DUBAI // Untrained life coaches could be doing more harm than good, accredited coaches say.
There is no government regulation of life and business coaching in the UAE, making it easy for an unqualified or partly trained coach to set up a practice.
But accredited coaches have warned that clients could be wasting their money - some coaches charge more than Dh 600 an hour - or, at worst, receiving poor advice that could have damaging effects.
Ghada Zakaria, a professional development coach at Authenticity Coaching in Al Barsha, said people should verify the credentials of coaches first.
"It's very important that people make sure that the coach is accredited from a recognised school," said Mrs Zakaria, the first Emirati woman to qualify as a life coach in the UAE.
"I have bumped into these so-called coaches at networking events, and they have told me about their qualifications. But when I dug a little deeper, I found out they weren't trained at all.
"Though there is no regulatory authority in the region, everyone follows the US system."
She advised clients to make sure their coach is from a training centre affiliated to the International Coach Federation (ICF) in the US.
"I can't assume what the intention is of these people who falsely claim to be experts but they could potentially do a lot of damage to their clients.
"One of the dangers is that an unqualified coach might not be able to recognise if their client requires more serious clinical help," Mrs Zakaria said. "In that situation, and if they haven't had the correct training, they could advise people in the wrong way."
Coaching differs from therapy in that it offers clients a way to move from where they are in life to where they want to be, she said.
"Coaching is about the journey and the coach doesn't tell the client how to go about it," Mrs Zakaria said. "Therapy, on the other hand, seeks to fix a problem a client may have."
Although training courses vary in length, they typically consist of a five-month period of classroom-based theory training.
This is followed by six months of practical training involving class-coaching sessions.
Patricia Gonzalez, president of the ICF Dubai chapter, said one of the main issues with new coaches is that they do not finish their training after the initial courses.
"What we tend to find is that people take a three-day course but then don't continue with their education," Ms Gonzalez said. "Becoming a qualified coach takes months and months, and it's important people focus on both practical and theory work."
She said that although newly trained people were encouraged to coach people, it was important they balanced it with continued theory training.
Under ICF regulations, coaches must have at least 125 hours of coach training with a minimum of six observed coaching sessions and 60 hours of theory work.
A list of accredited coaches can be found at the ICF Dubai chapter page at www.coachfederation.org.