THE BLOG
02/25/2014 08:49 am ET Updated Apr 27, 2014

7 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Life Coach

I have a theory: In almost any major metropolitan city in the United States, you could swing your purse and hit a life coach. Life coaches may also have titles like nutrition coach, relationship coach, wellness coach, executive coach, holistic coach, or business coach.

While I was starting my business, I looked for a life coach to guide me in the process. I assumed that because Google ranked a website at the top, that person must be most popular. I was Google naïve. My marketing team taught me that people can pay to be listed in that position or have maneuvered their website SEO rankings.

I called the entire first page of listings, and not a single advertised life coach could tell me where they trained, who certified them, or what other qualifications they had to help me set up my small business. Through networking, I eventually found a business coach who had experience helping other national experts set up similar businesses like mine.

It's important to find the right life coach that will work with you, but not just because they're at the top of Google. Ask these seven questions in choosing a life coach:

1: What issue do you need guidance with?

Be wary of life coaches who claim that they can solve anything from helping you lose weight to coping with divorce to planning your own small business. Ask yourself, what area are you looking to improve or move forward with in your life? Are you looking for happiness? Are you in need of improving your health? Are you interested in developing your leadership and management skills? When you are specific and clear about your goals, it is easier to find a personal life coach who could guide you.

2: What type of training or certification did the life coach receive?

In the United States, there is no governing body overseeing the life coach training industry. People can claim to be a life coach but may have done so by watching videos or reading self-help books.

Alan Cohen, M.A., founder and director of the Foundation for Holistic Life Coaching and author of 24 self-improvement books including I Had it All the Time, advises:

Since anyone can claim to be a life coach, a client should inquire as to the nature and extent of a coach's training. A credible life coach has undergone a significant body of coursework, has received guidance and feedback from a qualified supervisor, and has experience in the field. Clients should ask the coach about his/her training and check the website of the program in which the coach has been educated.

3. What makes the coach an expert or authority in their field?

Many marketing programs encourage people to label themselves as an "expert or authority" and list that on a website. Don't be afraid to ask the person what makes them an authority or expert in their field. Professional and personal life coaches may have additional skills from previous careers and education. For instance, many executive coaches have also held corporate leadership positions and have a degree in business in addition to being a trained executive coach. A true authority or expert has a specific educational background, work experience in the field, and/or a wealth of personal experience in the area they are advertising.

4. Are you open to change?

A qualified life coach is not there to be your BFF or your nagging mother. They are interested in helping your grow, achieve your goals, and maybe even stretch yourself beyond boundaries you have created for yourself. Life coaches are your advocates, but they are not here to tell you what to do. Personal life coaches help their clients explore and come up with the best choices for them based on where they are and the client's vision for their future. Coaches are experts at the process of changing behavior, which can be more valuable than giving instructions.

5. Are you really in need of a mental health professional?

Life coaching is not a substitute for mental health counseling. If you or a loved one have a diagnosis of a mental health issue, a life coach should not be the first step. It is best to have a mental health provider like a psychiatrist, psychologist, or trained mental health counselor help with diagnosis, treatment and counseling.

6. Why would a professional also train to be a life coach?

Cohen states, "Life coaching skills can be a huge asset in any profession that requires working with people. Doctors, attorneys, real estate agents, investment bankers, teachers, and massage therapists, for example, consistently report that the skills of presence, listening, empathy, validation, and reframing help them connect with their clients and accelerate their success while deepening their sense of personal reward through human connection."

7. How do I know if the life coaching sessions are working?

A professionally-trained life coach will help you set clear goals that are in alignment with your intention. They will not do the work for you, but be an advocate for you to accomplish your goals. Work with your life coach to set a reasonable time frame. It is important to remember, that it may have taken you months or years to get stuck in your current issue. It will likely take more than one session to start moving in a forward direction. Most coaches will offer packages to help support you in your mission.

Romila "Dr. Romie" Mushtaq, MD is a neurologist with expertise in the field of mind-body medicine -- a branch of medicine that promotes the science behind mindfulness based techniques. She is also a hatha yoga and meditation teacher. Dr. Romie helps clients heal by teaching mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques at the Natural and Integrative Medical Center in Orlando, Florida.

Dr. Romie writes at www.brainbodybeauty.com, where you can sign up for weekly mantras for mindful living. You can follow Dr. Romie on Twitter, Facebook and connect with her on LinkedIn. Her guided meditation CD, "Connect To Joy: Guided Meditation to Quiet the Mind" is now available on iTunes.