What is a Life Coach? – An Introduction to Life Coaching
Ben Bennett-Carpenter, Life Coach, Sollars & Associates, 13 April 2020
To answer the question, “What is a Life Coach?” you first have to understand the difference between life coaching and therapy. “Life coaching,” in contrast to “therapy,” is a non-medical practice that is oriented primarily by “growth.” Rather than diagnosing patients/clients as psychotherapy does and submitting billing to insurance, life coaching clients pay out-of-pocket to identify problems or obstacles to growth and set goals to achieve during a given time frame. This often begins with dreaming a little bit about what the future could be.
Carol Kaufmann, PhD, director of the Institute of Coaching at McLean Hospital, a Harvard Medical School affiliate, describes the distinction this way, “In therapy, your goal is healing. In coaching, you’re following the trail of dreams.” While not neglecting the past, a life coach may ask, “How do you see your future? Where would you like to be in your life in 1 year, 5 years, or 10 years?”
Life Coaching clients often tend to be high-functioning individuals who have run into an obstacle of some kind, reaching an impasse they seek to overcome. Sometimes they have a specific goal they are seeking to achieve. Other times the goal may be a vague dream or hope for the future. In other situations, the goal is clear, but the path to get there is obscured. A person who comes to their first life coaching session often seeks an increase in effectiveness or growth for themselves, their work, or their relationships.
Who are Life Coaches?
While life coaching does not require a prescribed license for the coach and does not have mandated academic degree programs that are required in order to practice, there are a number of thriving professional organizations for life coaching both in the United States and internationally that offer courses, mentoring and designate high ethical standards for the field (for example, the International Coach Federation). Life coaches at Sollars & Associates in Michigan are expected to maintain high ethical standards for professional practice, including confidentiality. Because physical and psychological symptoms may become apparent in life coaching, a client may also be referred for psychotherapy and/or for a medical consultation.
Individual life coaches come from a variety of backgrounds and training including from the areas of psychology, counseling, social work, philosophy, human relations, sports, business, consulting, and communications. Life coaches at Sollars & Associates in Michigan, come from traditions of counseling, humanistic psychology, positive psychology, and other related fields/traditions, are especially adept at practicing life coaching because of coaching’s orientation toward creativity, self-development, and growth as a person.
Looking for a Life Coach in Michigan?
Life coaching may be refreshingly liberating, and I invite you to experience it for yourself or by referring a client. I am the father of two adult sons, author of two books, and partner with my spouse, an artist. I have a doctor of philosophy degree (PhD) in a humanities area of study with a focus in media studies and a master’s degree (MA) in clinical psychology. Clients and I meet for a fee at an agreed upon time and location in person or through tele-coaching / video chat by arrangement.
Particular areas of my Life Coaching interests/specialization/expertise include:
- self-cultivation / personal growth
- life planning / dreaming / goal setting / achievement
- work issues
- identity issues
- relationship issues
- creativity / creative projects
- spirituality / secularity / life philosophy issues
- mortality / legacy issues
- organizational skills / effectiveness
- communication skills / effectiveness
For more information on life coaching, to set up an appointment for one of our life coaches in Michigan, or to make a referral, contact Sollars & Associates voice or text at 248 787 0855 or Ben by voice or text at 248 854 8340.
Note: Tele-coaching / video coaching available during and after COVID-19 crisis.
BIO: Ben Bennett-Carpenter, PhD, MA, is a full-time writing instructor at Oakland University and a part-time life coach at Sollars & Associates. Ben is the author of two books, father of two adult sons, and partner with his spouse, an artist. Ben has been a practicing independent life coach for several years and is Sollars & Associates’ first coach as part of a new, emerging Life Coaching practice at Sollars & Associates.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Thank you to Shelley Sollars and Rachel Webster for contributions and/or feedback to elements or portions of this introduction. Portions of this introduction also appear at www.benjaminbennettcarpenter.net and sollarsassociates.com.
-Note: “Coaching,” in its widest sense, may be conducted by anyone, for anyone, for any reason. In this most general sense, one description for the goal of coaching may be that coaching seeks to bring about all the available means for effective action, or a desirable state, in any given situation. Coaching should be conducted in a legal and ethical way that does no harm to others while optimizing effectiveness and well-being for the one or ones being coached. In reality, specific people coach other specific people in specific contexts. Some of these specific forms of coaching may include executive coaching, leadership coaching, health & wellness coaching, sports & performance coaching, business coaching, and organizational coaching – if there is somebody doing something somewhere, someone may be coaching them. And among all of these, the one that stands out for us is known as “personal coaching” or “life coaching.” Sources: “In this most general sense, one description for the goal of coaching may be that coaching seeks to bring about all the available means for growth in any given situation.” This description of coaching is a variation of Aristotle’s description of rhetoric as “seeing all the available means for persuasion in any given situation.” Aristotle, The Art of Rhetoric. “Some of these specific forms of coaching may include…” and following, adapted, modified, revised, and expanded from “Coaching Overview,” Institute of Coaching, McLean Hospital, a Harvard Medical School affiliate (accessed Jan 2020); and Diane Coutu and Carol Kauffman, “What Can Coaches Do For You?” HBR Research Report, Harvard Business Review (January 2009), 91-97; cf. Molly George, “Seeking Legitimacy: The Professionalization of Life Coaching,” Sociological Inquiry 83(2) (2013), 179-208. “‘Life coaching,’ in contrast to ‘therapy,’ is a non-medical practice that is oriented primarily by ‘growth’…” and following, summarized, adapted and modified from meeting with Shelley Sollars (15 Jan 2020) and Proposal to Sollars & Associates re: Life Coaching, by B. Bennett-Carpenter (31 Jan 2020).
-“Carol Kaufmann, PhD, director of the Institute of Coaching at McLean Hospital, a Harvard Medical School affiliate, describes the distinction this way, ‘In therapy, your goal is healing. In coaching, you’re following the trail of dreams.’” See www.apa.org/monitor/2010/11/life-coaches.
-“Individual coaches come from a variety of backgrounds…” and following, adapted and modified from “Coaching Overview,” Institute of Coaching, McLean Hospital, a Harvard Medical School affiliate (accessed Jan 2020).
“Life coaching may be liberating…” and some of the following, adapted and modified from Nancy McWilliams, Psychoanalytic Case Formulation (Guilford, 1999); later Bennett-Carpenter, B. (2014-present.) Agreement for Personal/Life Coaching [form for independent practice]. Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.