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How do I choose the right Life Coach or Counsellor?

Updated: Aug 23, 2023

girl sitting on table with clasped hands
Choosing the right Life Coach or counsellor can be difficult

Firstly, CONGRATULATIONS on deciding to invest in yourself and your future by getting a Life Coach! I hope that you read my previous BLOG so that you are informed as to what Life Coaching is, and is not. Unrealistic expectations, no matter how good the intentions, are destined for failure. My answer may not make me very popular with my esteemed colleagues, but I truly believe that committing yourself to Life Coaching does not mean you must commit yourself to the first Life Coach you meet. Just as you are unique (with your own personality, communication style, interests, likes /dislikes, beliefs and perspective) Life Coaches are too. Hopefully they are insightful, experienced, mature, well-functioning, skilled, empathic mentors, and it can be argued that the Life Coaching process is about YOU and not them. That said, Life Coaches have many different coaching styles, some may resonate or appeal to you. Some may have a specialist area they are passionate about and where they excel, e.g. Corporate Coaching; some may have a particular "target market" or niche that they are more inclined to work with e.g. Marriage Coaching. As Life Coaches we should have mastered Unconditional Positive Regard and the capacity empathy.... but that's not necessarily true for you, the client. To be inspired and motivated you need to have rapport with the Life Coach you decide to work with. Trust is also a cornerstone to the working relationship.... and yes, trust and respect are things that are only earned over time.

You should know, as Life Coaches, we too have personal sets of standards, we too evaluate our client and the Coaching relationship to make sure that it is of optimal, mutual and reciprocal benefit. From a Life Coaches point of view, this is not about "judging you" and seeing if you're the kind of person we want to "hang-out" with... but more a case of us protecting our Professional integrity (i.e. our ethical principles and responsibilities), our Professional quality of life (i.e. knowing we are optimally able to help a client provides fulfillment) and also our Professional reputations. As professionals we need to be cognizant not just of your possible limits (e.g. unrealistic expectations) but also our own situational limits, personal limits and the limits of our competence (expertise and experience).

I would suggest you perhaps make a shortlist, some of the criteria you could perhaps include are: from referrals from other people, maybe articles or blog posts, public speaking gigs that the Coach has done (that resonated with you), perhaps things like certification and qualifications are important to you (although please don't be awe-struck by the number of degrees someone holds - competence is more important). Then I would suggest making that first consultation... it is a consultation and NOT a commitment! See whether this is indeed someone you want to work with. Yes, you will have to pay for the first consult... but it still makes more sense to then no have any follow-up sessions and put good money after bad, if you simply can't stand the Life Coach. You do not have to sign any contract at the first consultation, except perhaps a confidentiality agreement (which is in your best interests and for your own peace of mind). Never forget YOU have rights and Life Coaches have ethical responsibilities! Many Life Coaches have areas of interest or specialities and that is perhaps something you could ask your prospective Life Coach before making an appointment. Most if not all the colleagues I know in mental health/ wellbeing /helping/ caring professions that I know have ALL come there as a result of their own life struggles. The quote "Be the Change you want to See"... is so true for many of them. Most of us aspire to be THAT friend or mentor we WISH we had, had when we were going through whatever trauma, crisis, difficult times in our own lives. We have managed to managed to find escape routes from that well of despair and often feel inspired to help people in similar holes. That said the capacity for empathy, unconditional positive regard and our prolific tool box (learning and skills) make us adept to generalizing and applying our knowledge to a many if not most of life's problems.... If you are looking for a Life Coach to help you with your marriage, for example, I (personally) would not be inclined to select a Life Coach who is a big name in Corporate training (public speaking, corporate workshops etc.) as well known and esteemed as (s)he may be in that area.

Perhaps in fact you already have someone you respect who mentors you, perhaps you already have a superb support team... perhaps you just need someone more objective and more experienced and skilled to compliment the team you already have. A Life Coach is not there to hold your hand but (s)h e is there to "have your back" .... WHO is it that you want in that position?

In no way should choosing the right Life Coach or Counsellor for you be be about rejection or judgement, it is just trying to evaluate whether or not you and your Life Coach make a great team. Neither the Life Coach nor you should take it personally or feel rejected if there is poor rapport - we just don't connect, or like, or work well with everyone! Your Life Coach needs to be a team player, do not put them on a pedestal or allow yourself to be diminished - that is not a optimal or accurate foundation of trust or respect. YOU are the expert in YOUR life, and YOUR choices matter to YOU and determine YOUR future.

Fritz Perls Prayer of Gestalt Therapy
Fritz Perls: Prayer of Gestalt Therapy

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