The Preeminent Governing Bodies of Professional Coaching and What They Do - Accreditation Matters

Coach Training

We previously discussed the issues facing the ADHD coaching profession: anyone can call themselves an ADHD coach, regardless whether they have actually received any training.

The second article in our series is about how to identify quality training and what a client seeking a qualified, certified ADHD coach, from an accredited program, needs to know to make an informed decision based on facts, not conjecture.



International Coach Federation (ICF)

The International Coach Federation (coachfederation.org), is the oldest and largest global organization dedicated to advancing the profession of life coaching.

ICF initially laid out the distinguishing characteristics of a unique profession it called coaching. ICF then established competencies, ethics, and behavioral markers with which to evaluate individual coaches, so as to certify that an individual coach has met and demonstrated a specific level of coaching competency.

A coach can apply for one of three levels of competency to become an ICF credentialed coach. Each level has more demanding requirements and testing to reach it. The three credentialing levels are:

  1. Associate Certified Coach (ACC)
  2. Professional Certified Coach (PCC)
  3. Master Certified Coach (MCC)

In order to prepare a coach for professional certification, ICF recognized that there needed to be training programs specifically designed and dedicated to preparing individuals to become coaches who could successfully demonstrate the ICF established ethical guidelines and core coaching competencies.

The ICF also identified standards and a body of knowledge that a coach training program must train to produce a professional coach. Training programs could then apply and be rigorously tested to assure they met ICF’s requirements. Those programs that met ICF’s training standards were then designated as accredited coach training programs (ACTP). Today, there are over 200 ICF accredited coach training programs and hundreds of smaller coach-specific training programs listed on the ICF web site, coachfederation.org.

Individuals and organizations seeking a professional certified coach from an accredited coach training program (ACTP) should ask if the coach has trained at an accredited coach training program, and if they have a fulfilled all their program requirements and have been a granted a credential by the program, the ICF and/or PAAC. You can also ask for their website link so you can visit it to find out more about their practice philosophy, history and experience so you identify whether or not you would like to interview them. The ICF and PACC recommend interviewing three prospective coaches to determine the best fit, experience and connection for your coaching needs. 

ICF accredited programs and ICF certified coaches are the gold standard for professional life coaching, and this ICF connection gives you confidence that a coach has been trained through an accredited coach training program and demonstrated a specific level of coaching competence. This will help prevent getting someone who may have just decided to call themselves a coach, and who may not truly be coaching at all.

Professional Association of ADHD Coaches (PAAC)

ADHD coaching, by necessity, has some unique skill sets and competencies that are distinct from general life coaching practices, so it became evident that ADHD should become the first unique coaching specialty. The Professional Association of ADHD Coaches (PAAC, paaccoaches.org), a sister organization to ICF, was formed to establish the distinct ethics and core competencies that set ADHD coaching apart. No other coaching organization certifies coaches as having demonstrated specific knowledge and competency with ADHD.

In line with what ICF had set in place, PAAC established standards and a body of knowledge that an ADHD-coach training program must train to produce a knowledgeable and competent ADHD coach. Like ICF, PAAC has become an accrediting organization that tests and designates accredited ADHD coach training programs (AACTP) that train the PAAC ethics and competencies. To date, all PAAC accredited ADHD coach training programs are also ICF ACTPs.

Also like ICF, PAAC then developed three levels of ADHD coaching competency that a coach could attempt to demonstrate to become a PAAC certified ADHD coach. The three credential levels are:

  1. Certified ADHD Coach Practitioner (CACP)
  2. Professional Certified ADHD Coach (PCAC)
  3. Master Certified ADHD Coach (MCAC)

Thus, a well-trained ADHD coach would have their training from an ICF accredited coach training program, that is also a PAAC accredited ADHD coach training program. That coach would have been assessed in both ICF and PAAC competencies to attain either or both ICF and PAAC certifications.  A potential client can trust that an ADHD coach with a PAAC certification has been trained and tested to meet industry standards and best practices.

In our next article, we’ll talk about the importance of certification for Life and ADHD Coaches.


Part 1   –   Part 2   –   Part 3   –   Part 4 (coming soon)