When You Might Need the Guidance of a Life Coach

When Melissa Page Deutsch of Norfolk started Inner Voice Coaching about three years ago, she knew life coaches were needed:  

“I stayed home for 12 years,” Deutsch explains. “Re-entering the work world was harder than I thought. I didn’t find a lot of support.”

Until she did some research and hired a life coach.

“I was skeptical at first. My background (as a speech pathologist) is evidence-based practice,” Deutsch says. “I found a coach who was also in my field. I gained so much.”

She then decided to become a life coach herself, earning certification from the Coaches Training Institute and the International Coaching Federation. She works with clients over the phone, typically two times a month for about six months. Her clients have ranged from age 22 to 79.

“It’s like speech therapy: I try to work myself out of a job,” says Deutsch.

She hopes that each client will find a sense of purpose and become empowered. During her conversations with clients, she focuses on their values and looking for opportunities to express those values in their life. The process involves Deutsch asking about how the client feels physically, searching for clues about her emotions and how they manifest in the body.

“A client might say ‘I feel like a wall is pressing on me,’” Deutsch shares. “I’ll ask ‘where do you feel that?’ I can lead her to sitting quietly with her eyes closed, concentrating on her breathing and getting centered.”

Her coaching technique focuses equally on taking action. For example, a client’s finances might be overwhelming her. Deutsch will hear her saying, “I’m thinking about it all the time.” She’ll point out all the time and energy she is using thinking about managing her money and ask what it might feel like to use that time balancing her checkbook.

“I’ll say, ‘can you describe that feeling?’ and ‘what is one small thing you can do?” Deutsch says.

She’s often pleasantly surprised: When she checks back with clients two weeks later, they’ve taken extra steps to solve their own problems.

The difference between a life coach—or personal development coach as some call it—and a psychiatrist/psychologist/therapist can be confusing, with the professionals sometimes using similar methods to assist people.

“Therapists can offer elements of coaching, and coaches can be therapeutic,” Deutsch says. “With a therapist, the client has a clinical diagnosis, though. That is necessary for insurance.”

Another difference: Generally, a therapist will delve into the client’s past to improve the present and the future. Coaches are more present- and future-oriented.

Deutsch recommends that those looking for a life coach check credentials and credibility by asking these five questions:

  1. Who awarded your coaching credentials?
  2. Who have you worked with (types of clients, not names!)?  
  3. What’s your track record/What changes have you helped people make?
  4. Can we talk before paying for a session?
  5. Can I check your references?

“You want to know, ‘are we a good match?’” Deutsch says. “Coaching is a partnership; there’s no hierarchy.”

Prices for a coach vary widely, depending on their credentials and experience. Some working on their credentialing might charge as low as $25 an hour to gain experience. On the other end of the spectrum, some coaches charge $1,000 a session. Most with certifications, however, charge in the $100 to $400 an hour range.

“Anybody can get a coach to match their budget,” Deutsch notes. “You can get creative and even do less than an hour session.”

The important thing: If you’re thinking about it, just give it a shot, Deutsch advises.

“I’ve noticed a lot of professionals sitting on the bench. They have so much to offer. I didn’t want to see people defaulting into doing nothing because of the fear factor or the lack of inertia,” she says. “There are lots of avenues to growth. There’s no real movement until we realize how we hold our self back.” 

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