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What Is Online Coach Training Really Like?

written byMarie Bernardon 01/11/2013

Online Coach Training

For nearly seven years, I have volunteered as a distress line counselor and trainer at a local suicide prevention hotline. I also host a weekly talk show based on spirituality and well-being. I have interviewed many coaches and have developed many of the basic skills required for coaching. I was even coaching shy guys on how to meet the woman of their dreams (and helped a number of men develop strong relationships with wonderful women), yet I lacked a certain confidence in charging for my coaching services because I didn't have any coach-specific training. That is where Erickson Coaching International came in.  

So far, I have completed Module I of The Art & Science of Coaching and I’m happy to share my review of the school. If you are considering a career in coaching, or just want to learn more about what coaching is and how it can benefit you, I hope you’ll find this article helpful.  

There are a couple of ways to study with Erickson: in person or online. Erickson Coaching International offers on-site coach training courses that last a few days, usually over a weekend (Thursday through Sunday). I was hoping to catch the Vancouver workshop this fall but I missed it by one day! The next Vancouver start date was not until April, so I decided to try the online version, which has a total of 10 classes, twice a week over 5 weeks (40 hours). To be honest, I was worried that the online course wouldn’t be as good as the in-person class. I know the type of learning environment that works best for me, and I have tried to sit through long webinars in the past and found it incredibly draining. I didn’t think I would be able to focus and learn as well online. However, I didn’t want to wait more than 6 months to start my coach training, so I jumped in and gave it a try. An additional safety net in the form of a 100% money back guarantee is also offered, in the unlikely event that coaching is not for you.  

I am so glad I did! I haven’t taken an on-site class with Erickson yet, so I can’t tell you exactly what that is like, but I can tell you some of the benefits of studying online.

The online learning platform they use is called WebEx (made by Cisco), and is about as close to a ‘real’ classroom as you can get. There is a white board similar to traditional chalkboards, and when it is time practice what we learnt, small groups are put into their own private ‘rooms’, called ‘breakout sessions.’  

Another benefit is that you have 5 weeks for the information to sink in. I love to learn in an intensive workshop, but how much of that information do you actually retain? The first part (Module I) of the on-site coach training program is 32 hours…that is 32 hours of learning in 4 days. You get LOTS of information, but how much of it sinks in over the long term? I really enjoyed being able to think about what I had learned and practice it during the week, it certainly helps keep the momentum going over a longer period of time.  

I was also really lucky that my training group was SO AWESOME. We instantly had a rapport and everyone was very supportive and friendly. During the course, my oldest friend passed away. I am thankful that I had the support of the wonderful people in my class, and I am happy to say that it was such a helpful experience that I made it to every class. I only missed one hour on the evening of my friend’s memorial service. It was really nice to know that I had a group of helpers holding space and waiting for me after I left the wake.  

My teachers, Kim and Patricia, were awesome. The assistant, Chris, was also very helpful. Anyone who completes the whole program (Modules I-V) can apply to be a training assistant, which is a great way to further your skills by helping to teach them to others.  

Now you might be wondering what I learned in Module I. First, let me go over the type of training I received. There are up to 5 modules for The Art and Science of Coaching. Module IV gives you Erickson certification (Erickson Professional Coach) and in Module V you are guided through the process of obtaining your ACC certification through the International Coaching Federation (ICF). It depends on where you live, but in Canada you don’t need a special license or training to call yourself a coach. The ICF is an internationally recognized organization of coaches that ensures their members have certain standards of training and follow their ethical guidelines. I feel this is really important because I, personally, have been ‘coached’ by people who claim to be coaches and I discovered they really had NO idea what they were doing. Not only is coaching with someone who is unqualified a waste of time and money, but in my experience, it can actually be harmful. It was VERY upsetting to be poorly coached in a way that was argumentative and advice-based (especially when the person was not qualified or experienced enough to provide business advice). So if you are considering hiring a coach, making sure they are a member of the ICF will ensure they have a certain level of training and an understanding of ethical boundaries.  

If you are considering purchasing coach training, it is also a good idea to make sure the course you seek is accredited by the ICF. You don't have to be ICF certified to coach, and there are good coaches out there who aren’t with the ICF, but, if certification is important to you, I also recommend you look closely at what LEVEL of accreditation the course has with the ICF. One course I was looking at cost about $3,000 and the teacher said the course was accredited by the ICF. This is true and I am sure the training was great, but, the certification was at the Continuing Coach Education (CCE) level.

In my understanding, this is specifically intended for people who are ALREADY trained as coaches and want to learn new skills to add to their practice. The CCE level is not intended to give you the core skills to be a coach if you don’t already have them. I believe taking a CCE level course will allow you to become a MEMBER of the ICF, which is valuable, but it will not give you any ICF CERTIFICATION. If being certified is important to you, when you are researching your school, take a look at the ICF site and see:  

  1. If they are accredited,
  2. At what LEVEL are they accredited,
  3. Which course will qualify you for the level of certification you want.

If you have been wondering what I learned, your wait is over… In Module I, I learned the basics of coaching. With my background in crisis counseling, much of this was review for me, but it was a good way to direct my skills into a more SOLUTION-FOCUSED mode, rather than for crisis counseling. Erickson’s coaching is very solution-focused and they operate under the belief that clients are able to come up with their own solutions through coaching (not advice-giving!), that everyone does the best they can with what knowledge and resources they have and that people make choices based on what they feel is the best available option at the time. When you are able to trust that your clients (or even your loved ones) have the wisdom to find their own solutions, it opens up a whole new conversation. Have you ever needed to get something off your chest, and the person you were telling started giving you unsolicited advice? How did that feel for you? If you’re anything like me, it likely felt incredibly frustrating and upsetting. Did you find that it opened you up to solutions and new ideas or did it make it even harder for you to think clearly? With the solution-focused model of coaching, you learn to ask really great questions that allow people the space to access their own creative solutions and problem-solving abilities.

First, we were taught basic rapport-building and active listening skills, which I already had learned through my crisis counseling training (but I did learn a new slant on active listening and it is always helpful to have a bit of review). Rapport and active listening skills are two of the most important parts of being a good coach, manager, salesperson or even just to be successful in social situations. These skills are great for helping your friends talk through their challenges, or for parents who want to guide their kids while giving them the space to share freely.  

We learned about the brain and how to help clients access the visual and creative parts of the brain. When you are able to access these areas, it can help you raise your consciousness ABOVE the problem. I have always loved Albert Einstein’s quote, "No problem can be solved at the same level of consciousness that created it." And I have always agreed with this statement… But what does it really MEAN? How do you GET to a higher level of consciousness when you’re stuck in a problem? I learned a lot of ways to help my clients (and myself) accesses different levels of consciousness…not in a meditative or spiritual way, but in very practical and scientific terms. As an example, when you are focused on why something upsetting happened, it can be an endless cycle that just leaves you with more questions and feeling more frustrated. If instead, you ask yourself something like, "What lesson is there in this circumstance or mistake?"  it opens up a whole new perspective. Or if you are stuck on a challenge, like how to make more money or how to lose weight, and you feel like you are going around in circles, try asking yourself something like, "What would this provide me? Why do I want to make more money? Who else will benefit if I earn another $10,000 this year? What would that be like?" Notice the difference in how those questions feel?

The course is 40 hours long, so I obviously can’t cover everything that I learned in one article. I can tell you that I learned how to do a complete coaching session from beginning to end. I learned how to guide clients through the process of coaching, how to help them access their problem-solving abilities, what a really good coaching session looks and sounds like, how it feels to coach and be coached, a few basics on building my coaching business and what kind of people can most benefit from my coaching. I was also able to practice on a few friends and the results have been wonderful. They were mostly helping me out so I could get practice, but I continue to hear feedback that my coaching has and continues to help them. I also had the opportunity to practice with my classmates, so I received a bunch of free coaching as well. While I plan to continue my education, I feel that Module I was a wonderful addition to my nearly 1,000 hours of training and experience in crisis counseling skills. I definitely feel more confident that my clients will be getting true COACHING, rather than a mishmash of other skills intended for a different type of helping model.  

Overall, it was a good experience and I would recommend Erickson Coaching International to anyone who is considering a coaching career, works in sales, management or human resources or wants to develop more skills to help their clients and co-workers. 

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