Ethics & Regulation
The International Coach Federation has taken the lead in developing a definition and philosophy of coaching, as well as in establishing ethical standards among its members. Through its own Code of Ethics, Ethical Conduct Review Process, and Independent Review Board (IRB), ICF sets professional coaching standards while also giving consumers a venue to file ethics complaints about ICF Members or ICF Credentialed coaches.
ICF's self-governance foundation comprises and depends upon the following standards and practices, supported by the efforts of the ICF Board, global representatives, and credentialed and member coaches:
- Core Competencies that define a professional coach’s required skills and establish the foundation for the professional credentialing examination and accreditation for coach-training programs.
- A Code of Ethics to which ICF Members and ICF Credentialed coaches pledge commitment and accountability to standards of professional conduct.
- Professional oversight through an Independent Review Process for ICF Members and ICF Credentialed coaches, which allows the public to report concerns and to be confident of objective investigation, follow-up and disciplinary action.
- Professional coach credentialing, entailing a stringent examination and review process through which coaches must demonstrate their skills, proficiency and documented experience in application of coaching core competencies.
- Credentialing includes Continuing Coaching Education requirements for periodic renewal of coaching credentials, to ensure continued professional growth and development.
- Professional Coach Training Accreditation, by which coach-training programs submit to review and continuing oversight to demonstrate their commitment to the highest standards for curricula and alignment with defined core competencies, faculty, structure, proficiency and ethics to support excellence in the training of coaches.
- Ongoing self-regulatory oversight initiatives to track the needs and concerns of individual and organizational clients on an international basis and to demonstrate an active commitment to meaningful professional self-governance.
Contact the ICF with Regulation Updates.
If you are aware of possible or pending coaching regulation in your area, please contact the ICF.
Part One: Definition of Coaching
- Coaching:Coaching is partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential
- A professional coaching relationship:A professional coaching relationship exists when coaching includes a business agreement or contract that defines the responsibilities of each party.
- An ICF Professional Coach:An ICF Professional Coach also agrees to practice the ICF Professional Core Competencies and pledges accountability to the ICF Code of Ethics.
In order to clarify roles in the coaching relationship, it is often necessary to distinguish between the client and the sponsor. In most cases, the client and sponsor are the same person and therefore jointly referred to as the client. For purposes of identification, however, the International Coach Federation defines these roles as follows:
- Client:The "client" is the person(s) being coached.
- Sponsor:The "sponsor" is the entity (including its representatives) paying for and/or arranging for coaching services to be provided.
In all cases, coaching engagement contracts or agreements should clearly establish the rights, roles, and responsibilities for both the client and sponsor if they are not the same persons.
Part Two: The ICF Standards of Ethical Conduct
Preamble: ICF Professional Coaches aspire to conduct themselves in a manner that reflects positively upon the coaching profession; are respectful of different approaches to coaching; and recognize that they are also bound by applicable laws and regulations.
Section 1: Professional Conduct At Large
As a coach:
- I will not knowingly make any public statement that is untrue or misleading about what I offer as a coach or make false claims in any written documents relating to the coaching profession or my credentials or the ICF.
- I will accurately identify my coaching qualifications, expertise, experience, certifications and ICF Credentials.
- I will recognize and honor the efforts and contributions of others and not misrepresent them as my own. I understand that violating this standard may leave me subject to legal remedy by a third party.
- I will, at all times, strive to recognize personal issues that may impair, conflict or interfere with my coaching performance or my professional coaching relationships. Whenever the facts and circumstances necessitate, I will promptly seek professional assistance and determine the action to be taken, including whether it is appropriate to suspend or terminate my coaching relationship(s).
- I will conduct myself in accordance with the ICF Code of Ethics in all coach training, coach mentoring and coach supervisory activities.
- I will conduct and report research with competence, honesty and within recognized scientific standards and applicable subject guidelines. My research will be carried out with the necessary consent and approval of those involved and with an approach that will protect participants from any potential harm. All research efforts will be performed in a manner that complies with all the applicable laws of the country in which the research is conducted.
- I will maintain, store, and dispose of any records created during my coaching business in a manner that promotes confidentiality, security and privacy, and complies with any applicable laws and agreements.
- I will use ICF Member contact information (email addresses, telephone numbers, etc.) only in the manner and to the extent authorized by the ICF.
Section 2: Conflicts of Interest
As a coach:
- I will seek to avoid conflicts of interest and potential conflicts of interest and openly disclose any such conflicts. I will offer to remove myself when such a conflict arises.
- I will disclose to my client and his or her sponsor all anticipated compensation from third parties that I may pay or receive for referrals of that client.
- I will only barter for services, goods or other non-monetary remuneration when it will not impair the coaching relationship.
- I will not knowingly take any personal, professional or monetary advantage or benefit of the coach-client relationship, except by a form of compensation as agreed in the agreement or contract.
Section 3: Professional Conduct with Clients
As a coach:
- I will not knowingly mislead or make false claims about what my client or sponsor will receive from the coaching process or from me as the coach.
- I will not give my prospective clients or sponsors information or advice I know or believe to be misleading or false.
- I will have clear agreements or contracts with my clients and sponsor(s). I will honor all agreements or contracts made in the context of professional coaching relationships.
- I will carefully explain and strive to ensure that, prior to or at the initial meeting, my coaching client and sponsor(s) understand the nature of coaching, the nature and limits of confidentiality, financial arrangements, and any other terms of the coaching agreement or contract.
- I will be responsible for setting clear, appropriate, and culturally sensitive boundaries that govern any physical contact I may have with my clients or sponsors.
- I will not become sexually intimate with any of my current clients or sponsors.
- I will respect the client's right to terminate the coaching relationship at any point during the process, subject to the provisions of the agreement or contract. I will be alert to indications that the client is no longer benefiting from our coaching relationship.
- I will encourage the client or sponsor to make a change if I believe the client or sponsor would be better served by another coach or by another resource.
- I will suggest my client seek the services of other professionals when deemed necessary or appropriate.
Section 4: Confidentiality/Privacy
As a coach:
- I will maintain the strictest levels of confidentiality with all client and sponsor information. I will have a clear agreement or contract before releasing information to another person, unless required by law.
- I will have a clear agreement upon how coaching information will be exchanged among coach, client and sponsor.
- When acting as a trainer of student coaches, I will clarify confidentiality policies with the students.
- I will have associated coaches and other persons whom I manage in service of my clients and their sponsors in a paid or volunteer capacity make clear agreements or contracts to adhere to the ICF Code of Ethics Part 2, Section 4: Confidentiality/Privacy standards and the entire ICF Code of Ethics to the extent applicable.
Part Three: The ICF Pledge of Ethics
As an ICF Professional Coach, I acknowledge and agree to honor my ethical and legal obligations to my coaching clients and sponsors, colleagues, and to the public at large. I pledge to comply with the ICF Code of Ethics and to practice these standards with those whom I coach.
If I breach this Pledge of Ethics or any part of the ICF Code of Ethics, I agree that the ICF in its sole discretion may hold me accountable for so doing. I further agree that my accountability to the ICF for any breach may include sanctions, such as loss of my ICF Membership and/or my ICF Credentials.
Approved by the Ethics and Standards Committee on October 30, 2008.
Approved by the ICF Board of Directors on December 18, 2008.