M a g a z i n e
Is a Life Coach for You?
as seen in Health Magazine
Cass Schaedig, 39, felt stressed to the max. Nearing the end of a longstanding business contract, the Littleton, Colorado, healthcare consultant found herself worrying constantly that her company might fail. For the first time in years, she now had to woo new clients and balance multiple demands on the job. "I have four kids, and I’ve always been pretty good at juggling my time, but I was getting to the point where I was working a ton of hours," she says. "I felt like I was cheating my family."
Then she remembered meeting life coach Diane Brennan through a mutual friend. Three months of weekly coaching sessions by phone helped Schaedig learn to work more efficiently. Afterward, Schaedig says, "my goals were always on my radar screen, and I learned to limit the number of distractions keeping me from achieving them."
Schaedig saw her coach primarily for career assistance. But coaches can help clients attain all kinds of aspirations, whether it’s taming a crazed schedule, hitting the gym regularly, or pursuing a new hobby. "It’s someone else who’s going to hold up the mirror and say, this is what you said you wanted and then ask, what’s getting in the way?" says certified coach Rich Fettke of Walnut Creek, California?, former vice president of the International Coaching Federation, an organization which provides training and certification programs for coaches.
This combo of planning and support has put life coaches in high demand. The profession has boomed in recent years. Three years ago, the International Coaching Federation had fewer than 1,500 members; today, nearly 7,000 coaches from 30 countries have joined.
Coaching can look suspiciously like therapy. But the two take very different approaches. Therapists are trained to diagnose emotional or cognitive disorders. They often delve into the past to help clients understand their behavior, resolve problems, and relieve psychological pain. Coaches, on the other hand, "work with someone who’s already resourceful and whole and who just wants to make improvements," Fettke says. It appeals to those who want to enhance their lives, but who may be leery of the stigma of psychotherapy. Sam Alibrando, Ph.D., a psychologist and executive coach in Pasadena, emphasizes that a coach works with someone on very focused issues – getting along better with colleagues or losing weight, for instance. As a psychologist, Alibrando admits that he’s "biased toward therapy" because to him it’s "so much more powerful" than coaching. But seeing a coach for answers to a specific question can be helpful, he says.
Unfortunately, these days nearly anyone can claim to be a coach. The trick is to find one with the right mix of qualifications for you. Many have taken courses at one of several coach training institutes around the country; schools such as The Coaches Training Institute of San Rafael, California, and professional organizations such as the International Coach Federation and Coach U., Inc. offer searchable databases of members’ credentials and specialties. Many coaches also bring valuable life experience to the table–some have a background in psychotherapy, while others have owned their own businesses, or hold MBAs. You may want to interview a few over the phone before making a final decision.
If you choose to hire a coach, you can expect the sessions to last anywhere from three months to several years. Appointments occur once or twice a week, usually over the phone. You’ll pay between $300 and $500 a month, depending on the coach’s qualifications and level of experience.
For Cass Schaedig, using a coach was money well spent. "Time is a precious commodity with a husband and four kids, and for me, coaching was worth it," she says. And reporting to someone you’re paying by the hour can do wonders for follow-through. "Having weekly sessions with my coach kept me more accountable."