Someone once asked me how any therapist or coach earned the ability to give advice to others? I think the exact phrasing was, “What the hell gives you people the right to tell others how to live their lives?!” Obviously, this person had had a bad experience (which he went on to explain.) Our conversation outlined some things that may be helpful if you are looking for a coach or therapist.
First, I pointed out that psychologists and coaches are like people from any profession; some are better at what they do than others. For example, if you’re not satisfied with your dealings with a particular mechanic, you keep shopping around until you find a good one. I would encourage the same persistence in finding the right coach or psychotherapist. One challenge is that often people look for a practitioner when they’re already under duress. And when we’re stressed, we are not functioning at our highest skill level. Healthy people create a support network for themselves before they really need one.
Back to this person and his exasperation around therapists/coaches, let me go on record saying that telling you how to live your life or just giving advice is not how the process of one on one coaching or therapeutic sessions work.
How do they work? Each practitioner has their own style and philosophy. With me, we begin with what you want in terms of change and growth. This can start out abstract, like ‘I want to get physically healthier’ or ‘I want to move past some grief I feel stuck in,’ but eventually we discover and meet more concrete desires for yourself. Getting to know what you really want is part of the process. We all have blind spots and often our friends and family have similar blind spots. So when you work with me, you have an opportunity to see yourself more clearly.
I believe that the more you know who you really are, the more you know what you really want for your life. As I see it, you only have so much time on this planet. Consider life as a game, a fun, challenging, game. Now ask yourself, “If you were going to play full out…what would that look like?” You get to decide what game you’re playing and how you’re going to play it, so that when you come to the end of your life, you can smile and feel a sense of satisfaction about how it all went down.
Another aspect of how I work with clients has to do with the brain. Pathways form in the brain and patterns form in our lives. And be sure there is good reason for this; patterns are efficient. With them we don’t have to think through everything we do in a given day. Once we master something, we’ve got it down. Have you ever driven to work as if you were on automatic pilot without much memory of the ride itself? One could say that that drive is a worn pattern in your brain. But another feature is that we become blind to our patterns, just like a fish unaware of water. That’s why it’s helpful to do mental housekeeping now and again, just as we do spring cleaning to rid our homes of things that we don’t need anymore. This is another way I work, my clients take the time to examine some of their patterns and then create new ones that support the life they want to be living.
This brings us to change. My expertise is in change, how we change, what is going on in the brain that can support or get in the way of change. I am currently working on an eBook called How to Master the Science and Art of Change. Basically though, going to the right coach or therapist is how you get support around change and transitions. Change requires going outside our comfort zone while our natural inclination is to stay in that familiar place, even when our old pattern is no longer working for us. When you work with me, I help keep you on your right track; I help you remember what it is you really want. I give you a blueprint for success in changing those worn out patterns.
All of this happens through questions, because this is all about you and your life. I ask the questions and you have insights by looking at your life from different angles. I listen more than I talk. I’m a witness and I stand for the possibility of thriving.
If you are looking for a coach or counselor, just as you might do with other services, interview and get to know several practitioners. Stop for a moment and ask yourself, aside from even looking for a coach or a therapist…what is it you really want that you don’t already have? What do you want to learn? Then consider asking how they tend to work with that.
It’s healthy for a practitioner to have done their own growth work and this indirectly translates to their work with others. Ask them: What kind of self-work and self-exploration have you done? How does the personal work you’ve done influence how you work with clients? Whatever specific challenge or goal you are bringing as the client, you can ask the coach or practitioner how they work with that type of challenge or goal.
When you’re looking for a coach or therapist, ask friends for referrals. Look for someone you feel a connection with, a good fit, someone you can trust, also check their credentials and make sure their area of expertise matches your needs. I offer a complimentary 20-minute session to allow for this type of interview process. Most of all, shop around until you find just the right one for you.