Life can be tough, and people often turn to those they trust for guidance. In more and more cases, that person is a life coach.

“Life coaching can really help you to get really clear on your goals, and then figure out the strategy for getting there,” said Scott Francis with Advance Leadership.

Francis is an executive coach, a role similar to a life coach. But instead of focusing on an individual’s goals, he focuses more on coaching people in leadership positions.

Francis has a PhD in Leadership Studies, but not everyone in either field of life or executive coaching hold the same background.

“It’s a bit of a wild west,” Francis said. “There is no government oversight of that profession so as a result anybody can call themselves a life coach. They can just hang out a shingle, make a really nice website and there you go.”

Some in-profession oversight does exist through an organization called the International Coaches Federation. The local chapter has around 120 members throughout Manitoba and Saskatchewan and lists their qualifications on its website, including Francis.

But not everyone using the title of “life” or “executive” coach is part of the ICF.

“The title itself, when it first kind of sprung on the scene had a bit of a joke to it, and unfortunately there have been some individuals that claim to be life coaches, and what they’re doing is a joke,” Francis said.

Thomas Hadjistavropoulos, a professor of psychology at the University of Regina, says it can be difficult without a universal definition of who can be a life coach, similar to what already exists for psychologists, doctors, and other professions.

“Some of these people are probably very good, some of them may not be as good,” Hadjistavropoulos said.

Hadjistavropoulos says if he was to hire a life coach himself, he would check with those who worked with the coach previously.

“I might be looking at testimonials, especially testimonials from esteemed organizations or recognizable names, people I know.”

He does caution that people dealing with a mental health issue should see a therapist or psychologist.

But under the right circumstances, and with the right checks, a coach can serve a purpose towards one’s wellness.

“If you’re a healthy person who just needs somebody to motivate you, to help you make a plan toward achieving your goals, then if there is a good life coach I think that can be helpful,” Hadjistavropoulos said.

As for Francis, he says he would prefer to see the industry build more of its own self-regulation.

“For a lot of what we do, which is basically your personal strategic planning, it doesn’t need the same kind of intense scrutiny that somebody who’s dealing with someone who’s got identity issues, or personality disorders, or someone who’s really recovering from depression or something like that, that really needs some serious oversight,” Francis said. “It would be nice if there was some government oversight, but not to the same degree that we would put on our psychological professionals.”

But what does deserve scrutiny is who you hire. After all, it is your life.