Life can be an uphill battle. Over the last two years, challenges have only intensified for many. Shifts in health, employment, education, family dynamics and social situations can leave one reeling and eventually perhaps reaching out for help. But who to call?
Many have found aid and support in making life transition decisions with life coaches—a growing “billion- dollar industry,” according to Psychology Today. Practitioners often focus on career changes, resume building, climbing the corporate ladder and workplace politics, but they may also address self-image and family and relationship issues.
In a January 2020 Forbes magazine article, “9 Great Reasons to Hire (Or Not to Hire) a Life Coach,” empowerment coach Remy Blumenfeld writes that you shouldn’t hire a coach to “fix” what’s wrong with your life, get help with psychological issues or find a “wise friend.”
“A good coach is not your friend,” Blumenfeld writes. “If you’re looking only for collusion and affirmation, coaching may not be right for you.”
But if you need help with a job transition—feeling stuck and needing motivation—or considering your next move, working with a life coach may be a right fit, according to Blumenfeld.
“An expert coach will lead the discovery process and support you in reorganizing around a larger sense of self as you
prepare for a new passage of your life,” he writes.
Coaching chose her
Talk to Terry DellaVecchia even for a few minutes and it’s clear why she chose a career helping people—although she may say life coaching chose her.
Owner of Thrive Life Coaching in Timonium, DellaVecchia was a long-time information technology specialist for McCormick & Company, having worked her way up from keypunching to programming and management.
She traveled the globe, meeting with managers in El Salvador, Mexico, France, the United Kingdom, South Africa, China and Australia.
“Later, when I was deciding to leave McCormick, I was trying to decide if I was going to stay in IT. And one of my coworkers said, ‘Terry, you ever thought about being a coach?’ I never gave that a thought.”
For years, she had been coaching, mentoring and training people around the world. Colleagues would knock on her door needing help dealing with a manager but didn’t know who to turn to for support. At the same time, she was honing her listening skills working with people whose first language was not English.
“I decided to go to coaching school to get certified and realized the first two days of classes, ‘I can do this. I really want to do this.’”
After more than 300 hours of training with the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching, she received her certification. Seeing a need, she focused on career coaching. That was about seven years ago, and she hasn’t looked back.
“It’s the whole thing of helping somebody think differently about themselves,” DellaVecchia says. “When somebody brings me a resume, I will have them look over the resume and tell me what jobs they like to do, what they don’t like and then why they like them and why they didn’t. It tells them something about themselves. I love helping people grow, get fulfillment and get to the goal that they want to go to. We do not think you’re broken. We just want to help you think differently.”
For example, while experiencing what she called a “career crisis,” Robin (not her real name), sought out DellaVecchia for coaching.
“Terry was very supportive and responsive,” she says. “She remained flexible and realistic to the rapidly changing process and was able to guide me through to a successful solution.”
DellaVecchia and fellow coach Tom Chapin recently launched the website Job Greatness (jobgreatness.com), featuring online support and videos.
“Coaching can be expensive,” she says. “And some people, especially for career coaching, just need a little bit of help. We created all these videos … to help people.”
An interest in psychology
“I always was intrigued by psychology,” says Christy Helou, who has worked for about two decades as a life coach and has a practice in Nottingham. “I have a degree in psychology. I was always interested and intrigued by how much people need help, in many ways.”
After learning about life coaching, she decided it was an area she wanted to pursue. “Ultimately, I devised my own life-coaching model,” she added.
Some areas of assistance include relationship problems, self-esteem, grief, body image and Christian awareness and growth. Helou often uses Scripture to help empower, uplift and encourage, but her practice isn’t limited to Christians.
“I’ve had clients from the Jewish faith,” she says, “so, the Old Testament definitely applies.”
Helou says that much of what she does is teaching and helping people reach their goals.
“We talk about so many things,” she says. “The inner child, healthy boundaries, codependency. We talk about coping and survival mechanisms—all of these. I define what the issues are, their characteristics and how to counteract them.”
For Helou, life coaching is a “passion.”
“I don’t think I will ever retire,” she says. “I enjoy it and relish seeing how a client progresses—how they make leaps and bounds and get to where they are happy, actually not just happy, but full of joy. They look back and say, ‘My gosh … look at how far I’ve come.’”
The life coaching versus therapy ‘conundrum’
Lisa Ferentz, a licensed clinical social worker specializing in trauma and founder of the Ferentz Institute in Pikesville, says that she has “strong feelings about the life coach versus therapist conundrum.”
“People often turn to a life coach for guidance related to career issues, how to better prioritize, delegate or organize, for relationship advice or how to move forward in some arena of their lives. They may feel this is less stigmatizing, more accessible and convenient than seeking that guidance and support from a mental health provider,” she says.
But she cautions that life coaching is an unregulated field, with no license or formal training required. The issues people struggle with “often have much deeper, complex roots, including unresolved trauma, dysfunctional family-of-origin dynamics, undiagnosed and untreated addiction or mental illness.”
In these cases, Ferentz says, “an assessment and treatment goals offered by a qualified, licensed and well-trained social worker or other mental health provider is essential.”
Visit thrivelifecoaching.net and cheloulifecoach.com for more information about the life coaches featured in this story.