How to Become a Certified Life Coach and Personal Development Coach. Certified Coach Training in Canada.

I receive a lot of inquiries about the process of becoming a professionally certified coach and part of my work with clients, has been helping them to get their businesses set up, particularly in the digital space and knowledge economy.  There are many pieces to social media strategy, technology and entering the digital space as a coach and that’s after getting all of the certifications and training out of the way!


So let’s not get into that and overwhelm you right away – let’s go stage by stage.

I wanted to write a series with as many tips, and much advice as possible, that will support you on your journey getting set up as a coach.

So please enjoy article #1 where I share where it all began…How did I become a certified coach?

The International Coach Federation is the Gold Standard and International Certification Body for Coaches spanning all disciplines – from Executive Coaching, to Health Coaching, Business Coaching and Life Coaching.  Thus, all of my recommendations are based on this approach to Coaching.  Official certification, accredited training and the ethical guidelines and standards laid out for coaches by the ICF.

Coaching work requires a deep dive and a relationship founded on trust.  You will be having conversations with clients that are much deeper and confidential than any they have with people in their lives, and I feel that accredited coach training gives the tools and experience (not to mention ethical foundation) that allow you to create a safe space, boundaries and a relationship that serves your coaching client.

How I Heard About Coaching:

Working at the University of Calgary, I was doing extensive skills development and academic development with undergraduate and graduate students, following a developmental advising / positive psychology model.  Though many students benefitted from skills training, for a lot of them there were deeper underlying factors and mindsets that I knew they had to break through first, if they truly wanted to be motivated and use the tools they knew they needed to use if they really wanted to be the student they said they wanted to be.  As my work expanded into working with professional and high performance athletes, the mindset piece became even more evident, and I could see the difference between athletes with a growth mindset and athletes struggling with fixed mindsets in certain domains in their life (particularly academics!)

I had studied neuroscience, personal development, psychology and self-help for years, and it had immeasurably changed my life in University.  I wanted to bring the same life-changing shifts to my students.

I considered doing a Masters’ Degree or further training in Psychology to add more skills to my toolbox, but I wanted to focus on moving my clients forward and upward, particularly my students who had clear goals for their futures.  That appealed more to me than doing therapeutic or healing work, which is the domain of psychology, counselling and therapy.  I began a process of googling and as I jumped from one link to another, I stumbled on the field of coaching and it was much more professional than I expected, as I found the International Coach Federation Website first and thoroughly read through it.   Coincidentally, Continuing Education at the University of Calgary offered a full accredited coach training program, a two-year process.

Ask Yourself: Do I want to do Coaching, Psychology or Therapy?

This in, fact, is a key distinction between coaching and clinical approaches, and when I learnt the distinction, I decided coaching was right for me.

Coaching is designed to move a client from where they are currently, to where they would like to be (and we help them get very clear around their goals and desires.) We work to address the mindset and perception that our clients have that actually keep them stuck.  We get them living into, speaking into and acting into the future life they want.  If you want to read a bit more on what coachng is actually like, check out this article I wrote on why coaching is not teaching, giving advice, mentoring or consulting (these are all different approaches.)

Clinical approaches such as therapy have more of a therapeutic and problem-solving orientation, with focus on the past-present interaction, healing models and diagnosis.

If you are academic by nature, there is a rich academic and research-based path for you should you choose the clinical / psychology approach, though I have to say research in coaching is coming along very quickly as people realize the value of it in higher education and academia!

You Probably Already Know Some of the Models and Themes of Coaching:

There are so many coaching schools out there with different styles, but most of them follow the same models and concepts, they are just wrapped in different language, packages, models. If any of you love self-help and personal development books, you’ll notice the same thing.  You could read Brian Tracy, Jack Canfield, Wayne Dyer, Eckhart Tolle, Tony Robbins, Brene Brown or Rachel Hollis even, and you’ll notice similar themes and similar approaches to shifting ones life.

I really have come to believe after 15 years in the deep study of personal growth and self development, that there are universal laws to success, and each great author and coach uses the same themes in different ways. 

This is also why I believe it is a wonderful time for professional coaching, because though the principles are similar between coaches, each has a different style, a different background of knowledge and different approach, and there is someone out there, who is seeking the coach that you are. 

I Began an Accredited Coach Training Program in Calgary, AB.

You can search Accredited Coach Training Programs using the ICF website 

I searched in November 2018 and these are currently accredited programs operating in Alberta, Canada.

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I completed the Newfield Network Certified Coach Training Program which is based out of Colorado, but for a brief time was offered in Alberta.

Coach training is a significant investment, for the Newfield Network Coach Training Program which consists of two levels, you are looking at:

Personal Foundations Course: $3000 USD

Coach Training Program:  $10,000 USD

Registration and Examination with ICF afterward for Associate Certified Coach Credentials – $300 USD

This is based on my knowledge of only a few ACTP’s but you are looking at the $10k – $25k range which varies greatly based on how many supplemental courses you take, whether you have to travel, supplemental materials, etc.

Accreditation as a Coach with the International Coach Federation

Once you complete your Accredited Coach Training Program (which should prepare you for the ICF Coach Knowledge Assessment) you will go on to complete your accreditation with the international certification body, the ICF.

The first level of certification is the Associate Certified Coach.  To complete that, you are looking at:

  • Completion of an entire ICF Accredited Coach Training Program (ACTP).
  • A minimum of 100 hours (75 paid) of coaching experience with at least eight clients following the start of your coach-specific training. At least 25 of these hours must occur within the 18 months prior to submitting the application for the credential.
  • Completion of the Coach Knowledge Assessment (CKA).

If you would like to read my advice on taking the Coach Knowledge Assessment, you can take a look at this article I wrote:

I took the personal foundations course over one year, and then took a year off (I lost a parent to cancer and became pregnant all in the same year, talk about life shifts(!) the personal foundations course, ironically, was absolutely profound in supporting me and giving me the tools to work through that hard season of life. I was sold.)

I then came back and finished the coach training program over one year.  So all in, it took me three years, and coach training is very part time.  In my program, we attended webinars, phone calls, meetings and some in-person training weekends, as well as lots of reading material reflective journalling and practice outside of calls and conferences.

It is important to get on the process of becoming accredited through the ICF after coach training, I know many coaches who never got around to it, and lost that 18-month window.  You’ll come out of your coach training program with unpaid coaching hours that you can put toward that 100-hour requirement if you do it within 18 months.

With any program you can find out the format, and many programs are suited to working professionals.

And Then You are Ready to Practice as a Coach!

Okay, it’s not that easy, then you get into building a business, which can be brick-and-mortar or you can move into mostly the digital space, which is what I chose to do as I love technology and learning, and the people I coach are online.

Also, you gradually become more comfortable working as a coach, speaking of yourself as a coach and truly stepping into your voice, power and potential.

The first few months of coaching are another steep learning curve, because there’s nothing like practice to really hone your skills, notice where you need to develop, get the hang of the models and your own coach approach.

You’ll find yourself moving away from some of the models you learnt and bringing in your own style, approach and practice.  Gradually, you’ll develop your own intellectual property (ideas and models.)

A great example is that in Calgary I like to immerse clients in nature – we’ll leave the office, the coffee shop or the phone call and get out in a forest and walk for an hour, where we can truly disconnect with the world outside and get to work in the inner world.

I hope this first guide serves you as you think about where you want to be a coach or not. Please feel free to leave me questions in the comments and I’ll continue this series.


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