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Most of us have heard of life coaching by now, but what is it exactly? And is it just a gimmicky cultural trend or something truly worthwhile?
Although life coaching (also called personal coaching) has been around as a helping profession for over 20 years, there are some common misconceptions about what it is and isn’t. As a field, it brings together concepts and practices from psychology, the Human Potential movement, leadership, personal development, and other arenas. Christian coaches also incorporate Christian ideals and teachings about what it means to be human and what ultimately gives our lives meaning and purpose.
To understand coaching better, it can first be helpful to look at what it is not.
First, coaching is not consulting.
A consultant is an expert in a particular area who shares his or her expertise and knowledge about a particular thing. So for example, if you want to write and publish a book, you might hire a published writer or a publishing expert to tell you what steps to take. A life coach doesn’t tell you what to do.
Coaching is also not therapy.
Therapy is meant to help facilitate healing — emotionally and psychologically. It is often past-focused, and therapists have expertise in various therapeutic modalities to help you work through issues impairing your life and heal from past wounds. Coaching can certainly be therapeutic, but it is not therapy.
Coaching is also not spiritual direction.
This can be another misconception among people of faith. While a Catholic coach and client may agree on certain truths, and integrate faith and prayer into their sessions, a spiritual director’s job is to focus entirely on helping a directee deepen their spiritual life and grow in holiness.
Coaching has its own role to play in personal growth and development.
Life coaching is quite literally that — a coach for your life. It may be life more generally, or certain areas of your life, such as health and wellness, finances, parenting, or career. A coach can help you gain clarity on where you are right now, where you want to go, and what you need to do to get there. Coaching is present and future focused. It looks at the past only in so far as it can help you work through any obstacles and gain insight in order to move forward.
Coaching can be powerful for people who feel stuck, who want to develop or reach goals, who need accountability and support, or who want to change or improve something but don’t necessarily need therapy. While coaching schools and programs train coaches in different approaches and emphases, the two main objectives common to all life coaching are: learning/gaining insight and taking action.
So how would a Catholic — or anyone, for that matter — know they need a life coach?
Here are 3 main signs that you might benefit from working with one…
1. You feel stuck and nothing you’ve tried seems to work.
Many of us find ourselves wanting to make changes. We try this or that but often find ourselves either right back where we started or spinning our wheels. This can be a frustrating and discouraging process that leaves us feeling defeated. A good coach can help you make real progress.
2. You have a strong sense that you have a mission, or something you should be doing, or something that needs to change, but you’re not quite sure what it is, where to start, or how to get there.
Ever have that feeling that God is asking something of you but you’re not exactly sure what that may be? Or maybe you know but you can’t figure out how to make it happen. Maybe you’ve always wanted to do “x” but you’re still doing “y” and you’re not sure why. A coach can help.
3. You have a dream, or goals, or mission, but you need more accountability and support.
We all need accountability. Family and friends can help, but are not often the best at holding our feet to the fire, and that’s not usually the best role for them anyway. A coach is an accountability partner. You can make a lot of progress when you have someone you are regularly reporting to about the commitments you’ve made. A coach is also a cheerleader — their motive is to help you succeed.
There are other reasons you might seek out a coach, but these are the big ones. Many people who work with therapists, spiritual directors, and other helping professionals also do some life coaching as well — they are not mutually exclusive and often complement each other.
Coaching is not a licensed profession like therapy, but many coaches are “certified” through coaching schools and programs. Make sure you’re comfortable with your coach’s training and background and shop around for a good fit — many coaches offer short complementary sessions where you can ask questions to determine if you would work well together. If your faith is central to your life and you want it to factor into the work you do with a coach, seek out a coach who gets that.
Keep in mind that a lot of coaches work by phone and video conference, so finding a great coach often doesn’t require proximity.
Coaching is not covered by insurance, but many coaches offer sliding scale fees and sometimes all you need is a handful of sessions to get on the right track.
So don’t hesitate to consider life coaching. Many people of faith have been surprised at the difference a good coach can make when it comes to becoming the person God has called them to be.
If working with a life coach is something you’d like to consider, check out these Catholic coaches.