What’s a Life Coach (and Do You Need One)?

Life Coach Miami Brickell Coral GablesIf you’ve heard of life coaches before but wondered if hiring one was right for you, then wonder no more! Here’s the basics of what life coaching is and isn’t, and some of the things you might be wondering about what happens when you hire one.

A life coach is NOT:

1. A new best friend.

While people have different expectations for friendships, a lot of people come to friendships expecting a friend to be … well, nice. To always comfort them when they need comforted and to usually agree with them when they need to vent. A life coach, while certainly there to support you and be on Team You, isn’t there to listen to your feelings as much as she is to guide you on the path to actionable change, and sometimes that means pushing you out of your comfort zone.

2. A therapist.

While a therapist, depending on what kind of therapy they practice, might listen to you talk about what you’re dissatisfied and unhappy with in your life and ask, “Where is this coming from?”, a life coach is not concerned with that. A life coach is only concerned with, “What can we do to take you from dissatisfied to satisfied?” Unfortunately, sometimes life coaches with poor (or no) training cross the line and provide unlicensed therapy.  There’s a really fine line between coaching and therapy.

3. A guru or mystic.

Maybe it’s because life coaches are a relatively new phenomenon, or maybe it’s because the term “life coach” just sounds so intimidatingly vague and big, but lots of people have the misperception that life coaches are sort of like spiritual guides. While there might be some individual life coaches that sell themselves this way, the field as a whole does not see itself that way; it’s more practical and goal-oriented.

4. A boss.

You might just want your life coach to tell you what to do, but it’s probably not going to. Life coaches help you figure out what behaviors you need to change to you to reach your vision of yourself.

5. One uniform thing.

There’s actually a wide variety of kinds of life coaches, including general life coaches, life balance coaches, mindset coaches, mindfulness coaches, health coaches, small business coaches, executive coaches, personal finance coaches, dating coaches, relationship coaches, ADHD coaches… I think you get the picture.

A life coach IS:

1. A supporter.

If you have a skilled life coach, then s/he’s going to be good at listening to you and getting to the bottom of what’s making you dissatisfied and unhappy. Lots of people who contact life coaches haven’t even yet figured out what their goals for change are. A life coach can help you by listening attentively not just to what you’re saying but what might be between the lines of what you’re saying.

2. A motivator.

Many people have specific goals that they want for their lives but they come up with a lot of excuses or sometimes even valid concerns that prevent them from pursuing them. A life coach will help you see past your excuses and figure out how to move past obstacles that are stopping you from getting started.

3. An accountability expert.

Unless you’re a person who’s blessed with great will power, it can be really hard to stick to goals that you make all by yourself. This can especially be true when you’re talking about big life goals because you might tell yourself things like, “I’m not getting to see my family enough” or “This is putting up a barrier between me and my S.O.”, and then you have what sounds like a pretty good excuse to slack on your goal. But a life coach will regularly check in with you and hold you accountable for what you’ve said you’ll do.

4. A guide.

While a life coach won’t tell you what to do, she will guide you through the process of accomplishing the things that you yourself state that you want. This guidance can come in forms like helping you break goals down into actionable steps, set up a schedule, motivating you to act now rather than later, and checking in with you regularly on your progress.

Life Coaching Considerations

Are you wondering if you’re the kind of person a life coach would want as a client?

Don’t, because the answer is pretty much always “yes.” Experienced life coach Kenji Oshima says, “My clients include housewives, managers, administrators, and grad students.”  In other words, his clients come from basically every walk and stage of life.

Are you the type of person who would enjoy or profit from a life coach?

Oshima provides some helpful questions that he tells his clients to ask themselves when they’re trying to figure out whether they want to work with him: “Are you ready to focus on yourself and nurture your personal development? Are you prepared to work toward your goals? Do you feel collaboration and accountability will help you become unstuck? Are your commitments to yourself and others out of balance? Are you willing to let go of limiting beliefs and negative self-talk? Would you like to increase self-confidence and resilience?”

Can you afford a life coach, both in terms of money and time?

Life coaches aren’t the most affordable service in the world, but they do come at a wide range of prices, with the most expensive usually being the ones employed by big corporations for employees. Lifecoach.com explains, “Most life coaches working with individuals charge about $300 to $700 per month for a 30 to 60 minutes call 3 or 4 times a month.” The financial element might be restrictive for you, but most people are surprised at how not restrictive life coaching is on their schedules.

How to do you spot a skilled life coach?

You should really be concerned about this!  Coaching is pretty much the Wild West of positive psychology because there is no government regulating body for life coaches.  Unlike therapists and psychologists, they don’t need to go through years of schooling and training, pass an exam to certify their competency, or hold a license to practice.  Anyone can call themselves a life coach and start taking clients.  A local former dating coach rebranded as a spirituality coach.  Just the other day, a recent college grad that I know, age 22, announced she’s now a mindset and mindfulness coach.  Her college degree isn’t in psychology, behavioral science, or any other related field.  Her cited credentials: she’s practiced yoga for two years.  Smh. Point is – be careful.  There are a lot of snake oil salesman and charlatans that talk a great game, but don’t deliver results.

Though it’s no guarantee of a highly skilled coach, you should check the coach you’re considering is accredited by the International Coach Federation (ICF). That way you’ll at least know the coach has some type of training (and won’t be practicing unlicensed therapy) rather than just someone who listened to all the episodes of a podcast on life coaching (another true story ::sigh::).

Ultimately, the decision about whether you should work with a life coach or not depends on whether your goals are compatible with what a life coach does.  If you’re trying to figure out whether you’d benefit more from a therapist or a life coach (or both), you can call me at (305) 501-0133 or click here to schedule a free 20-minute Clarity Consult.  I’ll be happy to help you figure out what fits best for your goals.

erika martinez media expert psychologist miami

Erika Martinez, Psy.D.is the founder, owner, and a licensed psychologist at Envision Wellness in Miami, FL.  She specializes in working with ambitious young professionals and entrepreneurs to overcome anxiety/stress, burnout, limiting beliefs, people-pleasing, low self esteem, heartbreak, and toxic relationships/codependency.  Dr. Martinez has a passion for helping others achieve happy, fulfilling, and change-making lives that make the world a better place.  Click here to schedule a free 20-minute phone consultation.  Follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.

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