By Lorenza Clifford and Joanne Searle sparked by the BBC investigation.
Matters Arising

Matters Arising

In this blog we intend to share thoughts about what is happening in Coaching and Coaching Supervision, that really matters and invite your responses. 

In this first entry, we are moved to raise awareness and dialogue around:

Cults in Life Coaching

This theme has been raised by a BBC investigation into the issue, leading to a News item and a longer programme: "inside the life coaching cult that takes over lives! Lighthouse separates people from their loved ones and harasses critics, an 18 month BBC investigation finds".

This could occur anywhere in the world, on this occasion, it involved mainly the UK. The tentacles of the organisation reached far through our networks. It is pretty scary and very sad. Starting with people getting a bit of life coaching help, and hooking people in, so that they are eventually selling their homes to invest in the programme, spending most of their spare time in coaching calls and transcribing.

The investigator talks about the profession being unregulated: "Life coaching is not a regulated industry with strict professional codes like psychotherapy. And, while there are qualifications available, anyone can claim to be a life coach - thousands do."

We note that Psychotherapy and Conselling is not a statutory regulated profession in the UK yet, although the professional bodies are perhaps better known, and clients may be better informed to seek only members of these.

We also note that Life Coaching also does have ethical codes, and professional bodies to which Life Coaches can belong

Statutory regulation doesn't necessarily protect clients from unethical behaviour. The most important thing we can do is continue to educate the market so that buyers become aware of what to look for: 

  • Check Credentials, whether Qualifications or Accreditations.
  • Check they are a member of a professional body and what code of ethics they ascribe to.
  • Check that the coach has a regular Coaching Supervisor. If you are investing a lot, check with that Supervisor or perhaps request a reference from them.

It was interesting to find their profiles still available on LinkedIn.. they are 2nd level connections of some of our members.. so please never rely on who else is a connection: who they know is not a good source of credibility. You may like to check your own connections on social media. Who are you connected with that you don't know? A spring clean of connections could be worth considering!

We also picked up some of the points raised in the programme about aspects that characterise a cult, so we can think together as Supervisors about how we would recognise something was not right: 

  • Charismatic, authoritarian leader, often with a fluid ideology and bullying tactics
  • Operating through a network with an inner circle, so an individual might not know about the style of the leader from the outset
  • Monopolising the time, money and energy of clients
  • Isolating clients from their friends and family members
  • Coercive control applied through regular ongoing conversations and all or nothing relationships
  • Exploitative relationship(s) for gain, rather than acting for good of the client, often through excessive payments
  • Strong arm and pressure sales tactics with unrealistic promises.

We also felt renewed energy to continue to educate coaches about the value of supervision!


Over to you:

How would you recognise and inquire into something like this as it presented in supervision?

What do you believe we do as supervisors that would make a difference in similar circumstances?

What else do you want to talk about?

Reply to: [email protected] and [email protected]

We look forward to hearing.


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