Take a minute and think of what it would be like if a football team didn’t have a coach. Players would run every which way, the ref would work his whistle overtime, and the likelihood of the team winning the game would be slim. But there’s a new game in town, and it isn’t football. This fantastic new resource is called “Life Coaching.” Because it is relatively new, many of us may wonder what a life coach does, and how life coaching and traditional therapy differ.
What is life coaching?
Coaching and therapy have similarities and differences. Here are the two major differences:
o Training. Psychotherapy is structured and clinical. There are requirements and standards that a would-be therapist must accomplish before he or she can start seeing patients. Therapy is much more formal than coaching and works along a set of standardized guidelines.
Life coaches earn certifications which prove they’ve spent over a hundred hours of practice, and they have invested in many hours of study. Because life coaching is relatively new, specific, formal standards and requirements are still in the developmental stages. Some of the most successful people in the world today have achieved amazing pinnacles through the use of a life coach.
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o Methodology: Simply put, a clinical therapist generally focuses on the past: what brought the patient in to seek help? What has happened in this person’s personal history to create the problems he or she is now dealing with?
A life coach focuses on the present and future. Your coach will not dwell upon the past, but will begin today and work toward helping you create the future you want, irregardless of what brought you to this point in your life. Your life coach focuses on guiding you toward the manifestation of your dreams.
More definitions of a life coach
Many sports analogies are used to describe life coaches. Sometimes coaches are called your “cheerleaders.” But maybe picturing your life coach as a football, basketball, or soccer coach will give you a better idea of what a life coach does.
o Your life coach helps you identify and put into play: your goals, dreams, values and life’s purpose.
o Your life coach helps you to “get out of your own way” and accomplish those things you have always wanted to do but haven’t had the motivation, will, inspiration or self-esteem to either begin or complete your dreams.
o A life coach helps you establish new ways of thinking. Your life coach will teach you how to apply your new thinking to new behaviors and action plans.
o Because you maintain contact with your life coach, you avoid the typical “sliding backwards” that often happens to people who try to change things on their own.
o Together, you and your life coach determine what you want to accomplish and achieve in your future: your past makes little difference.
o In life coaching, you will focus on what you need to do to live a full life and make conscious choices.
o The results you can achieve through life coaching generally happen much more quickly than with therapy. Therapy, through the methods of examining your past, can take years. Conversely, you can see results through life coaching within weeks or months. “Take Control of Your Life” is a life coach’s motto.
Changing things about yourself
Let’s again use the example of an athlete to further understand the roles of therapists and life coaches.
A basketball player wants to improve his scoring ability. He practices four to five hours a day and improves a little, but not much. He knows there is something he’s doing that slows him down when he dribbles the ball across the court, but he can’t determine what it could be. He finally tells his coach about his dilemma. The coach asks a few questions and then watches him in play. He eventually points out that the player is turning his right foot in when he runs. Once the player corrects his habit, he gains better time traveling across the court and is able to concentrate on other ways to improve his playing. It works for you to liken his coach to a life coach.
This time let’s say that the basketball player has been struggling to increase his time, but an old injury to his ankle keeps getting in his way. No matter how long he practices, or how many times he massages his ankle or takes anti-inflammatories, he’s still unsuccessful at increasing his time. His coach, seeing his frustration, finally sends him to a doctor to have his old injury evaluated and get additional help for his ankle. The doctor, in this case, would be like a therapist.
Here are some areas where a life coach could be invaluable.
o Your coach won’t look at you as a “patient.” They meet with their clients as “equals.” A good coach looks at you as someone to help, not heal.
o One of a coach’s most important functions is to hold a client accountable. Your coach will help you develop specific strategies and daily plans to make achieving your goals and life changes possible.
o Life coaches are generally more accessible than a therapist. A relationship with a coach can truthfully be seen as a “friend-friend” rather than a “doctor-patient.” A life coach won’t diagnose medical or mental problems. The experienced coach will offer morale boosting advice and specific steps to manifest change. Your coach is your mentor.
o A life coach can guide you into ways to work less and earn more.
o Many of us are frustrated because our work steals free time with our families. A life coach can make family time more available by assisting you to be higher functioning when you work.
So how can you decide? A life coach, or a therapist?
Clinical therapy is a very important part of the medical community. There is a place for both in the world today.
Here are a few reasons to choose traditional therapy over life coaching:
o Mental illness
o Thoughts and the threat of suicide
o Drug addictions
o Other types of addictions
o Clinical depression
o Difficult, complex problems
o Post traumatic stress disorder
o Whenever a life coach feels that the client’s problems fall outside the scope of his or her level of competency
o Lastly, when the work between a life coach and client seems to go nowhere
Life coaching may be the way to go if:
o You want to create a more satisfying balance between your work and home life.
o You want to get healthy: lose weight, build muscle, avoid disease, live longer.
o You’re thinking of changing jobs. You want something more challenging, something that will reward you financially and personally.
o You and your spouse want to increase your satisfaction and happiness: you want to deepen your relationship with each other.
o You want to recover from a traumatizing event such as a break-up, a job loss, foreclosure, bankruptcy, a health issue.
o You want to start your own business and build it into a successful career.
o You want to maximize business and increase profits in your current career or company.
o You want to attend college or go back to school.
o You want to reenter the work force after a long hiatus.
o You want to “get out of your rut,” change your old ways of seeing things, create new positive habits and thought processes. You want to expand and escape your old comfort zone.
Life coaches are tailor-made to help you achieve all these goals.
A good life coach won’t be afraid to refer you to a therapist
If it becomes clear that your problems don’t fit into the scope of what life coaching can cover, a good life coach won’t hesitate to work with you on finding a therapist. Life coaches are not in competition with clinical therapists.
Sometimes, it may be advisable to consider seeing both a therapist and a life coach concurrently.
What to look for when considering a life coach
Yes, certification is important when considering a life coach. But more importantly, ask yourself these questions:
o Does the coach connect with you when it comes to the important issues in your life?
o Does this coach walk their talk?
o Do you feel you communicate well with each other?
o Will this coach hold you to your accountability?
o Is this possible coach clear thinking?
o Does he/she plug into your passion?
o Is he/she willing to encourage you to dig deeply and find out what is slowing your progress?
o Is this person objective and not just functioning as a “Mom or Dad”?
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