With the new year in full effect, Texans are working hard to keep those resolutions in order. Beyond getting physically fit, many people are wanting to revamp their lives in one way or another. And while countless Facebook feeds are flooded with “new year, new me” mantras, one steadily growing tactic to taking over one’s life is enlisting the help of a life coach.
Now, to be clear, there is a big difference between a life coach and a therapist. The most critical difference is that life coaches legally can’t and shouldn’t diagnose or treat mental health disorders, substance abuse problems, or trauma without also being a licensed therapist such as a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT), or a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW).
“Clients don’t always know the difference or don’t realize there may be a clinical issue at work so it is important to be aware, educate yourself on what to watch for, and be prepared to refer the client to a therapist or psychiatrist for assessment as appropriate,” says Angela Hayes, a life coach working in Round Rock working with clients as a Life and Relationship coach. “It is possible to work with a client who is also seeing a therapist because you are really working on different areas of the client’s’ life.”
Life coaching is, in many ways, comparable to having a personal advisor or consultant. Often times, when people think about life coaches, the vision of some mystical guru may comes to mind, but that’s far from the truth. Talking with Hayes, it’s easy to get a more solid understanding of who these professionals are.
“We generally have expertise in one or more areas that we specialize in, provide an unbiased and educated perspective, teach life skills like problem solving strategies or communication skills, and help clients be accountable to their goals,” she explained. “Life coaches work with generally healthy and successful individuals who have gotten stuck for whatever reason and need a little help getting going again.”
While the idea of getting a life coach may seem like a sign of weakness, many of the most successful people have sought the help of trusted professionals. Some of the biggest names in entertainment utilize life coaches, including Oprah Winfrey who has sought coaching from Martha Beck, and both Hugh Jackman and Leonardo DiCaprio who went to Tony Robbins. Entertainers aren’t the only people seeking help from life coaches. As Hayes explained, many life coaches tend to specialize in one area or another, which means that finding the coach to fit specific needs may bit more work than a quick Google search. Since there are currently no federal regulations on life coaching, it’s important to get an understanding of potential coaches.
“There are some similarities [among life coaches], such as the general purpose behind life coaching but the person’s training and specialization can create a lot of variation in how they will approach the process,” Hayes elaborated. “Currently, there are no specific state or federal requirements that I am aware of for becoming a life coach. There are various individuals, companies, and organizations that offer certification but they vary widely in the education requirements.”
Working as a life and relationship coach, Hayes works with Texans to set goals for their lives and relationships, understanding and overcoming the roadblocks they have been experiencing in achieving those goals, and helping them stay accountable. She also educates clients on life cycle challenges, and helps them identify additional resources to support their goals when needed. Given her specialization, Hayes works from a solution-focused perspective, in that she focus on helping the client or clients move forward in a positive way, rather than focusing as much on what has failed in their pasts.
“I get a lot of variation [in clients], especially working with couples or families, but probably two main groups,” she said. “I have worked a lot with 20-somethings who are struggling with transitioning between life stages, such as from student to working adult or single adult to serious relationship. I also work a lot with couples in their 30s and 40s who are struggling with communication issues, and love language miss-match, or who have just lost touch with each other during a busy life.”
For Texans who think they have what it takes to claim the title of life coach, Hayes has some keen insight before diving in.
“Number one go hire or interview several life coaches and see what it is like,” she advised. “Number two is get quality training. I believe a bachelor’s degree in psychology gives you an excellent foundation for becoming a successful life coach because of the depth of knowledge it adds but there are other paths that offer excellent instruction in coaching skills. Do your research about programs before signing up with the understanding that there are many different approaches and the most successful coaches implement programs that match their personality and skill set. Get a mentor once you get started, it is an invaluable resource that can save you a lot of time and money in the long run. Also, coaching is harder than it sounds. Don’t make the assumption that because you have done a lot of living you are automatically qualified to coach others. It is very easy to see where someone is getting hung up in the change process, it is not easy to help them see it and effectively change it.”
In addition to being a life coach, Hayes also works with other coaches as a mentor and instructor, teaching workshops that help new and experienced coaches. She is also in the process of writing a book. You can learn more about Hayes and her life coaching here.