Labels can often be confusing…but they can also be enlightening and helpful. When we’re talking about allowing other people to guide us through difficult times in life, it is helpful to know the various labels we put on these helpers.
When you have reached certain milestones, crises, or significant change points in life, one or all of the following helping professionals can lend assistance:
- Counselor. The role of a counselor is to help a client discover the motivations and beliefs behind certain behaviors. This may include such varied experiences such as depression, anxiety, relationship difficulties, manic behavior, substance abuse and many other manifestations. The counselor’s role is to help the individual discover where they need answers.
- Therapist. Though the counselor may also be a therapist, this is a different role in a person’s life. Certain problems need a structured healing regimen. For instance, a counselor may be able to help the client identify their use of alcohol as a coping mechanism. But for some people, their alcohol dependency may be so intense that it will take certain therapies to bring change. A therapist usually specializes in certain techniques to bring healing to specific emotional ailments.
- Mentor. For many of the life change points people encounter, the best professional is often a Mentor. The mentor comes from a position of expertise. To properly mentor another person, they must have working knowledge of the field they are guiding the other person into. A mentor does need to be able to explain and demonstrate how the client can progress in a chosen field of endeavor.
- Coach. Here we come to the heart of this article. The coach is not a counselor per se. They are not necessarily looking at weaknesses, behaviors and motivations. Instead, they are looking ahead at the future, helping the client set goals and reach them. They help the client understand the obstacles in the way. The coach is not a therapist. They do not remove the barriers in the way. But once the barrier has been identified, they could direct the client to a therapist if that is the primary solution. A coach is not a mentor necessarily. They do not need to have a working knowledge of the field the client wants to work in. But their job is to help the client get the resources needed and holds the client accountable to working the necessary steps to get there.In essence, a coach is a person who helps someone to evaluate what changes need to be done and helps their client fashion a path to arrive at those changes.
In our lives, there are times we may need all of the above Helpers. But there are specific moments when having a Life Coach is the appropriate choice. Let me outline six of these moments.
- Career Change: This may seem like the most obvious one, but it is amazing how few people go to a Coach at this moment in their lives. Instead, they often visit a counselor or a mentor to help them determine the next move in life. A counselor is going to delve into the emotional implications of a change. The mentor is going to direct the client into a limited number of fields related to their expertise. But a coach can make a huge difference to a person changing careers. The coach may even be the right person to help you decide if you need a career change. Sometimes, what is needed is a change in approach to the current job. The coach’s strength is assessment. Using tools of their trade, they can help the client dig deeper into their successes and failures, and from that analysis, discover how the future may be more rewarding and successful. The coach can guide the client to discover a path to a new career, to lay out the steps to reach that path, to hold them accountable for all the steps, and to fashion answers for the obstacles in the way.
- Educational Goal: Coaches are the right choice for those who are looking at furthering their education. This may apply to the High School student, the person changing careers, the Empty Nester, the newly divorced or the under-educated professional. Though it is not the coach’s job to ever make decisions for the person, they can point the client in the most effective places to look for their chosen path of study. Once a path is chosen, the coach can then help with setting the kind of standards which will help the student achieve the grades they need to complete the course of study.
- Times of Failure/Frustration/Feeling Stuck: It is often said the only difference between successful people and people who fail is that the successful ones learned from their failures. That adage does not explain how these people learn from their mistakes. Many of them grow through failure because they have an objective coach who can ask the sort of questions necessary to pull out of the shame most often associated with failure. The role of a coach in this stage in life is to ask the hard questions the client may not thought of asking. Shame has a way of clouding a person’s mind, preventing them from being objective about what happened. This is especially true when a person finishes up a nasty divorce. Though most people will see a counselor during and after a divorce–and rightfully so–a coach may also be helpful. The coach can use tools to evaluate what happened and what each part of the failure means. Then, once the client discovers the true meaning behind the failure, the coach and client can develop a model to achieve success in a similar situation in the future. This is what every sports coach does. After every game where a team loses, the coach’s job is to analyze what was done poorly. The purpose is not to condemn, but to change and modify the situation so next time they will have success.
- Coaching Toward Self-Awareness: Using tools like Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, DISC, Strong Inventory and IDAK, a coach can help the client better understand their own personality, strengths, learning style, conflict management style, potential weaknesses, blind spots and comfort zones. When a person is self-aware, they are able to relate better to others, making their future careers and relationships more rewarding. The role of a coach here is to analyze and inform.
- Relationship Coaching: Some marriages, dating relationships, and friendships do not really need a counselor. The problems are often the result of mutually shared obstacles. In relationship coaching, the coach helps the couple identify the problem, discover the path to the solution, and lay out the steps necessary to complete the journey. Many couples in crisis with each other would be better served taking this coaching approach rather than relationship counseling.
- Spiritual Coaching: Older denominations actually have a name for this kind of coach: Spiritual Director. This is a very specific application of coaching where the client and the coach determine what spiritual goal a person wants to achieve. Then they work out together which spiritual disciplines and habits will reach that goal. The coach does not determine these things, but they hold the client accountable and ask the type of questions that will force the client to dig deeper into God.
Generally counselors and therapists cost between $60-$150/hour. A mentor can range in cost but can cost up to $100 per hour. The advantage to using a Life Coach is that their fees regular run from $25-$50/hour, much more affordable than the other alternatives. However, the Coach also does not provide therapy or specific knowledge like some of the other helping professionals.
If you see a need in your current situation for a Life Coach, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll figure out the best approach to get started.