If you’ve spent any time at all looking for a coaching course, whether it’s a spiritual coaching course or any other type, I’m sure you will agree that it can be confusing to choose which one to go for. The prices are variable, or unknown until you arrange a phone appointment with them. Some say you will be a certified coach, others that you will be an accredited coach…

Certification and Accreditation…what does it all mean? 

I think there is definitely a difference in language used between the UK based courses and the North American based ones, so it’s always best to clarify with individual operators what they mean. 

In the UK this is what you need to know.

The coaching industry is unregulated so there is no one governing body or official ombudsman. There are a number of professional membership organisations that offer support, guidance, continuous professional development (CPD) and accreditation of coaches and coach training, all in an attempt to ensure best practice and consistency of quality.

The 3 main organisations are the Association for Coaching (AC), The International Coaching Federation (ICF) and the European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC). There are other smaller organisations but these are the main global ones, and all have signed up to the Global Code of Ethics for Coaching.

 It’s important to know the difference between certification and accreditation when choosing a course so that you get what you expect from it. Remember that even in the UK, some people seem to use them interchangeably so it’s as well to check what they really mean rather than assuming. I have seen people offering for students to ‘become an accredited coach’ with their course, which I know will absolutely not mean what I would expect it to mean. Let me help you to understand what it should mean, then you can do some research.

Meanings Of Certification And Accreditation

A certified coach usually means that you have passed a course with a training organisation. It says nothing about the quality of their training or whether you have been assessed for your coaching skills in any way.

An accredited training course is one that has been assessed by a coaching organisation like the AC, ICF, or the EMCC against their criteria and core competencies. This ensures the quality of the content and training you will receive. There will be some of of assessment criteria depending on the level of the accreditation, from observation and feedback in the workshops, to submitting recordings of your coaching sessions, written assignments and client references.

An accredited coach is someone who has not only passed a training course, but has been through the process of being assessed for their coaching competencies with a coaching  organisation like the AC, ICF, or EMCC. They are required to have undertaken a certain number of coach specific training hours, as well as paid coaching hours, amongst other criteria, dependant on the level at which they are applying to be accredited. Accreditation is renewed, typically, every 3 years, and coaches are able to upgrade to the next level once they qualify for that criteria.

Attending an accredited training course will put you in the best place to not only learn excellent coaching skills, but to work on your future accreditation if that ‘s something you wish to do. 

I hope this helps to clarify things in your own mind, so that you ask the right questions of any training provider you are considering. 

Helen Leathers is an experienced transformational women's coach with a spiritual approach. Featured in Soul & Spirit magazine and Coach magazine, she has written a number of books on spirituality and energy work and runs accredited spiritual life coach training courses.