By Shelby Deering
IT’S A FACT: life can get downright tricky. Almost universally, life became more stressful during the pandemic, which has left people reeling in its wake. For many, this past year has inspired a reevaluating of life choices. Do I want to return to the office or quit my job? Am I really happy in this marriage? How can I make a more positive impact in the world?
Luckily, there are experts called life coaches who specialize in guiding individuals through difficult decisions just like these. But what is life coaching? And can it benefit you?
WHAT IS LIFE COACHING?
Life coaching is a customized, personal experience which will vary by coach as well as client, with no two sessions being exactly the same. Lake Geneva’s Katey Collins, whose business is Tri Life Coach, says that life coaching is like having your own personal mentor, cheerleader and teacher who holds you accountable to your goals.
Megan Colleen Johnson, a life coach and self-reclamation guide also based in Lake Geneva, expands on that. “Life coaching is a broad title for wellness practitioners who are trained to support folks as they self-actualize, move toward their goals and ultimately thrive,” she says. She notes that generally, coaches want to empower their clients to discover their own answers through “powerful questioning” and “talk modalities.”
While there are many life coaches who have completed a certification program, this is not required by law. However, for best results, it does matter that they’ve undergone training or apprenticed with
another life coach. You can look on a coach’s website or ask a prospective coach about the training they’ve completed.
“I believe training is imperative,” Johnson says. “You can quickly tell whether a life coach has training or not through booking a consultation with them and watching for these key indicators — do they guide the conversation well? Can they clearly articulate how they will support you? When asked, do they have certifications and mentorship experience that will be helpful when coaching you specifically? Do they listen and truly hear what you are saying?”
WHAT DOES THE PROCESS LOOK LIKE?
The life-coaching process varies from coach to coach. When Johnson works with clients, she begins by helping the client set a goal. Sometimes this goal can be general: “I want to wake up feeling fully alive each morning,” or, “I want to be the most confident I’ve ever been.” In other cases, the client may have one specific goal or a set of two to three goals to work toward.
Johnson speaks with her clients regularly over a period of several months. “During each session, we discuss what is going well, where they are feeling stuck and, utilizing coaching techniques, we navigate those sticky spaces together,” she says. “As we work through the sticky spaces, a session can hold major ‘aha’ moments where the client experiences a breakthrough in what they thought was possible or how they view the world.”
Similarly, Collins supports her clients in a variety of ways throughout a six-month program. This includes hour-long weekly sessions in her office; outdoor sessions walking along the lakeshore path, virtual “Zoom” meetings; or phone calls. Collins also has a Facebook group in which her clients encourage one another, and she offers local events. She points out that many circumstances inspire people to seek out life coaching — they may be contemplating career transitions, or trying to improve their physical and/or mental health. They may need help with navigating complicated relationships or want to learn better communication strategies and overcome mindset barriers.
It’s important to recognize that life coaching differs from traditional therapy. “Life coaches will not provide a mental health diagnosis for clients,” Collins says. “They do not bill insurance companies or treat trauma from a therapeutic level.”
In some cases, a life coach may determine that a traditional therapist is a better fit for that client. “If a client is depressed or stuck in a way that seems unaffected by working through common blocks, I refer them to a therapist,” Ford explains.
Katie, a client of Johnson’s, sought out coaching when she felt that “there was more out there.” She says she greatly benefited from coaching. “I think we so often get stuck in spots and feel like we have to stay there. If we can’t fix a sink, we don’t just think, ‘Eh, it’ll be stuck like this forever.’ No, you either learn the skills to fix the sink or hire someone who can fix it so you can keep on using it,” she explains. “I was able to learn so many tools to help me problem-solve sticky situations.”
WHAT ARE THE POTENTIAL BENEFITS?
Collins describes life coaching as a process and a journey. She points out that individual results vary depending on the length of time working with a coach and the amount of work put in.
If you’d like to experience mental- health benefits, for example, you might participate in daily practices that are suggested by your life coach, such as writing, meditation, intentional breathing techniques and more. “Building these habits in a coaching relationship helps them [the habits] become the norm,” Ford says.
Johnson’s client Katie says she has reaped many benefits from life coaching. She says that in addition to improving her work-life balance and further developing her creativity, she was able to rise as her most confident and empowered self. “I was able to regain connection with my voice, deeply rooting myself in my values, while growing,” she says. And the self-improvement didn’t just stop there. Katie says that in every way, her entire circle has benefited from her life- coaching experience, whether directly or indirectly. “Not just me personally, but my husband, my daughters, my family, my co-workers, my students, my ministry — I could go on and on.”
CAN IT HELP YOU?
According to the coaches, you’ll likely be a great fit for life coaching if you answer yes to these questions:
- Do you have a specific desire or goal you wish to achieve?
- Do you have the drive to work toward it?
- Have you been trying to make changes without success?
- Are you willing to examine your habits, routines, beliefs and lifestyle?
- Are you open to new strategies and skills?
If these questions stir your soul, life coaching could provide the direction needed to begin your journey of self- improvement. “Life coaching can profoundly impact one’s mental health, physical health and relationships,” Johnson says. “It’s about giving yourself permission to be the human you desire to be in the world, and helping you get there.”
ON THE RIGHT PATH
Three area life coaches talk about what has inspired them.
“Prior to life coaching, I worked as a digital marketer and graphic designer. However, due to a life crisis, I reached out to a life coach to help me navigate the waters. During that time, my eyes were opened to the harmful tendencies I adhered to. This experience was life-changing and led me to a place of profound freedom. Having the desire to guide others to this freedom is what caused me to pursue becoming a life coach myself.”
– Megan Colleen Johnson, megscolleen.com
“I have molded my expertise as a licensed clinician, lifelong athlete, mother, wife and professional. I pull from my master’s level training and incorporate an approach that focuses on self-care, wellness and mindset. My experience as an adult endurance athlete partially shapes my approach when working with clients.”
– Katey Collins, lifecoachkatey.com
“I have two English degrees, and although I enjoy teaching, after a year in the classroom, I had zero interest in teaching in a traditional school setting. In the late 1990s, I trained trainers in the continuing education department of a large consulting firm. Even though I loved working with colleagues from all over the world, something was missing. It was then that I was introduced to [life coaching certification program] Co-Active Coaching.”
– Julie Ford, julzoflife.com