Life coaching

Life coaching

Life coaches help answer: What’s next?



(Original publication: October 1, 2007)

By most standards, Suzanne Goodman made a nice life for herself.

She received a graduate degree in architecture from Yale University, owned a prosperous New York design firm, published her own award-winning magazine, married a successful man and raised a loving family.

“Now my son is going to college and I need to reinvent myself. … I don’t even know where to start,” said the 58-year-old Scarsdale woman, her eyes welling up with tears. “I’m remembering I used to do stuff and it’s almost shocking because I’m so used to being a wife and mother – someone always on call for others.”

That’s where her life coach comes in.

Whether it’s to map out the next few years of life or better define a path already chosen, people are seeking the help of such advisers to improve the quality of their lives. Some coaches specialize in areas like relationships, careers or personal growth, often working with clients on the phone or meeting in coffee shops.

They charge from $50 to $300 per session.

Beyond the “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?” question, life coaches promise to motivate clients and boost their confidence to help them excel in their professional and personal lives.

“We’re thinking about what’s next, not evaluating your past,” said Roseanne Amoils, a life coach in Larchmont. “It’s all very future-based. It’s not important what led you to want to become a skydiver, for example – all that’s important is how you might become a skydiver.”

The life coaching industry, which began as corporate mentoring and consulting, appears to be on the rise.

The International Coach Federation, an association of professional life and business coaches based in San Raphael, Calif., has more than 12,000 members worldwide – double its membership of just five years ago.

The ICF reports 436 members in New York, 122 in Connecticut and 261 in New Jersey.

In a survey of ICF members last year, 16 percent said their coaching specialty was “life vision and enhancement,” making that the third-most popular specialization behind executive and leadership coaching. It also found that women made up more than half the clientele of professional coaches.

Margaret Rubrick of MettaMorph life coaching in Sleepy Hollow said many of her clients are women between 45 and 65 years old who are either changing careers or re-entering the work force after years at home rearing children.

Rubrick uses many of the professional mentoring skills she honed during her previous career as an IBM executive project manager to help her clients recognize their potential, update their rêÑÔ©sumêÑÔ©s and focus on untapped business ideas.

‘sometimes you need to be that impartial person to bounce ideas off of,” Rubrick said.

During a recent session in Rubrick’s living room, she helped Goodman of Scarsdale realize that she could use all of her skills as a wife and mother in a new career.

“Just because you haven’t been getting paid to do these things doesn’t mean it can’t count as work experience,” Rubrink pointed out.

Other clients, like Benedita Gennodie, 40, a salon owner in New City, hire a coach to help run their businesses better.

“My problem was that I would go off in so many different directions, worried that I’d miss out on something,” Gennodie said. “Being my own boss, I don’t always have someone making me accountable or giving me an honest critique. … I have since learned that I don’t have to jump on every opportunity that comes my way.”

Like sports coaches, however, life coaches are there for support, not to do the work for you.

“You are the expert on your life,” said Amoils, the Larchmont coach. “I may say something and a client will tell me, ‘No, no, no that’s not right.’ So it’s really more of a collaboration.”

And that is why, Amoils said, not every life coach and every client “click.” Most coaches offer their first session free to test the personal connection.

There is no regulatory agency that oversees life coaches, so anyone can call himself or herself one and start seeing clients. Coaches certified through the ICF do adhere to a formal, four-part ethics code governing basic philosophy and professional conduct.

Coaches have different approaches and often specialize in different areas. Others have attained higher levels of training regulated by the ICF, which offers an intensive certification program that can be completed in a about a year.

But while some life coaches have counseling backgrounds, it should not supplant talk therapy, mental-health experts warn.

Dr. Michael Blumenfield, professor of psychiatry at New York Medical College, said that throughout history people have turned to friends, family members, a mentor or someone else in their community to help them make a choice. Life coaches have simply formalized that practice, Blumenfield said.

Though a life-coaching session may look like a therapy session, and, in fact, the two practices often overlap, Blumenfield said it was important to recognize when a person had a serious condition such as depression or bipolar disorder, because it might hamper the decision-making process.

‘sometimes people have trouble making decisions or choices because of conflicts based on childhood experiences or obsessive thinking or phobias,” he said. “If a mental-health professional is trained to help a them deal with these cases, they may be more free to make that choice.”

Irene Gutmann of Eagle Life Coaching in Suffern said “coaching isn’t really that deep.”

Gutmann, host of the weekly show “Coaching Corner,” on WRCR Rockland Radio, is also a trained social worker. She said she believes coaching works well for people who don’t have serious mental-health problems because they have tangible goals that can often be attained in a few months, as opposed to the considerable amount of time psychotherapy can take.

“There’s nothing really wrong with their lives,” she said. “Coaching clients are the cream of the crop. They are ambitious. They want their lives to be exciting, they want their careers to be successful. They just want more.”