|By Zlati Meyer, Detroit Free Press|
The 55-year-old chiropractor had grown nervous about moving his practice from
Pflaum hired a life coach to help him tackle these issues, joining throngs of Americans who've turned to this burgeoning field for support.
Nestled between BFFs and mental health professionals, life coaches advertise that they help you reach your personal and professional goals, learn to be the best you can be, overhaul your life, etc. Not all are
"A job coach is somebody who's going to help you set goals," Pflaum said. "It's not miracle working. She doesn't wave her magic coach wand and all of sudden I go poof. You do know what you need to be doing. It's the accountability factor. She asks, 'How tough do you want me to be on you?' "
In this case, the "she" — the industry is overwhelmingly female — is
According to the
Pflaum is paying Fennell
"You're more likely to do it than if you did it on our own," Fennell said, explaining the value having someone ask you about it. "How many people are able to lose weight on their own (rather) than have a trainer. … A coach is more of the observer. We're holding the mirror up to see what's going on."
That mirror is not hanging on the wall next to a license, though. Coaching is an unregulated field: There's no title protection (Anyone can call himself or herself a coach) and no governmental rules for those who practice, in contrast, with, say, a stockbroker, dentist or barber. A bad life coach cannot be disbarred.
The ICF urges its members to carry liability insurance and has "worked closely with insurance carriers to develop professional liability specifically designed for coaches and their practices."
Like any profession, from physician to plumber to — gasp! — journalist, there are some lousy practitioners. Pflaum, for example, had two previous coaches before Fennell. The second one was really lousy (gave him bad advice, screwed up his accounting work), while the first was just OK ("She more or less did the rah-rah stuff, but there was no meat to it. She made you feel good, but there was less accountability."). Together, that was
And it's out-of-pocket. Unlike licensed mental health professionals, life coaching isn't covered by medical insurance. (That could explain why some social workers and psychologists opt to get certified as coaches, too.)
"Is someone who hangs out a shingle as life coach trained in human behavior, the diagnosis, the potential for personality disorders or mental illness, behavioral strategies, performance strategies? If I was a consumer, I would ask about their credential," said
Both Farberman and
"Coaching isn't a coffee klatch. It's helping someone," said
"If you're looking to examine what happened in the past that's preventing you from moving forward, I'd advise a social worker. They'd diagnose what's causing the hurt. … Coaching is more about what's happening in the present. People are creative, resourceful and whole. The idea is they're not broken, but they need to see the gifts they have within that they're not able to acknowledge or have support to go into that risk place."
From the other side of the spectrum, life coaches aren't mentors or family members, who approach your problems with preformed biases, some born of years of intimacy. There's a neutrality that lets them see straight to the problem.
"It's like meeting yourself and you've never met yourself before. It gives me a
One key aspect of the 43-year-old marketing executive's life she explored with Mathias was how she would like to shape her future. Her conclusion? Stumpe wants to become a coach herself. She liked the experience that much.
"It's literally a clean-sheet-of-paper approach," Stumpe explained. "I have one thousand ways to make that friend miserable if they give me advice and it doesn't work. There's a boundary. The (coach) isn't your friend. It's a business relationship. A very important thing is that I'm paying for this service and if I'm paying for a service, I want to get the most of it."
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