Meet the Coach: How Life Coaching Works

Previously we discussed what therapy is and how it overlaps with life coaching. Now we’ll take a look at what life coaching is all about. A life coach provides guidance and resources, helping the client understand his or her motivation or lack of motivation and how change works. When we change, we follow common stages of change (academically referred to as the Transtheoretical Model of Change).

When we are in need of change, we start these stages unaware of that need (pre-contemplation stage). We gradually begin to consider our need for change, think about the problem, and grow in motivation (contemplation stage). Sooner or later, we begin preparing for change, creating a plan (preparation stage). We may not yet be ready for action, but we lay the groundwork in these stages.

When we feel ready, the action stage begins. Steps may be taken with great energy. People may ask, “what took so long?” This was part of a normal process. If action is taken too soon, we may fall back prematurely and not make the progress intended.

Intense action can only last so long before the focus shifts from radical change to maintaining the ground covered (maintenance stage). Excitement may wane; motivation may decrease. You might fall back into old habits, returning to the pre-contemplation stage and repeat the cycle or you’ll remain consistent and not return to the old behavior.

The first time around, latter is rare. It is much more common to experience the stages again and again as a cycle that spirals upward towards the ideal life. Knowing this can help protect you from discouragement.

Life coaching is future focused. Considering these stages, the life coach will help you gain awareness during the contemplation stage; help make the plan, considering the obstacles in the preparation stage; support, encourage and celebrate with you during the action stage; and help you keep perspective and energy during the maintenance stage. Should you return to the pre-contemplation stage, the life coach is available, to remind you that change takes time, you have what it takes to pick up and try again.

When you sit down with a life coach, you’ll share what is happening in your life and what brought you to life coaching. The focus shifts to developing your vision of an ideal life. Next, the life coach will work with you to develop SMART goals to get you there. As sessions continue, the life coach helps keep you accountable to the goals you’ve develop, acts as a sounding board for new ideas, and provide support, encouragement, and trouble shooting as needed. It can focus on personal, relational or professional goals. It picks up where therapy leaves off, or supplements the therapeutic efforts without involving insurance companies.

Life coaching is a great option for want to stay future and solution-focused and for those who have not experience past trauma. Like therapy, sessions take place individually or in groups. It can be in person, over the phone, or online.

It is different from working with a consultant, who tells you what you should do. It is different from working with a mentor who becomes part of your life. The life coach stands a part from stay objective, helps you sort through resources and information, using the art of life coaching to make recommendations of what would work best for you. You don’t have to work alone.

The duration for life coaching varies by client needs. You may have a time bound change you are working through, such as moving homes or finding a new job, and need help managing stress and meeting goals. You may have many goals you want to achieve that cover broad categories. You move from one area to the next with your life coach. Services can range from a few months to over a year, depending on these factors.

The Relationship between Therapy and Life Coaching

Originally published in The Hughson Chronicle-Denair Dispatch, 2016

Last time I shared with you some basics to therapy, what it’s about and how it works. To better understand the relationship between therapy and life coaching, where one ends and the other begins, imagine them on a spectrum or a 7-point scale. At the far left end (1), there is the very lowest point you could be feeling or experiencing, as far as imaginable from your ideal life. At the opposite end (7) is your ideal life. If you experience that point of realization where you say, “this isn’t how it should be,” you decide to seek help, and you fall on left, therapy may be the best fit for you. It’s a more intense, more specialized intervention for when a person is feeling that low.

The reason therapy and life coaching have a lot of in common is for when you are more in the middle of the spectrum, or you’ve worked your way up there. The focus shifts from healing to maintenance to reaching for happiness. At a 1 or 2, happiness may seem impossible. The focus is survival or day-to-day functioning.

An important step here is considering what happiness is, what your ideal life looks like. This is the meat of life coaching. Where do you want to be? The life coach works with you to help you get there through discussion, strategic planning and problem solving. There is still some important stuff to do that focuses on the left, learning about coping skills, relationship skills, overcoming unhealthy habits that have been place for a long time, learning or continuing to watch out for negative thinking patterns that impact your behavior or outlook.

When treating a severe wound, you have positive treatment, like antibiotics, the whole time. The focus has to start specifically on removing the bad (infected) areas immediately before one can really focus on healing. The positive treatment starts at the beginning, continues through the removal of the bad, and even after that is completed, the positive treatment continues. We take this approach with our bodies. We take it with our mind as well.

If you fall in towards the middle or right (3+) on that spectrum, medical insurance may not cover therapeutic services because they do not see it as a “medical necessity.” Your options for therapy are then paying out of pocket for the full fee or finding a therapist who will use a sliding fee scale to see you. As described above, this is where life coaching can become a great asset.

Typically costing less than therapy, life coaching focuses on the middle of the spectrum, moving towards the right (3-7): the ideal life. You’ve either done the treatment necessary in therapy, want a sharper focus with your therapist but are ready to begin working on living that ideal life (you can work with a therapist and life coach at the same time), or started out at a 3+ when you decide to talk with someone.

Every one of us internally moves towards change. We either change in a positive way (grow) or we change in a negative way, by directing developing negative habits or growing in laziness and neglect. In order to reach the ideal life, be it one’s personal life, professional life or relationships, it takes thought and intentional action. It is normal, at this point, to come up against obstacles when you seek to make changes in your life.

This is where life coaching comes in. Next time, I’ll discuss how life coaching works.

What Therapy is all About

Originally published in The Hughson Chronicle-Denair Dispatch, 2016

I’m often asked the question, “what is life coaching?” It sounds a lot like therapy, and most people know a little of what counseling is like. So let’s start there.

Therapy or counseling deals with the past, healing and disorder. A diagnosis is needed for insurance coverage. Without insurance coverage, sessions range from $60 to $150 (or with a sliding fee, $20). Insurance companies, once they have received the paperwork and diagnosis will commit to covering a certain number of sessions. Once that number is reached, the therapist can petition that more sessions be covered.

For Medi-Cal recipients under 18, there may be a therapist available at their school providing services. The Center for Human Services, Sierra Vista and Catholic Charities are great local resources for low cost therapy. Because of the Affordable Care Act, many more adults now have access to counseling.

There are many theoretical orientations to therapy. That’s fancy for what the therapist believes about the human person, causes of distress, what motivates us, and how change works. You may find a therapist who focuses solely on the past, believing all of our current actions or feelings are tied to past experiences and understanding those experiences lead to healing. You may find a therapist who sees the best effort to be put into reshaping the present by changing behaviors, rewarding positive steps in the right direction.

Because of the differences in theoretical orientation, the length of therapy recommended will vary by provider and the needs of the client. The therapist will discuss this with the client early in the sessions. Weekly sessions are usually best although not always financially possible.

The therapist’s worldview should never be imposed on the patient. If the patient is upfront saying, “I don’t believe in divorce,” or “I don’t believe anything happens to us after we die, we just disappear,” a good therapist, even if he or she disagrees, will work within that framework.

Depending on your insurance, it may be possible to “shop around” for a therapist if you find that the therapist you met with was not a good fit, either because of personality, style or if that therapist was not open to your worldview. Trust is the key to this relationship. If you don’t trust your therapist and what he or she has to say, you won’t be nearly as open. Change will either take longer, not happen, or happen because of reasons outside of therapy.

Common issues like past trauma, anxiety, depression, obsessive thoughts, compulsive behaviors are common indicators of a need for therapy. In counseling, you can learn about the difficulty your experiencing, help you understand the effects of it in your life, and guide you toward helpful resources to change.

A mother may know her infant’s fever is not high enough to warrant concern, so she checks with friends to find out what they do to help the baby be comfortable, only seeking medical help when certain warning signs occur. Attending therapy is like seeing a doctor. There is a lot of mental, emotional or relational distress we experience that we can handle, read about or talk to others to learn how to cope. But there comes a point for many when its’ time to see a doctor: when sad or angry or anxious moods do not shift but dominate, when we feel we have lost control, when we can’t let go of something in the past, if you’re experiencing thoughts of harming yourself or someone else. These are just some of the signs that therapy might be an important step for you towards happiness.

Here we come to the overlap. As healing and change occur in therapy, the focus shifts from the past to the future. Now that x is under control, what to do now? We’ll discuss this next time. Stay tuned.