The International Coach Federation (ICF) is committed to the highest standards of coaching. One of the ways the ICF maintains their standards is through accreditation of training programs. Accredited life coaching programs are programs that have gone through rigorous inspection and auditing by the ICF and adhere to their accreditation requirements.
Accredited Life Coaching ProgramsFor example, for a program to be ICF accredited, it has to cover the eleven core competencies that the organization has established for life coaching. In addition to auditing and accrediting these programs, the ICF has also put measures in place to ensure that, once the accreditation has been given, the school continues to maintain the same high quality standards. One of the most effective ways they achieve this is through their structured complaint review process.
The ICF complaint process serves as a model of excellence when reviewing complaints fairly. Programs that are found to be in breach of the code of ethics may lose their accreditation. In this way, program participants can also be active in the process of ensuring that quality is maintained in the certification course they are attending.

Steps in the Complaint Process

1.Filing the complaint
The complainant must submit a formal complaint that complies with ICF complaint process procedures. At a minimum, a signed complaint must be provided that specifies which ICF Code of Conduct standards have been violated by the accredited life coaching program. Complainants are given a grace period of one year from the time they notice the issue, during which they should file their complaint.
Once the ICF receives the signed complaint, it will be forwarded to the ICF global staff for verification of the program and organization in question. If the ICF global staff finds that the program is not ICF accredited, they will notify the complainant that they have no power to act because of lack of affiliation. However, if the reported program is ICF accredited, the complaint will be forwarded to the standards and compliance manager for further review. If the complaint is found to have merit, the respective school will be notified and will be asked for a response.
2.Review of the programReview of the program
Upon determination of the complaint’s merits, the standards and compliance manager will convene a meeting with relevant staff to determine if the program reported is indeed in violation of the ICF code of ethics. During this stage, the ICF team might correspond with the complainant and the organization in question for clarification on the subject matter. If the team finds that the issue raised was purely curriculum related, the complaint will be logged in the ICF database.
Once an institution receives three related complaints in its file, this will trigger an immediate reassessment of the course materials that were submitted to the ICF when accreditation was initially sought. Should the ICF team decide that the issue raised is not in their jurisdiction, or if they are unable to see how the issue violates their code of ethics, the organization and the complainant will be notified at the same time. If further investigation is needed, the process will be escalated to the next step.

Because the ICF is responsible for the quality of their accredited life coaching programs, the federation will take any complaint that reaches this stage seriously. Before the investigation begins, the organization in question and the person who raised the issue will both be notified. The organization under investigation will, first and foremost, be required to provide a written response to the query raised, if they haven’t already done so.

The ICF global office will then review and collect any additional information that might be needed to prepare a written and factual report that can be used by the ICF leadership for decision making. If the investigation concludes there wasn’t a breach of the code of ethics, the case will be closed and this will be communicated to both parties. If not, the complaint will be escalated to the final stage.
4.The final determination
If there is sufficient evidence that a breach occurred, the ICF’s program accreditation department will decide on the appropriate remedial actions to be taken, and this information will be conveyed in writing to both parties. The ICF will ask for feedback from the organization, and if they accept the sanctions or remedial actions from the ICF, the case will be closed and a final determination document prepared to be sent to the organization and the complainant. If the organization in question disagrees with the ICF’s position, those in charge will have a chance to appeal in writing by submitting a formal application for reconsideration, explaining why they disagree with the results of the investigation.
Upon receiving a request for reconsideration, the ICF global office will review the case again and prepare its final determination, including the findings and any sanctions or remedial actions imposed. This will be communicated to both parties. If the organization in question still refuses to agree with the ICF’s sanctions, that organization will automatically lose their accreditation.

Rationale Behind the Quality Control Process

ICF maintains an open policy for anyone to post a complaint about an accredited program. While all complaints are treated seriously, the ICF does a thorough job in investigating each one to

quality control

ensure that they only act on complaints with merit. This ensures that no organization loses its life coaching program accreditation simply because someone had a “bone to pick.” The review process is very stringent to ensure that schools offering ICF accredited training do a good job of maintaining high-quality education. The ultimate goal is to produce life coaches who are well trained and ready to offer clients excellent coaching services.

The ICF regularly audits all of its accredited life coaching programs to ensure that respective schools are adhering to its code of conduct. This is the main reason why lifetime accreditation is not offered. Each program or school must renew its accreditation every three years. This encourages those in charge to ensure that high standards continue to be met, and gives the ICF opportunity to regularly audit the organizations to ensure ICF standards are maintained as per the code of ethics.

However, even as the ICF does its part, students who have a bad experience with an accredited organization are encouraged to post their concerns with the ICF. As long as the complaint is objective and reported as per the ICF’s stringent guidelines, the complaint will be fully investigated and acted upon appropriately.
Find out more about accredited life coaching programs.
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