Denise Rolen, of San Diego, California, earned her massage-therapist certification in 2001, but her career didn’t progress the way she had hoped. The spa where she worked went out of business shortly after she started, and she was unable to find another spa job. So she returned to massage school to further her education and practiced massage part-time from a small rented room in a salon. She dreamed of owning a holistic-health business that incorporated massage with other healing arts, but making that leap seemed unfathomable.
Then Rolen began working with a life coach who practices Fearless Living, a self-improvement program based on the work of author and life coach Rhonda Britten. Fearless Living theorizes that fear prevents people from achieving happiness and success.
With her coach’s guidance, Rolen worked on conquering fears that prevented her from opening her own business. Meanwhile, she completed her holistic-health-practitioner certification—and then opened the Network for Health Holistic Center in San Diego.
“I left a place where I was doing massage in this tiny rented room to owning my own business,” Rolen says. “If I didn’t bust through the ‘what ifs,’ it never would have happened. There’s a lot of fear surrounding working on your own and starting up a business that doesn’t get covered in massage school. Once you stop limiting yourself by fear, then doors open.”
A New Frontier
In the past decade, life coaching has grown into an international industry, generating $1.5 billion in annual revenue worldwide, according to a 2006 study conducted by Price Waterhouse Coopers. The International Coach Federation (ICF) reports that its membership has swelled from 2,100 in 1999 to more than 20,000 in 2016—but that may only represent a fraction of the total number of practicing life coaches.
The ICF defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”
People seek life coaches for help dissolving roadblocks in all aspects of life. Life coaches specialize in areas such as career and business, relationships, health and fitness, and even spirituality—although most work with multiple facets of life because they tend to be interrelated. Fees for life coaching generally run from $75 to $150 per hour-long session.
There is no regulation of the life-coaching industry. ICF and other organizations offer elective certifications, but just about anybody can call herself a life coach—so potential clients are advised to research coaches and ask for references before signing up. (See “Choosing a Life Coach,” below.) And while life coaching does incorporate some counseling techniques, coaches are not qualified to treat mental illness or deep emotional issues. What they purport to do is help people create change in their lives.
A Life Coach Can Help You in Business
With a background in marketing and public relations, Cary Bayer, a life coach based in Hillsboro Beach, Florida, has helped many businesspeople, including massage therapists, kick-start their careers.
“Massage therapists are masters of giving,” Bayer says. “Often they have a really hard time receiving, and that means receiving appreciation and money. Once they realize they have a problem receiving, and that it’s innocent to be paid well and have a successful business, they start to think and speak and act differently.”
Life coach Celeste Hamman, of Austin, Texas, works with clients who want to deepen their spirituality.
“Most people I work with don’t have major problems, they’re just feeling that life could be better,” Hamman says. “I work with people who are really interested in spiritual growth and want to move down a spiritual path.” She says clients are asking big questions, such as: Who am I? What is my purpose here? How can I not be bogged down with the stuff that makes me feel stuck?
Life coaching can provide a fresh perspective when other methods, including traditional counseling, have failed. Two years ago another area of Denise Rolen’s life—her marriage—was stalling. After she and her husband reached an impasse in marriage counseling, they turned to a life
“We knew we were in trouble,” Rolen says. “We knew we had to do something.”
The coach worked with the couple via weekly three-way phone calls to
improve their relationship. Between calls they worked on exercises their coach assigned them. The couple learned that they were failing to communicate because they feared each other’s reactions. With about a year of coaching they cleared away those fears. Their communication improved, Rolen says, and so did their relationship.
Participation is Key
Whatever type of life coach one chooses, participation is key to reaping the most reward from life coaching.
“Don’t go [to a life coach] if you aren’t willing to work on things yourself, or you’re just wasting your time and money,” Rolen says. “It’s like people that come to a massage and just want to be fixed and don’t want to take an active role in their health. You need to participate.”
How to Choose a Life Coach
When choosing a life coach, recommends the ICF, make sure you’re partnering with an experienced, qualified professional. Here are some tips on how to do that:
• Educate yourself about life coaching. Hundreds of articles have been written about it over the last 20 years.
• Know your objectives for working with a life coach. Do you want help with your career, your relationships, or both? Many life coaches specialize, so find one who can address your specific needs.
• Interview three life coaches before you decide on one. Ask them about their experience, qualifications, skills and accreditation. Ask for at least two references.
• There should be a connection between you and the life coach that feels right to you.
Visit the International Coach Federation website for referral services and more information about life coaching.