Choosing a Professional Role – Life Coaching as a Psychology

Life coaches are professionals that assist people with changing their lives. They are trained specifically to function in diverse situations and guide people through complex situations such as life transitions (All Psychology Careers, 2018).  Life Coaches listen, observe, assess, and help clients appropriately process options for creating effective actions plans with a vision toward a more satisfying future (All Psychology Careers, 2018).  More importantly, a personal Life Coach will teach their clients new life skills that lead to personal empowerment, improved quality of life, and higher levels of functioning that promote self-confidence and greater independence (All Psychology Careers, 2018).  

As a private practitioner, my program functions within two specific niches (DeAngelis, 2008). The first focus pertains primarily on the needs of the substance abuse recovery community, post-stabilization or initial treatment, during the transitional period back into a mainstream lifestyle, otherwise considered the assertive continuum of care (SAMHSA, n.d.). This is the period where an individual ultimately is faced with the ‘now what’ when they return home to the same stressors they were previously trying to avoid or numb out. Often this is the time where an individual can become complacent in their life transition and fall back into past maladaptive/conditioned behaviors that fostered the problem’s existence (Turning Leaves, n.d.).

From there the secondary focus is placed in the category of Life and Wellness Coaching for women and men that want to improve their quality of life and well-being who are battling issues such as, but not limited to: food addiction, impulse control, low self-esteem, isolation due to anxiety or depression, behavioral issues, lacking life skills, difficulty finding motivation, leading a sedentary (non-active) life, need to develop boundaries, are faced with barriers in a relationship, or just feel stuck (Turning Leaves, n.d.). These clients engage in our premiere signature service to begin their journey toward an empowered and improved quality of life consisting of mental, emotional, and physical wellness while discovering how to get past their barriers and onto the path they desire (Turning Leaves, n.d.).

Because the coaching field is not yet regulated anyone can enter the profession. However, any true professional that desires to focus in the helping field really ought to seek formal training because personal instincts may not prove to be enough when faced with creating life improvement strategies for others in situation differing from “our natural way of thinking” (Terrany, 2018). Because Life coaches are considered partners in success and provide an invaluable service in assisting their clients through various life challenges obtaining certification from a professional school that specializes in the specific type of coaching field is highly recommended (All Psychology Careers, 2018). Life coaching is a broad industry so whether the focus of practice will be in life planning, business and career, relationships, personal growth, or higher severity mental health issues such as anxiety and depression obtaining the level of professional understanding that will provide appropriate care should be a primary goal (All Psychology Careers, 2018).

Skills that are important for a life coach to possess are not always instinctual. These individuals are working with people that are having difficulty expressing their desires. An effective coach will have the communication skills, or the know-how which is defined as procedural knowledge (Van der Heijden, 2002), that will lay the groundwork for helping their clients through clarifying their thoughts, feelings, emotions, opinions, and beliefs (All Psychology Careers, 2018). Coaches also need to be empathetic beings who possess declarative knowledge (Van der Heijden, 2002) knowing that in relating to the clients lacking the ability to cope in difficult situations (All Psychology Careers, 2018) such as frustration, fear, and grief, they will therefore, need the ability to remain detached to avoid situations of countertransference and or burnout (NCBI, 2018). They need to maintain the ability to be confident in their client’s abilities. Furthermore, they must be committed to being understanding, using conditional knowledge (Van der Heijden, 2002) showing that they know when, where, and under what conditions to use certain strategies while remaining nonjudgmental and open to perspectives other than their own. Objectivity and integrity aside from any personal agenda should be the primary focus of any professional life coaching practice regardless of the population being served. All situations and skill sets that support the need for appropriate training, certification, and or scholarly degree.

Although there are no educational or training regulations in place at this time it is important to understand that the life coaching responsibilities will include possessing the ability to conduct a general assessment of each client’s ability to function to understand where their values and skills lie (All Psychology Careers, 2018). These assessments are often standardized personality tests with the addition of aptitude tests where necessary. However, the coach also may need the skillset to assess for the need of a higher level of care due to mental health issues outside their scope of practice, such as clinical depression, suicidal ideation, or panic disorders. Coaches are also charged with the responsibility to teach their subjects how to reframe their problems for the purpose of diminishing them and unblocking their path to succeeding in their action plans and goals (All Psychology Careers, 2018). In other words, it is imperative that a coach is skilled in active listening, problem-solving, and teaching. All skills that formal training and education would solidify, such as participating in an undergraduate program in human services which offers several focus tracks with counseling as the basis of functioning.

What was important to me in the creation of my private practice and the core curriculum was obtaining what I believe to be the pertinent training and education that fostered the ability to operate through evidence-based practices as designated in the counseling and psychology professions. Meaning that I felt an obligation to the population that I serve to possess the knowledge and skills to know how to help or guide them through each unique situation. I needed to obtain insights pertaining to the functioning of the brain as well as emotions and behaviors. And I needed the skills to properly assess each person’s level of severity to ensure that action plans were produced in a manageable and maintainable fashion.

Because I originally set out to solely provide services to people in substance abuse recovery, I created an action plan for my education that entailed learning what I didn’t already know from my personal experience with recovering from a 30-year addiction problem. The first decision that I made was that I would not practice until I myself felt solid in my recovery and had a minimum of two-years clean time which had me safely outside of the post-acute withdrawal period. Simultaneously, I engaged in the human services addiction treatment program at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, California where I earned my certification for Substance Abuse Treatment Counseling and Mental Health.

When I realized that I gravitated more toward the coaching modality I enrolled in a rigorous 6-month training and certification for the industry that focused on addiction. Here I earned the credentials International Master Addictions Coach with National Certification for Life Coaching, Recovery Coaching, Professional Case Management, Professional and Crisis Intervention, Family Systems of Addiction Recovery, Relapse Prevention, Food Addiction, Recovery Fitness and Nutrition, Ethics, Business, Branding, and Marketing. During both of these programs (all of which overlapped), it became evident to me that a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology with an in-depth focus on addiction, personalities, psychological disorders, interdisciplinary perspectives of healthcare, treatment modalities, personal health, and wellness along with a strong focus on behavioral, social, and cross-cultural psychology were necessary for me to practice with the self-confidence that would breed confidence from my clientele that I know what I am doing and how to help them achieve what they desire. Which is exactly how I plan to continue not only my practice, from a place of high morals and ethics but how I hope to guide the profession as a whole. After completing my degree, I have engaged in the process of actively participating with networks such as the National Society of Leadership and Success (NSLS, n.d.), the International Association of Coaching (IAC, n.d.), and will pursue becoming a Human Services-Board Certified Practitioner (HS-BCP, n.d.).

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