Tuesday, September 29, 2020

What does a life coach do, anyway? Before starting my training in life coaching, I asked that question too. Do life coaches give advice? Do they instruct their clients what to do? Do they do therapy and just call it by a different name?

Now that I have completed the intensive training and am immersed in the profession of life coaching, I can tell you the answers to all three questions: No!

Life coaching starts with the simple but startling assumption that every person is resourceful and creative and can tap into that resourcefulness and creativity through a coaching relationship. A coach listens deeply, nurturing a powerful relationship built on trust and transparency. A coach cuts through the noise to get to the big questions. What are your goals? What are your strengths? What’s getting in the way of moving toward those goals? What’s happening right now? What will you do to begin that journey and when will you do it?


I’m especially passionate about coaching people through the challenges of transitions—personal, work or family. Everyone has gone through (or will go through!) such transitions—graduating from school with no clear career path, starting (or ending) an important relationship, leaving a job or being laid off, losing a beloved family member or friend, facing a health crisis, deciding what post-retirement looks like. I’ve been through some big ones myself and have the firsthand experience of how profoundly unmoored you can feel, as if you’re on a small boat in a stormy sea, just holding on for dear life. And I’ve also learned that you can reach within yourself during those times to find new strengths you didn’t even know you had. You can discover new perspectives during those stormy times that lead to an even more fulfilling future.

Expect a life coaching relationship to put you in the driver’s seat: you’ll design your relationship with your coach, you’ll decide what to focus on, you’ll “try on” new ways of being and acting, you’ll be accountable (in a positive way!) for your actions, and you’ll be empowered to move forward toward your goal. It will challenge you and take some time, but you can make changes happen.

Most coaches, including myself, conduct their sessions on the phone or a video platform such as Zoom. After wondering how well these platforms would work compared with the in-person sessions I had been accustomed to in my years as a psychotherapist, I was a little surprised, but very gratified, to see how a meaningful relationship can be developed without being together in one room. My fellow coaches around the world have been able to continue coaching throughout this year without missing a beat!

I chose this field after years of training and experience as a social worker and psychotherapist, followed by a second career of fulfilling work in a Jewish philanthropic foundation. While psychotherapy is invaluable in addressing mental health challenges and understanding how thoughts and behaviors can get in the way of emotional health, I’ve chosen now to build on my experience in psychotherapy to coach clients who want to focus on the present and the future.

If there was ever a time when we need our inner resources, this is it! No, we can’t control much of the upheaval in our world right now, but we do have the power to determine our goals, harness our energies and move ahead. This season of soul-searching and teshuvah offers us the chance to look ahead with a renewed sense of purpose and a commitment to act on it.