• A Very British Cult is a BBC Radio 4 documentary into life coaching company, Lighthouse Group

  • An 18-month investigation by the BBC found that the group carried out unethical practices

  • All Welldoing coaches are qualified and insured

Lighthouse, based in the Midlands of England and founded by businessman Paul Waugh, is a life coaching company that has collected hundreds of thousands of pounds in donations from their coachees, by apparently unethical and manipulative means

Paul Waugh, who grew up in South Africa, claims he was a multimillionaire by the age of 35 and has a revolutionary way of helping people 'fix their spiritual wellbeing'. An in-depth BBC report has outlined the unethical practices that have led to Waugh taking home £1.2 million over the course of 2018-2022. 

Being involved with Lighthouse means working to move up the four "levels of spiritual development". Only founder Waugh is at level four, with everyone else stuck at level one, a "chaotic childlike state". Their main obstacle to progression was said to be the negative influences in their lives, most often their closest relationships. 

Lighthouse works hard to separate coachees from their loved ones, who are encouraged to make ever larger financial donations to the group. It was one member's girlfriend who first contacted the BBC after noticing that her boyfriend was acting less and less like himself. 

Life coaching is a growing UK industry, but it is currently unregulated. There are an estimated 80,000 to 100,000 people working in the field, according to the BBC report. On Welldoing, we accept coaching members only after checking on their training and qualifications; public liability insurance is mandatory. 

We spoke to one of our coaches, Eleanor Marker, about what she does – and, importantly, doesn't – do as a coach with her clients:

"For me, life coaching is a collaborative journey. The client tells you their preferred destination in life and you work together designing a map to get there. You make a plan to overcome any hurdles and have a process in place to make the journey as enjoyable as possible. The client leads, and the coach supports and advises with the client’s best interests in mind at all times. 

We are your guide on the side, we do not lead you anywhere you do not want to go or encourage you to make decisions that go against your goals. We do not tell you how to live your life, we do not tell you what you should or should not do. We provide advice, support and comradeship to help you reach your chosen goals.

All sessions are responsive to the client, and respectful of their boundaries. Sessions are, of course, confidential and no client is ever encouraged to deal with past traumas, unless they are ready to do so and actively ask for this in their sessions.

I would caution clients from approaching unqualified or unregistered life coaches, and would advise you to be wary of a coach asking for a large amount of money upfront or who try to lock you in for a long period. Good life coaches offer clear, boundaried timescales for their coaching and are transparent about what they can and cannot do. Ultimately, life coaching should be an enjoyable and empowering experience. After all, you’re paying for it! So if you are working with a coach who makes you feel isolated or disconnected from the world, or who persistently leaves you feeling vulnerable or unhappy, it’s time to find a new coach."

Eleanor Marker is a Welldoing coach in Carmarthenshire and online

Further reading

5 things you didn't know about coaching

An interview with Jenny Rogers: how coaching works

What's the role of a recovery coach?

5 things you should look for in your coach