book a call with me to discuss the different types of coaching and how coaching can make a difference in you and your client’s lives. 


Did you enjoy this article?  You might also like:
How to become a certified coach:  Understanding ICF Credentials and Certification Programs
10 Steps to Giving Feedback that is well received and sticks
The surprising problem with coaching for HR Professionals


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Corry Robertson

Sought-after coaching culture expert, Corry Robertson has been helping leaders uplevel employee retention and performance for over 20 years.

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