Coaching is often confused with talk therapy, which falls into the counselling and psychology section. In coaching, a significant amount of talking does happen though – mainly by the client – but there is an underlying process to it. Regardless of the training the coach has had, most coaching sessions follow the same structure. This starts with setting the coaching topic; going big in exploration and clarifying, often known as brainstorming; narrowing the conversation down to a granular level; and ending with areas to experiment with between sessions. As clients are unaware of the structure, and are hesitant to ask, they stop themselves from making an informed decision.

How the coaching process works

There are four main stages in coaching: the discovery session, the coaching sessions, the midway check-in, and the closing session.

  • The discovery session – This can be a longer session, because it is here that the coaching journey is mapped out. The client shares what they want to work on, and where they want to be at the end of the coaching process. In addition, a lot of time is spent on the indicators – tangible or intangible – that would demonstrate that the client has achieved their desired outcome. The roles and responsibilities of the client and the coach are discussed, to alleviate any misconception or unmet expectations.
  • The coaching sessions – These are the sessions where the chosen topics are discussed. The coach will ask many questions, guiding the client to discover new and unique answers to their challenges. The sessions are often described as structured conversations, where the client does most of the talking and thinking. In the end, the client chooses the activities they wish to work on between sessions. The coach never provides advice or assigns tasks to the client, because that’s contrary to supporting the client to finding authentic solutions from themselves.
  • The midway check-in – This is a standard coaching session, where the coach and the client discuss the progress made up to that point. They will reflect on whether the client is on track based on the initial goals set in the discovery session, or if changes are necessary. Conversations involve honest, transparent interactions about what’s working, what’s not, and the levels of engagement, commitment, and accountability. The success of a coaching session is dependent on the partnership between coach and client.
  • The closing session – The final coaching session is a reflection session on the coaching journey. The client and the coach will discuss what the client has learned about themselves, strategies they’ve developed, ideas on how they’ll sustain these in the future, and further areas of development.

This is a high-level outline of how the coaching process works. Coaches will have their own unique variations to this. It’s best to ask your coach what their process is, because you need to be clear on what to expect, and by when. As coaching is based on a trust relationship, the process requires prior discussion to avoid disappointment and unmanaged expectations.

Key take-aways of how the coaching process works

  • Coaching is a structured conversation.
  • Understand the coaching process your coach uses.
  • There are four primary coaching stages.
  • Inform yourself to avoid unmanaged expectations.

Over to you for sharing your comments and experiences.

What are your thoughts on the coaching process?

About the Author: Kerstin Jatho

Kerstin is the senior transformational coach and team development facilitator for 4Seeds Consulting. She is also the author of Growing Butterfly Wings, a book on applying positive psychology principles during a lengthy recovery. Her passion is to develop people-centred organisations where people thrive and achieve their potential in the workplace. You can find Kerstin on LinkedIn, Soundcloud, YouTube and Facebook.

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