Brazil: a country of coaches

. Aug 11, 2019
brazil coaching

For months, the first thing travelers saw upon arriving at Congonhas Airport and entering São Paulo, Brazil’s biggest city, was a huge billboard commissioned by a coaching institute. But these advertisements weren’t just at the airport, they were everywhere. From people chatting about it on the streets, to the huge buzz on social media and even in TV advertising, coaching has been taking over Brazil—and the unregulated explosion of this market has become a legal issue for lawmakers to solve.

The Brazilian Coaching Institute (IBC), the biggest school for coaches in the country, defines coaching as “a human development method built over diverse sciences and practices such as as administration, human resources management, neuroscience, neuro-linguistic programming, anthropology, sociology and concepts of psychology.” The idea is to help people unleash their potential to reach personal or professional goals. 

</p> <p>It was initially popular among executives, but has now become widespread.</p> <p>In practice, advertisements popping up all over social media present coaching sessions as a way to fully transform one’s life—or &#8220;boost their performance,&#8221; in the community’s slang—in a short space of time, with a simple “mindset change.” “Life Coach,” “Empowerment Coach,” “Financial Coach,” “Shopping Coach,” “Legal Coach,” “Nutritional Coach,” and even “Quantum Coach” have become the job titles of many Brazilians, as niches have become increasingly specific.</p> <div class="wp-block-image"><figure class="aligncenter"><img src="" alt="congonhas coaching" class="wp-image-22076" srcset=" 539w, 300w" sizes="(max-width: 539px) 100vw, 539px" /><figcaption>Ad for the Brazilian Coaching Institute at Congonhas Airport</figcaption></figure></div> <p>According to the <a href="">2016 Global Coaching Study</a>, by the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and consultancy PwC, the global coaching market revenue was USD 2.35 billion in 2015—and USD 92 million of it came from Latin America and Caribbean. At that time, the region had an estimated 4,000 coaches (compared to 53,300 worldwide), and 35 percent of them were unqualified. In Brazil, the IBC, founded in 2007, says it has already trained more than 50,000 coaches, experiencing a 1,000-percent increase in demand in less than five years. Coaching’s peak of popularity in Brazil becomes clear with a look at Google Trends data: the popularity of the search term “coach” has rose 320 percent since 2014.</p> <p>The problem is that the law has not kept up with the market boom. Coaching is not <a href="">regulated in Brazil</a>, opening room to professionals with little-to-no expertise to take their chances, posing a threat to consumers.</p> <p>“We still don’t have a regulation that recognizes coaching as a job, and this is the worst danger. Sometimes the marketing is well done, people believe it and end up getting oriented by a person that is not fit for that job at all,” says lawyer Fernando Borges Vieira, president of the Legal Coaching Committee at the Brazilian bar association (OAB).</p> <h2>Limits and differences</h2> <p>The coaching market boom has occurred parallel to the worst economic crisis in Brazil’s history, <a href="">leaving millions unemployed</a> and shrinking the market. While coaching came for some people as <a href="">a way to earn a living</a>, it also spurred competition with other established professionals, such as psychologists or consultants.</p> <p>Critics say that though coaches may undergo training to become certified instructors, they are not obliged to do it by law, nor are they subject to a professional association such as the OAB, making consumers vulnerable to charlatans. Another argument against the activity is that even though coaches get trained, they wouldn’t have the same skills of specialists that have studied for at least 5 years in universities.</p> <p>The <a href="">Federal Association of Nutritionists</a>, for example, &#8220;considers improper the designation of ‘nutritionist and coach,’ and recommends only registering the course on one&#8217;s resumé. The Federal and Regionals Nutritionist Association Systems do not recognize coaching courses as specialization.&#8221;</p> <p>Mr. Vieira explains that it is important to know the difference between each professional occupation to avoid confusion. Consultants, for example, tend to work in a specific area of the company, identifying problems using tools such as market research and coming up with solutions. They should also have proven experience and knowledge in the field. Meanwhile, psychologists are the most suitable professionals to be counselors, as they deal with deep emotional issues. Coaches, on the other hand, may work with groups or individuals, but they don’t need to have specific knowledge in an area, if they know coaching tools, he says.</p> <p>In an emailed statement, the IBC said that “when in doubt about a coach or psychologist, if there’s a mental or emotional health issue at stake, choose the psychologist (&#8230;) Only psychologists and psychiatrists can treat mental health and no coach can promise a cure or treatment for disorders.” They also highlight that there are many psychologists that also have coaching certifications and would be able to say which approach is the most suited for each situation.</p> <h2>The next frontier: parliament</h2> <p>As controversy builds, even Congress has been caught up in the matter. The parliament has a platform called &#8220;e-Cidadania,&#8221; which serves as a forum on which the public may present ideas they wish to become law. This year, William Menezes, a Brazilian citizen from Sergipe, <a href="">created a topic</a> asking for coaching to be made illegal. He soon got the support of over 24,000 people, surpassing the 20,000 signatures needed to make lawmakers address the matter.</p> <p>“If this suggestion becomes law, it won’t allow charlatanism of many so-called graduates without a valid diploma. It won’t allow misleading advertising such as&nbsp; ‘DNA reprogramming’ and ‘quantum healing,’ [which is a] disrespect towards the scientific works of many therapists and other professionals,” Mr. Menezes wrote on the Congress website.</p> <p>Senator Paulo Paim was appointed as the proposal’s rapporteur in the Senate’s Human Rights Committee. If approved, it will progress to other committees. In an interview with <strong>The Brazilian Report</strong>, he said that “(criminalization) goes against a global trend. I see no reason to criminalize it, it is more reasonable to regulate it.”</p> <p>“We want to host a public hearing, speak to the society, establish standards and criteria to eliminate the possibility of fraud, protecting both professionals and users,” he added, saying that he also aimed to secure the rights of other professionals.</p> <p>He said it is possible that a hearing may happen in August, while voting in the Senate could happen before the end of the year.</p> <p>Looking globally, a precedent for Mr. Paim’s work may be the <a href="">Uttar Pradesh Regulation of Coaching Act</a>, established in India in 2002. This law says that no one may act as a coach or have a coaching center unless they hold valid certification or registration provided by the Competent Officer, who must inspect the establishments and look for irregularities.</p> <p>IBC believes that “it is possible that regulatory parameters may be beneficial for the sector, as long as they are widely debated with everyone involved and the country’s main coaching institutes (&#8230;) But it is important to highlight that coaching is not regulated specifically anywhere else in the world and even in Brazil there are fields being developed with a very important role in society that are not regulated, such as human resources and journalism,” they wrote.</p> <h2>Skipping traps</h2> <p>Mr. Vieira believes that the best way to avoid being fooled is to look into professionals’ references, if they have some kind of education or certification, and talk to other coachees. When it comes to legal terms, as there’s no regulation yet, any person interested in undergoing a coaching process should look at the hiring terms and contracts.</p> <p>“If the coach said ‘I promise you’ll reach your goals within a year,’ it is a core activity. But if the person said ‘I’ll guide you, but you’re the one reaching the goals and the results are on you,’ than it is a non-core activity. If there has been any mistake in the provision of services, you may ask for restitution in court, but then you have to prove the damage and the professional’s fault, so pay attention to terms,” he said.

Natália Scalzaretto

Natália Scalzaretto has worked for companies such as Santander Brasil and Reuters, where she covered news ranging from commodities to technology. Most recently, she worked as an Editor for Trading News, the information division from the TradersClub investor community.

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