Crossing the Line? An Exploration into ICF Master Certified Coaches’ Perception of Roles, Borders and Boundaries

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Research on coaching roles and boundaries published together with Carley Sime in the International Coaching Review 13.2 (2018).


Coaching shares a complex border with therapeutic practices – a border which presents both ethical and moral complications – and as an industry has unclear boundaries and information about the actual role of a coach. To date, little research has focused on extracting empirical data that can shed light on this in a professional working context. This study’s objectives were to look at what the nature of the relationship between coaching and counselling/therapy is, explore how coaching professionals experience, navigate and manage this boundary and what roles they adopt while working.

Design: Seven International Coaching Federation Master Certified Coaches self-selected to take part in the study. 60-minute semi-structured interviews were conducted with each participant using an initial interview schedule made up of 15.

Method: A qualitative methodology was adopted for this study given the unexplored nature of the topic. A grounded theory method of data collection and analysis was utilised to explore gaps in the profession’s current understanding of roles and boundaries.

Results: The study was able to identify a range of in practice roles, borders and boundaries which coaches utilise within their professional client-based work. The nature of the relationship between coaching and counselling/therapy appears to hinge on each coach’s self-selected boundaries. Such boundaries appear to be delineated most often by a coach’s feelings of competency and their client’s ability to process and move forward within the coaching space.

Conclusions: Findings suggest that the main difference between coaching and therapeutic practice is driven by how coaches perceive the work they do as opposed to the various differences in the processes, content and role of the practitioner.


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Yannick Jacob

As a coach, mediator, coach trainer & supervisor and as a creative, critical thinker who’s determined to introduce effective programmes to schools, companies and individuals, Yannick helps his clients explore their world, build a strong foundation of who they are and as a result grow, resolve conflicts and embrace life’s challenges.