Choosing the right coach: Why discovery calls matter

When you, as a potential coaching client, make contact with a coach for the first time, it is common practice for the coach to offer a free, no obligation, ‘discovery session’, ‘coffee chat’ or ‘chemistry session’, lasting between 30 and 60 minutes.

During the discovery call, you and your would-be coach will decide whether or not you like each other and want to work together. Effectively, you are sizing each other up to make sure you are a good match and have the potential for a successful partnership.

Don’t be shy about asking questions. After all, coaching is a significant financial investment for you, and an investment of time and effort on both your parts, so conditions for working together must be right.

Learning more about you to establish rapport

A coach will use this preliminary session to learn more about your desired goals. They will usually ask you questions based around the outcomes you are seeking and to understand why you have sought out a coach.

They will probably ask you to provide an overview of your life, experiences, and relationships. If there is no rapport felt at that initial meeting and trust is not established, then it is unlikely that the relationship will survive past that first meeting. 

Coaching or counselling?

A discovery call will also help the coach understand whether you do in fact require coaching as opposed to counselling or therapy. There are many crossovers between coaching and counselling, notably that coaching and counsellors hold a confidential and non-judgmental space for their clients to explore and implement desired change over a period of time. However, there are also some key differences.

Coaching is for you if…

If you are seeking support to help you move forward towards positive change in your life, then coaching is for you. If you are motivated to reach your goals, change your future, and are looking for an accountability partner to help encourage you to find personal and/or professional fulfilment, then coaching is for you. 

Coaching is probably not for you if…

If, however, you are depressed and this depression interferes with how you function in your everyday life; you are set on examining your past; and are looking for a problem solver, then you should seek a counsellor or therapist rather than a coach.

All of this is likely to come out in that initial conversation. If it transpires that coaching isn’t the right path for you, then the coach will usually refer you to a counsellor in their network or suggest that you seek an appropriate therapist.   


If a connection is apparent between you and your future coach early on, and you feel you are ready to commit immediately to working together, then the coach can move on to discussing how they usually collaborate with their clients. They will provide an explanation of what you can expect from the sessions, their coaching style, the techniques they might use, their fee, the packages they offer, meeting frequency and length, their coaching agreement, and so on. You can then schedule your first meeting and get going.

Are we right for each other?

Given all that is going on in this complimentary introductory session, it is unlikely that any actual coaching will take place, and nor should it. Indeed, this initial meeting doesn’t need to be a showcase of the coach’s skills in which they demonstrate everything they can do for you. Rather, it should be a practical introduction to coaching and a way for you to validate that the coach is right for you and vice versa. 

Green light!

If you need a few days to decide whether to go ahead, then your potential coach can reassure you that, when you are ready, you should get in touch. They will recognize that signing up for a series of sessions is a big commitment and that your decision to proceed can’t be forced. Once you give the coach the green light to go ahead, and have made the decision about which package works best for you, the hard work starts. 


Over time, a bond will be formed between you and your coach. Your relationship will flourish and grow in direct proportion to your personal and professional growth as you move towards achieving your goals.

Alisa Salamon

Alisa is a certified career transition coach based in the UK who helps people carve out a new career or take their existing career to new heights. Email to find out more.

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