My name is John Kim, also known as “The Angry Therapist”, and yes, I am a licensed marriage and family therapist as well as a coach. I went through the long therapist journey, dropping $60,000 on a Master's degree and doing 3,000 face-to-face supervised hours in various locations with hundreds of clients from all walks of life. I was devastated by the clinical route, felt like my clients were getting nowhere and kept tripping on the miles of red tape and paperwork.
During this process, I started a little blog—The Angry Therapist. I was going through my own personal winter from an expired relationship and so I decided to document it. I blogged about my life and feelings and all the sh*t I was going through as I was helping others with their feelings and all the sh*t they were going through.
I pulled the curtain back and showed people that as a therapist I also had turbulence and struggles in my life. I decided to practice real transparency and live in the open. I posted about my feelings, revelations and journey. I humanized myself. This caught people’s attention and soon I began to gain a following.
People started asking me questions and those questions turned into sessions. Soon, I had a full practice as a life coach. It was completely online. I never had an office. In fact, I did everything you weren’t supposed to do as a therapist, starting with showing my true self and what I was going through. I did this because it felt right, honest, and I believe it produced more trust with clients. I was right. People responded to it well and began to make incredible progress in their own lives.
This authentic way of connecting with people led to thousands of clients, a few best selling books with Harper Collins, appearances on TV shows, big podcasts and more. But it all started when I realized there was a new way to help people. I didn’t have to sit in a sterile room for eight hours a day. I continued to work unconventionally and started working as a life coach since I realized there was more latitude in coaching—helping people look to the future, set and achieve goals, rather than process past traumas.
I found the freedom to create the kind of practice that works for me, and I want to share these steps with you in the hope that you can build a life that you love and make a bigger impact on the world.
Coaches are not therapists, consultants or mentors. They don’t give advice or tell clients what to do or think. Coaches do not make sessions all about themselves, and they are never judgmental or biased. Clients are the best experts on their own lives, and coaches acknowledge that.
Time passes whether you take action or not. There is a common false belief that life coaching means you have to have a perfect life and have all your sh*t figured out. This is one of the biggest misconceptions that keep people from pursuing a career as a life coach. The truth is that no one’s life is perfect and if you wait ‘til you’re in the “perfect place,” you’ll never get started. There are always going to be a million reasons why it’s not the right time, so if you’ve been thinking about taking this path you just have to make the decision and do it.
It’s important to know what to look for in a life coach training program since there are so many out there. You want to find the right fit for you, that supports you longterm no matter what direction coaching takes you.
Find out what the company or people behind the course stand for. What’s their message? What’s their tone, their temperature, their manifesto? Why does this matter? Well, if you are in line with the flag they are carrying, this journey will become bigger than you and you won’t have to do it alone. It will feel incredibly motivating. Being a part of a movement that’s greater than yourself will empower you and carry you forward when you feel that you can’t keep going.
Anyone can become certified as a life coach, but if you’re wanting to take your coaching practice beyond certification, earning a credential is that next step. To make this process as simple as possible, you’re going to want to make sure that the program you choose is accredited by the ICF (International Coaching Federation), the only globally recognized credentialing program for coaches. Many courses are designed to help you complete the requirements for credentialing, so that’s something to look out for if earning an ICF credential is in your plan. (If you’re not sure, don’t worry, we’ll go over that later.)
You want a program that will break down the basic steps of a coaching conversation and provide you with the proper tools to approach every type of scenario with confidence and grace. If you want to take a very specialized course about a niche topic, that’s great. You can take those after. But for your initial training, it should be all encompassing and foundational. You need the primer before you start painting. You want to make sure you know how to set up a Coaching Agreement, understand the ethics expected of you in this field, and gain a deep understanding of the difference between coaching and therapy. You’ll also want plenty of practice and business training as well.
You need to know about science-backed, evidence-based, person-centered theories, relationships dynamics, active listening, how to ask questions and more. Make sure all the coaches teaching you are different so you get the full box of crayons. If you want the most bang for your buck, you want the most diversity in your lessons and instructors. Each instructor has their own style, and getting exposure to the various styles is one of the biggest compliments we consistently get from our students enrolled in JRNI.
The last thing you want is to finish your program and be left standing there alone not knowing what to do next. I experienced that feeling after getting my license to be a therapist, and it’s the loneliest feeling in the world. A community will give you support throughout your journey, empower you to keep going when it gets tough, and provide you with resources and people to bounce ideas off of so you don’t have to do it alone. The life coaching journey can be very lonely. I believe it’s why so many quit before getting any real traction. But this is a marathon, not a sprint. Make sure your community is in it for the long haul.
Every coach training program varies. The JRNI Signature Program is a live training, and runs for two hours, once a week, for about 9 months (with breaks for holidays). Some courses can be done over a weekend and others are more long term similar to long college courses. Pick a course length that you will realistically stick with and feels comfortable for you. Most likely, you’ll be attending classes online due to the convenience of doing it comfortably from home. Choose a course that fits within your schedule and provides a dedicated support system along the way so you can finish strong.
Of course, this is going to vary. But let me say it will be a tiny fraction of what I paid to become a therapist. Roughly, your coaching course will be between $3,000 and $20,000. At the end of the day, it all depends on which program you connect with the most and which one you feel will provide you with the best education and experience. (A good rule of thumb is to ask for a syllabus so you can see exactly what you will be learning)
Stay away from any course that promises you a certain amount of clients or income. Of course there are averages for the industry, and it’s growing rapidly, but no one can guarantee you a specific amount of income or clients. Anyone who says they can isn’t telling you the whole truth.
Finally, above all, the program you choose should be an experience that will touch many different areas of your life. Not just dry information. A life coach training program should be life changing. Not life changing in a way that your life will look completely different after you have finished the course, but in a way that will help you grow, shift your perspective, and give you the tools to better your own life as well as the lives of others. Think about it this way. If it doesn’t affect your life in some way, how will what you learned affect others? In a way, it’s a test to see if the course holds up. Information alone doesn't change people. Experiences do.
Your life coach training program should provide you with opportunities to coach your peers or a plan to get practice. You can also practice with a friend, and let them know in a gentle way that you’ll be practicing the tools and techniques you learned in class. Building trust. Laying soil by practicing empathy. Asking open ended questions. Staying away from giving advice and telling them what they should do. But more importantly, don’t label or judge the experience. Remember, you’re practicing. Yes, you want to help whoever you’re practicing on, but the bigger goal is to experiment with different techniques, find your style, and build confidence. You’ll find out pretty quickly how effective you are because they will tell you how helpful that was, and most likely want to sit down with you again. On the off chance it doesn’t go as you planned, don’t get discouraged! Even professional athletes understand the value of practicing their skills, so think of it like that.
I remember when I made my first twenty dollars as a life coach. Someone sent it to me via PayPal. I couldn’t believe it. It was exhilarating yet terrifying. It proved that I could actually help people and make money at this. But, it also meant more sessions and more fear. And there will always be a little fear. There will always be some butterflies. But, practice will give you the confidence to not allow any fears to stop you from helping as many people as you can. And it takes time. Real change comes incrementally, bit by bit, and remembering that is important.
Just learning how to be a life coach isn’t going to make you a good life coach. You have to get on the bike and ride it. This means practice. The good news is that you already have been practicing. That’s probably why you’re reading this. You’ve been helping, supporting and coaching, friends, family, clients, etc. And most likely, you’re good at it and enjoy it. People have told you that you’re good at it. If not out loud, then by their actions by wanting to sit down with you every time they need advice. You have to trust that. Because most people start a training program with tons of passion and confidence but then slowly become afraid. Why does this happen? I believe this is because when you take a course, it becomes official. There’s panic there. Doubt. Wondering if you’re any good. Don’t forget that you have a set of skills, a heart for the work and you can learn anything you need to, in order to succeed.
Think about your story, what brought you to this point, and what you’ve overcome. Remember, your story can be of great value. When you share your story, you’re giving valuable information, instilling hope, and also building trust with your client. The goal is to be the go-to for that specialized area you want to coach in. That’s how you build a practice. Though it can be tough in the very beginning, it’s important to be specific in the kind of coach you are. If you try to be too broad, your impact will be lessened.
But also know that your speciality can grow and change as you do. You’re not tied to your speciality. So many people have anxiety about what area of life coaching they want to specialize in that they never make a decision. It’s like picking a major in college. You’re probably going to change it so don’t worry too much. Pick something you gravitate toward today and explore it. Everything is learning, and all learning is valuable.
First, you have to find your voice. I think many are so consumed with what they want their logo or website to look like, they don’t realize that they are the brand. Your story and experiences are unique and no one else can bring that to the table. That other stuff comes later. In order to find your voice, you have to speak. Often. And by speak, I don’t mean literally, I mean you have to say something. This can come in the form of blogging, photos, videos. The format doesn’t matter. What matters is that you start discovering what you want to say and how you want to say it.
Your experience and your stories hold valuable insights. Aileen Uy, one of our graduates who now coaches and works with our students, recently shared some thoughts about coming up with ways to reach your ideal client—she said that the question to ask yourself was this: “What do you wish your client knew about themselves or their potential?” After that, you should take that larger concept and break it up into smaller concepts or topics to share about. “Self love is more than just loving yourself. It’s a build up. Talk about what that build up is. Because there’s so much to say about it, write it down. Take each bullet point and make that its own separate post.”
What’s going to make you unique and your voice strong is your authenticity. If you’re not pulling from an honest place, people will smell it. It will ring false. So, you have to be you. And that’s hard. Really hard. Because we all seek approval and validation. You are going to look at how many likes, hearts and comments you’ve gotten. You’re going to want to delete things you’ve posted or re-write blogs you publish. You’re going to constantly second guess yourself. The way you push past these things is to do it consistently no matter what. Eliminate expectations. The more you do it, the more you will become comfortable with expressing yourself, saying your message, and being uniquely you. Finding your voice is a process and it takes time.
Don’t ever think that there’s only one way to be a coach. There are many, many ways to be a coach in today’s world. There’s no one “right” path or one way to use the skills you’ll learn in your coach training program out in the world at large. You don’t have to be a social media whiz or build a huge email list to make it as a coach. You could work with clients on your own, work with other coaches as a group, work for corporations or companies -- and many options beyond this.
Our graduates have taken the course for so many reasons, including personal growth, to enhance careers they already have, to start a side hustle that’s all their own or to launch third, fourth, even fifth careers. Students from our program have gone on to work as full-time coaches at major companies like Bulletproof, Growth.com, Noom and other big companies. We have coaches who join the program because they want to fine tune their skills. Some apply it to their existing yoga practice or haircutting business. We even have massage therapists and equine-therapy coaches. One thing we can say for sure is that nearly all use the skills they acquired in their everyday friendships, relationships, their marriages and their families.
We talk a lot about how coaching can make you a better parent, a better friend, a better boss or employee. But really, coach training is a set of skills and experiences that you will choose how to employ. You likely have a dream of how coaching will work for you and that is awesome. For us, it’s all about how becoming a coach can help move you from where you are now to where you want to be. We want to give you the tools and support to be effective at whatever it is you want to do, and the ability to make a bigger impact on your corner of the world.
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It’s Your Time to Thrive.