Category Archives: Life Coaching

My Broken Vase

A dream has haunted meStillleben_mit_Schachteln,_1941
for days and days.
A nuanced dream
with many layers
all singing me a message
that I am refusing to hear.
Covering my ears
closing my eyes
an ostrich head in the sand.
A teenager fighting the world
resisting and rolling my eyes
fluffing my hair
in a posture of outrage.

My late husband bought me
a dusty teal colored vase
with a crochet flower bouquet
full of memories of fun
and freedom.
I often look at that vase
with fondness
of my life well lived.

I gasped in my dream
as the vase dropped to the floor
breaking into pieces
too small
too many to fix.
Grieving, I awoke.
Mourning, I think, the vase
and the life that is no more.

But, wait, look, think.
The crochet flowers remain whole
sitting there on the floor
In the middle of all those broken pieces.
Whole flowers
needing a good cleaning
and some tender loving care.
Undamaged flowers making me think.

The only sure thing in life is change.
As long as I breathe
live on this side of the dirt
life will happen.
When the sun shines
rain will eventually fall.
And back again to the sun.
With laughter, prepare for tears
and tears for laughter.
Vases we love will break.
Maybe the flowers within
will survive.

We live in the middle of life’s changes.
I’m here
and not always well.
I will adapt
I can live a full life
no matter what happens.
I’ll be the flower that remains.
Yes, I will.

Contact me for life coaching about the changes in your life.


Telephone: (615) 464-3791

©2017 by Laura Coleman, Ph.D.  All rights reserved.

Painting by Felix Nussbaum ( [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Food Addiction

brain-954821_640Issues with food and weight are very complicated. My previous eating disorder article, titled “Problems with Food and Weight”, covered the problems people have with excess weight. Today’s writing will discuss food and eating issues that are similar to addictions.

Remember, there are several principles that are common in all addictions: heredity, the disease model, allergy, tolerance, progression, consequences (physical, emotional, and spiritual), mental defenses against self-awareness, and hitting bottom. I will begin by discussing each of these issues as they relate to food, eating, and weight.

Most people think of heredity as a direct effect. They believe that if your parents had a food, eating or weight problem, you will have a food, eating or weight problem. That is most likely true. The way your body processes food IS related to your genetics. However, addiction is much more complicated. If your parents or grandparents had any addiction, you are at a higher risk for any addiction.

In the disease model, what varies between people is their ‘drug of choice’. Your drug of choice is the substance or behavior that gets you high. If you have alcoholics, addicts, gamblers, food addicts, or even workaholics in your family tree, you might just be a person who responds to some substance or addictive behavior in an unusual way. You might just develop a drug of choice.

In this article, your drug of choice is food. Fortunately, not all food gets people high…just certain foods, mostly foods that have limited nutrition. This means that sugar, processed food and/or large amounts of food would affect you in a manner that is different from other people. It’s also behaviors. Food related behaviors such as binging, starving, vomiting, overexercising, and so on. Those are addictive too.

In the beginning, your reaction to junk foods and food behaviors is soothing and comforting. Like alcohol, your behaviors with food might make you think faster and function better. This is your allergy to food.

Unfortunately, all addictions involve tolerance to your substance. You begin to need more and more junk food to achieve less and less soothing effect.

Thus begins the progression into active addiction. People increase the amount of junk food they eat. Then they begin binging. Eventually, people binge more and more often. Eventually, people are very tragic with food. They binge and purge in a frantic attempt to get high and not suffer severe weight gain. Or they simply binge and binge until they become sick or pass out. People have died binging as their stomach bursts. This is no different from the cocaine addict who frantically snorts or shoots cocaine almost every hour as the high wears off.

Enter the consequences of food addiction. Physical consequences are very easy to see. Food addicts wear their consequences as weight on their bodies. People grow heavier and heavier as their weight balloons out of control. But there are other unseen physical consequences. Malnutrition is common. An active addict stuffs themselves with nonnutritive foods leaving no room for the basic nutrition needed to function in life. Then there are the physical illnesses related to excess weight or underweight: diabetes, heart disease, gout, and back problems to name only a few.

Emotional consequences are many: guilt, shame, remorse, pre-occupation with food instead of your life, low self-esteem, isolation, and loneliness. And the spiritual consequences of your relationship with food are the same as any addiction. You place your faith in your ‘drug of choice’ instead of God and the religion of your heart.

Like all addicts, you defend yourself against the reality of your downhill spiral. You may assert that you can diet anytime you want. You might use humor like some sad, but delightful people I have known. Dying from uncontrolled diabetes, binging on junk food and asserting in a funny tone of voice that they must, for example, eat enough to maintain their weight. Defenses are as creative as the people who use them. The point is that you might weigh three or four hundred pounds and still be telling yourself that you do not have a problem.

Hitting bottom is different from person to person. When you hit your bottom, you become unable to deny to yourself that you have this problem. The evidence around you breaks through all the techniques you use to hide from yourself. Sadly, hitting bottom is excruciatingly painful. Most frequently, what breaks through your defenses is some sort of humiliating and degrading type of experience. For alcoholics, it can be being arrested for drunk driving. For a food addict, this can include not being able to wear your clothes or being at a public function and breaking the chair you wish to sit in.

Some people hit bottom over and over again. They live out the rest of their lives at this space, unable to change or take action on their own behalf. This is unnecessary.

There are many different versions of recovery for people who have a food addiction. Overeaters Anonymous offers one version. Take this questionnaire from them to help you decide if this is the appropriate solution for you.

___Do you eat when you’re not hungry?

___Do you go on eating binges for no apparent reason?

___Do you have feelings of guilt and remorse after overeating?

___Do you give too much time and thought to food?

___Do you look forward with pleasure and anticipation to the time when you can eat alone?

___Do you plan these secret binges ahead of time?

___Do you eat sensibly before others and make up for it alone?

___Is your weight affecting the way you live your life?

___Have you tried to diet for a week (or longer), only to fall short of your goal?

___Do you resent others telling you to “use a little willpower” to stop overeating?

___Despite evidence to the contrary, have you continued to assert that you can diet “on your own” whenever you wish?

___Do you crave to eat at a definite time, day or night, other than mealtime?

___Do you eat to escape from worries or trouble?

___Have you ever been treated for obesity or a food-related condition?

___Does your eating behavior make you or others unhappy?

Have you answered yes to three or more of these questions? If so, it is probable that you have or are well on your way to having a compulsive overeating problem. Overeaters Anonymous believes that the way to arrest this progressive disease is to practice the Twelve-Step recovery program.

There are other 12-recovery programs for food addiction. These are, with links to their websites: ABA – Anorexics and Bulimics Anonymous, CEA – Compulsive Eaters Anonymous, EDA – Eating Disorders Anonymous, FA – Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous, FAA – Food Addicts Anonymous, GSA – GreySheeters Anonymous, O.A. H.O.W.

12-Step Recovery wellness is for food addicts who are actively involved in one of the many and varied 12-step programs. This means you regularly attend meetings, have a sponsor, have worked all the way through the 12-steps, and are actively involved in your recovery program. This is a coaching approach specifically designed for food addicts in recovery who have inner nudges to achieve more in your lives.

If you have responses to this post, or just want to share your thoughts, please comment in the reply box below. I’d love to hear what you are thinking.

Contact me to follow that inner nudge calling you to live more richly:


Telephone: (615) 464-3791

©2017 by Laura Coleman, Ph.D.  All rights reserved.


Problems with Food and Weight

waage-1452608621kndYou can have a weight problem and NOT have a medical disorder, a diagnosable mental condition, or an addiction. Chances are good that you could change one or more of your behaviors and achieve your goals with life coaching.

Some people simply eat too much food or too much of the wrong kinds of foods and gain weight. For you, the solution is to go on a healthy diet and increase your exercise. You can obtain a healthy diet from your medical professional, a dietician or nutritionist. Life coaching can help you make your choices as well as keep your motivation high.

Many people find that they can simply increase their exercise by walking or riding a bicycle instead of driving. Maybe you’d like to take a dance class, join a health club, or plan for a marathon. This too is about your drive to reach your goals. Life coaching is all about your goals.

Then there is our modern lifestyle. We work long hours, so we don’t cook the healthier simple foods. Instead, we eat on the run. The foods we eat are loaded with empty calories: Sugar, white flour, and fat. Healthier foods are labor intensive and often require an hour or two to prepare. This is a very difficult activity after a long hard day working on your job. There are several solutions to this. Your answers depend on your values and personal decisions. A life coach helps you hear yourself and make those decisions in a self-enhancing way.

Our modern lifestyle contributes to health and weight problems. People a multitude of labor saving devices. And technology. I love this. Machines, appliances, computers, phones, tablets, and more. It does seem as if our lives are easier than they were 150 years ago. We shop online and no longer walk from store to store. We have appliances to do a lot of the activities that keep our lives functional.

Unfortunately, there have been what are called unintended consequences. One is that we simply use less energy in our day. And we consume fewer calories. Less activity, the same calorie consumption leads to less physical fitness and weight gain.

Then, we are often expected to do much more sedentary work. These days more people are doing work that involves using our minds rather than their bodies. We are less active and we have less time for the physical activities needed by our bodies. This is a real dilemma most people face daily.

It might seem like you just inhale food and calories from the air, gaining weight. But there are many behaviors in most people’s life that defeat their desire to be trim and healthy. And this requires behavior changes.

Our lives are busier and it’s more difficult to set your priorities. Pre-packaged, unhealthy foods abound in the grocery. And fast food is available almost on every corner. People work hard and eat at their desks.

Other people are thought to have an allergy to certain food or the chemicals in foods. A gazillion books have been written about the problems with sugar, white flour, and processed foods. They are not healthy, cause massive weight gain and, in some people, create a craving for more.

There are some excellent workbooks out there on behavior change. Charts and graphs to complete where you examine your behavior. And organized programs to help you do just that. The one catch is that these programs decide for you where you begin and which behaviors you should change.

Unfortunately, each worksheet, every program, and all the choices require time and effort. The effort of self-examination and the effort of participating in the program. And the important effort of the behavior change you need to make. Life coaching starts where you are. In a life coaching relationship, you select the behaviors you see as problematic and make your own plans to change them. You progress at your own pace. You put your effort where you feel it will do the most good.

Then there is the difficulty people have due to chronic dieting. Some researchers have proposed that there is a normal weight setpoint for each person. This means that the weight you are right now might be the weight that is normal for your body. When you lose weight below that setpoint, your body objects and fights back. Some feel this is related to the days when food was less available. Our bodies are magnificent and have adapted to life cycles of starvation and abundance. During abundance, our bodies pile on the weight to prepare for the coming cycle of starvation. Only life is not like that for most people today.

Years ago there was a research project conducted with people who volunteered to stay in a hospital setting and eat what was prescribed. The first part of this experiment had the volunteers on a strict diet calculated to cause each person to loose 10% of their body weight.

Once this part of the research was finished, food was supplied without limits. The volunteers could eat whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted, and as much as they wanted. At first, they chose the highest calorie foods. And they ate and ate, much like binge eaters until they gained weight. Only they didn’t just gain back that 10% of the weight they lost. They also gained an additional 10% above the weight they started with. This is an example what our bodies think about starvation diets and weight loss.

Some researchers have suggested you can change your setpoint with aerobic exercise. And that is a good idea for a multitude of reasons. Only one of which is your weight setpoint. Aerobic exercise is good for weight, as an antidote to stress, for depression as well. general overall fitness, well-being, and even fatigue.

Other authorities in the field of eating disorders have pointed to the fashion industry and media. They suggest that unreal and idealized images of beauty put invisible pressures on people to live up to an impossible and unhealthy standard. I remember reading about a fashion shoot for a jeans ad. It took something like 5 people to put the jeans on her. These jeans were deliberately several sizes too small for her. They immersed them in water and then demanded that she lean back, stay still and stiff like a board while staff forced the jeans on her. This was given as an example of an advertising campaign with unreal images. These images are thought to create a desire in some to become thinner than their body needs. Maybe even excessively so. Life coaching can help you create your vision of a healthy, normal weight with a satisfying life. And then life coaching can help you identify the steps you wish to take toward those goals.

The catch here is, once more, behavior change. Everything we want in life requires some effort. The choice is where you want to put your energy. What do you think is the most important behavior for you to change? How much personal power do you want in life? What is your chosen life?

Life coaching is helpful for people who want to eat healthier, increase their exercise, and change their lifestyle. Life coaching is great for people who look to empower themselves. In life coaching, you set your goals based on the deeper desires you hold. You hold the power. Make the choices. Decide which behaviors and actions you want to explore. We work together as you move forward along the path to your dreams of a healthier, happier you.

If you have responses to my columns, have questions, or just want to share your thoughts, write your comment in the reply box below. I’d love to hear what you are thinking.

Contact me for an appointment to begin reaching for the dreams within you.


Telephone: (615) 464-3791

©2017 by Laura Coleman, Ph.D.  All rights reserved.


Dream Your Life

If you can dream it.png

Contact me if you want to live your dreams:


Telephone: (615) 464-3791

©2016 by Laura Coleman, Ph.D.  All rights reserved.

What Is Life Coaching?

sunset-659706_640Coaching is a positive profession that emphasizes growth and development. I see and value your personal integrity. Coaching honors clients visualizing the light and beauty shining within people. My mission is to empower you. Coaching encourages people to reach their dreams. I understand that the people who want coaching are whole, healthy, vital and alive with an inner potential to become more fully who they are.

Coaching is a positive helping profession with a set of beliefs that is different and distinct from the psychotherapy field. Coaching as a profession believes in potential, growth, and development. I look forward to our positive and constructive interactions. The impact of an intimate and connected conversation where I truly see and value your essence is truly magical.

Coaching is a positive helping profession with skills that are different and distinct from the psychotherapy field. Coaching is inclusive and does not judge or evaluate your lifestyle and life choices. Coaches support, encourage, collaborate, offer strategies, share knowledge, maintain an egalitarian attitude, and help clients develop new skills.

Inclusive: I treat all cultures, races, sexual orientations, methods of sexual expression, and life choices with respect.

Support: I support you in whatever task you see as important.

Encourage: I encourage your growth and change.

Collaborate: I collaborate with you as you seek to become more of yourself.

Offer strategies: I carefully offer you strategies making certain not to take charge of your experience.

Share Knowledge: I share my knowledge.

Maintain an egalitarian attitude: I work diligently to NOT become the authority on your life.

Develop New Skills: I encourage your learning and even teach new skills while again not placing myself in authority your.

Contact me

For more information or if you’d like to make an appointment.


Telephone: (615) 464-3791

©2016 by Laura Coleman, Ph.D.  All rights reserved.

Life Coaching Ethics

This is week 6 of my education at The Institute for Life Coach Training.

I’m a little behind the commitments I made to myself which includes writing this blog about my experiences. Consequently, I made a decision to write about the past two weeks instead of just one.

During week 5, I began seeing volunteer clients and writing up my own evaluation of my performance. My school supplies worksheets for us to help evaluate each other practice life coaching. I decided I could use these to help me learn the coaching skills I need. I could evaluate myself after every volunteer client and identify the competencies I still need to master. The first item on the list of competencies I need to master is to follow the ethics.

I’ve always been fanatical about professional ethics. It’s an issue that comes from my history of being abused and growing up with rare chronic illnesses. I’ve written on my website that I made a commitment to treat people the way I wanted to be treated. I believe a reverence for others is definitely part of professional ethics for any profession that involves helping others.

There are three other aspects of ethics that seem critical to me. One is to learn what the actual ethics that apply to my profession are. Another is to enthusiastically adopt professional coaching standards. And finally, I insist that I master the actions and skills of life coaching.

I hit a glitch. A road block between language, standards, and conventions that I feel I have to resolve within myself.

There are two slightly divergent coaching models with different histories, frames of reference, use of language and attitudes toward people. These create subtle differences between the two credentialing bodies for coaches.

The oldest organization is the International Coach Federation (ICF). It’s a broad credentialing body encompassing coaches from divergent backgrounds such as consulting, business, education, and mental health. ICF has been instrumental in creating standards of practice named competencies, turning concepts into practical actions, and structuring ethics of practice.

The credential I am seeking comes directly from the counseling profession. The Center for Credentialing and Education (CCE) is an affiliate of the National Board for Certified Counselors, the organization that certified me as a National Certified Counselor and a Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor. Their focus is on the counseling profession.

After analyzing the competencies, CCE saw that there were many skills a counselor learned that crossed over into coaching. They identified the gap between what we know as counselors and what we needed to learn as coaches, then insisted we learn the coach-specific skills in that gap for certification. This means I don’t give up everything I learned and did as a therapist. I just need to clarify for myself which skills I give up and which ones I keep.

My initial discomfort comes with the definition of life coaching. ICF says that “Coaching is partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential” (ICF). Notice the word partner.

CCE-Global says “Coaching is a career in which professionals have specialized education, training, and experience to assess needs of clients, collaborate with clients on solutions, and offer strategies that assist individuals and organizations in reaching identified goals” (CCE-Global). Notice the word assist.

A partner is an ally, associate, colleague, confederate, or participant. According to, a partner is “a person who shares or is associated with another in some action or endeavor; sharer; associate.” When you assist another, you aid, facilitate, collaborate, and give them a helping hand. Assisting someone means you “give support or aid to; help” (

The similarity between the two is the idea of collaboration. I’d say the other similarity, is that people who seek life coaching are NOT seeking mental health assistance. They come from a place of desire. Desire for more in their lives. To reach goals and achieve dreams.

I read through the remainder of both ethical documents and saw that there are many similarities even if they are written with different headings on the documents. Both refer to conflicts of interest as problematic. Both mention record keeping, but the flavors of the rules end up sounding slightly different.

When I first decided to return to private practice, I became certified through the National Guild of Hypnotists (NGH). I’m no longer practicing hypnosis, but their ethical standards include a section of recommended language. It’s a very helpful document that for me suggests I can develop my own language list that separates coaching from psychotherapy. In order to do so, I think I need to fully grasp what the differences are.

I have questions to ask. I think the process of researching the ethics and writing this posting has helped me to decide who exactly to ask. Maybe, too, I’ll learn the answers as we proceed in the lessons. After all, we are only halfway done!

Contact me

If you’d like more information or want to make an appointment:


Telephone: (615) 464-3791

©2016 by Laura Coleman, Ph.D.  All rights reserved.


What to Do When You Are Stuck in a Rut & Do Not Like It

Most people do the same things based on the same beliefs and habits. We repeat ourselves over and over again and wonder why we end up in the same place. Often we don’t understand what happened. Then we try again, thinking if we only try harder, we’ll succeed.

It’s not true. Trying harder with the same habits is exhausting. We find ourselves in the same situation again and again. Allowing our negative beliefs about ourselves and the world only keeps us stuck in the same position no matter how much energy we throw at it.

On the other hand, self-observation can give us clues to what we’ve done, how we’ve done it, why we’ve done it and what we can do to increase our success. Surprisingly, these kinds of changes are often small. Much smaller than the monumental effort you think you’ll have to take following old patterns and life scripts.

Negative beliefs are spirit killers. They operate on a kind of loop in the back of our brains, saying things we wouldn’t put up from our worst enemy. Everyone has them. They come from our past and are capable of destroying our future. We mentally tell ourselves that we will fail and that we just simply are failures. If you stop and listen, you can hear them whisper to you.

Habit patterns are patterns of behavior that we develop over our lifetime. It’s the way we do things. We don’t concentrate on them anymore. We just operate on autopilot. Some habit patterns are simple, like brushing our teeth. Others are more complex like shopping in a store. Still, others are challenging actions like trying to reach a goal. These all have one thing in common. How we go about them is based on a familiar way of thinking and behaving.

Just a brief word here. People have often told me the things I write are difficult to do. They tell me this before they try them. Just thinking about self-examination gives them the willies.

Even over the computer screen, I can hear their tone of voice.

“That’s too hard,” They exclaim.
“Oooh, you are so strong. I could never do that.”
“It’s just too painful to face,” some report.

They are stuck in an inertia that is bleeding them dry. Mired in mud from the past so strongly it feels hopeless. But it’s not. The opposite is true.

It’s too painful not to do our own work. Face our process. Make changes in our lives. Living in failure and degradation is much more painful than change. It’s exhausting to be unhappy and sit still wishing. Change is worth the effort and pain. Self-awareness is exhilarating.

I created a chart for self-assessment to help you alter that process. Make it more likely you’ll reach your goals. It’s here: What to Do if You Are Stuck in a Familiar Rut.

  • The first heading is Incident/Situation.

Think back as far as you can to the first time you tried to solve this problem/reach that goal/do this thing you want to do. Give it any name you wish. List oldest first.

  • Describe as clearly as possible what happened.

This is an important aspect of any self-examination. Most people put their feelings about things here. It’s not about feelings. Try to objectively describe what you saw, what people did, said, and so on. Kind of like from a very old television show: “Just the facts, Ma’am.” Said in a very flat, toneless voice.

  • What were your hopes and dreams?

This one should be similar throughout the rows. As you write them out for each situation, you may find you have more information. You’ll come up with more specifics. You will remember more.

  • Talk about expectations and wants. Compare and contrast

You were trying to reach a goal. You took specific actions. What did you think might happen? What did happen?

  • Look for common themes and differences between them.

Each circumstance is the same and it is also different. Getting specific about these similarities and differences can help you make sense of where you are stopping and defeating yourself.

  • What inner warnings did you feel/sense?

Sometimes we take actions we know we really shouldn’t take. Other times we don’t take actions we would be better of taking. Usually, somewhere deep inside us, we sense this. Most of the time, when we go to do something to better our lives, we sense the right and wrong of it.

  • When did you experience this?

Often, this occurs early on. It’s similar to the maybe I won’t take that trip feelings people who have avoided accidents report. Often people in a rut ignore that feeling.

  • How did your ignore your warnings?

We tell ourselves we’re wrong. Maybe we think we’re being big babies. Or just any kind of self-depreciating statements such as too sensitive, too judgmental, etc.

  • How does this circumstance benefit you?

This is the most difficult one, I think, to look at. We are stuck in a rut, there is some kind of emotional benefit to us. Benefits can be things like not having to take risks, feeling safe, and so on. Or maybe we think our friends or siblings won’t love us if we succeed. Many of us have some serious false beliefs about success of any kind. We just don’t know it.

For your summary, on a separate page, look at the beliefs you have that have emerged from your charting. Pick apart the habits you see. If you see a habit, you can alter it. Last month I brushed my teeth after I washed my face the way I’ve done my morning routine for 50 years. Today I brush my teeth first, looking to save water as it warms up. My husband explained our septic tank. Now I watch my water usage. That’s a habit change. It took consciousness, examining my actions, and deliberate motions to make such a change.

If we find and examine our beliefs and habits, we can choose to stay where we are or change any one of them. Learning about ourselves means we are no longer stuck. If we want to stay where we are, we can. And if we want to change we can do that too.

I vote for change.

Childe Hassam [No restrictions or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Contact me if you want coaching to get out of a rut:

If you’d like more information or want to make an appointment:


Telephone: (615) 464-3791

Painting by Childe Hassam [No restrictions or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Chart: What to Do if You Are Stuck in a Familiar Rut


This chart is explained here: What to Do When You Are Stuck in a Rut & Do Not Like It.

Contact me

If you’d like more information or want to make an appointment:


Telephone: (615) 464-3791


Learning to Listen and Life Coaching is NOT Therapy

We learned about listening this week in the Coach Approach class at The Institute for Life Coach Training . I first started learning about listening in 1972 when I participated in a peer counseling program. We learned that listening and sincerely hearing what someone is saying is a great gift to them. That being heard is a deep human need.

I’m really good at this. To some extent, I believe it’s an inherited trait. My youngest sister is very skilled at listening too. Or it may be a survival skill we picked up in our family-of-origin.

I see deeply within people seemingly without effort. In fact, the effort I had to put forth involved recognizing boundaries and shutting my mouth. Not comment on the things I saw when in surface conversations. Mind my own business. Only comment on feelings and issues when asked or invited to do so. Now that skill took a few years to learn!

One important factor I learned in peer counseling is that you have to have the ability to attend to what others say. You have free yourself from self-distractions to listen to other people talk about themselves. This means that people need to let go of their own stuff in order to give their attention to the other person. It also means to me that I need to listen to others without bias and an opinion or judgment about what they are saying.

I had a mentor who could hear me talk and feed back to me what I hadn’t realized I’d said. That was an amazing skill. It was healing and encouraging. Somehow, she’d normalize whatever I was experiencing and weave it into a positive frame. I’d come away from those conversations willing to live whatever I needed to in order to come out the other side. Nearer to my goals. She taught me that skill over the years. I didn’t understand it until I began to study the listening skills involved in life coaching.

This week I went through the documents I used to use for psychotherapy patients and changed them for coaching clients. It was a dramatic change with massive edits. I’d been sensing the vast difference between coaching and therapy, but this activity had a WOW factor to it for me.

The first things I deleted were the series of questions about health and medical status. The next were the questions about eating, drinking and drugging habits. As a therapist dealing with mental health, I had to be mindful that a person’s health, personal habits, and/or medications can cause psychiatric symptoms. I needed to be prepared to send people back to their physician, to a psychiatrist, or even to treatment for addiction.

Eventually, I got to the place in my form where I deleted questions about your history, specifically family, suicide attempts, and child abuse.

As a life coach, my focus is different. I’m not working with symptoms, history or people who have mental health conditions. If I do agree to coach someone with a diagnosis, like for example, PTSD, my work is not related to that diagnosis. Instead, my focus is on living as fully as possible in your life according to YOUR definition of living fully. I won’t be treating people; I’m having partnerships with them.

Some therapists do therapy with people and then manage to do coaching. I cannot imagine myself working that way. When I went to work as a licensed Marriage, Family and Child Counselor [later retitled Marriage and Family Therapist], I became a therapist. I internalized my work, developed skills, and enlarged my talents. Performing psychotherapy became instinctive and intuitive.

Now I’m working to grow myself into a life coach. To become. It’s not a surface change for me. I don’t learn like that. I have to take what I’m learning deep inside me and allow the learning itself to change me. I am working to become a life coach, not simply the mechanics of life coaching.

As a coach, I will be having conversations with people. The ideal is to partner with someone in order to help them to reach their goals in life. The goals they set for themselves. In order to do that, I have to adjust the listening skills I already have into what I believe is a much more positive stance.

I’ll continue to listen to what people say, listen for what people need me to hear, and listen with my whole self. I’ve always seen the potential within people. Their larger life. The light within them. Even their relationship to their spiritual life path.

However, my focus was on what blocked and stopped them from living fully. I’d work with them on what had been injured in them to prevent them from becoming.

Now, my focus is not on what I see, but on what they see, want, and believe. It’s not on injury but on hope. It’s not on what I can to to help them. Instead, my focus is on what I can do to encourage them to do what they really want. Pursue the goals they have for their lives.

This is an exciting change. I’ve spent a lifetime studying and applying positive thinking to my personal life. I’ve recited and chanted affirmations till the cows came home and went back out again. I’ve studied positive thinkers. I’ve collected stories of people I’ve labeled heroes. To me, heroes are those people who survived and thrived despite overwhelming odds against them. People who allowed their inner light to shine on the world. And who made a positive difference in the lives of others.

And so it begins. I have my newly re-minted Life Coaching Information Form and seriously adapted Coaching Agreement Form. I have a list of people from vastly different backgrounds willing to allow me to practice coaching on them. I even a waiting list of those who would be willing to allow this student coach to coach them.

Life is good.

Contact me

If you’d like more information or want to make an appointment:


Telephone: (615) 464-3791


Board Certification for Life Coaches is Important!

I’d have thrown my #$@&%*! textbook across the room if I had been holding it in my hands. Instead, I was reading an e-book in the Kindle app on my computer.

No throwing the computer across the room, Laura.

I am attending The Institute for Life Coach Training where I am taking the 30-hour Board Certified Coach Training. This is a class for people with degrees, licenses and Board Certifications in the field of professional psychotherapy.

I’m an active learner. I cannot memorize stuff. It has to make sense to me. I have to digest it, really learn the material in order to develop my knowledge. And so I was struggling to integrate what I was reading with what I already know from all those years of psychology training and those additional years of licensed practice as a Marriage and Family Therapist.

I have been a bit embarrassed to learn how much I did not know about life coaching. Life coaching is definitely not psychotherapy or counseling!

I struggled and read. I looked up references. I went to websites. And finally, I got it. I am shifting my way of looking at the world from a mental health therapist/counselor point of view into a life coach perspective. And that’s important. Critical even. Because I must change the way I look at the people who ask for my services.

Every profession has their own body of knowledge composed of required knowledge, skills, competencies and ethics. Mental health counseling has one set; life coaching has another. Life coaching calls the competencies core competencies.

Most professions have a unified way of looking at the world and the work they do. Therapy has one set; life coaching has another. There are also differences between teaching, consulting, mentoring and life coaching. But I’m mostly concerned with the differences between psychotherapy/counseling and life coaching as I’m working to shift my thinking and focus from mental health to life coaching.

I think the most important quality for me is coaching’s emphasis on egalitarian relationships. Coaching is a partnership. While I was trained as a therapist in non-power relationships, coaching is a true partnership between two people who hold equal power in the relationship.

In therapy, people in pain come to an authority figure to alleviate their pain. They qualify for an official diagnosis and they can use their medical insurance. This is the medical model of mental health and dis-ease.

Regardless of how diligently I worked to empower my clients, my position as a therapist was one of authority and superior knowledge. I was expected to help a sick person get well.

Not so in life coaching.

Issues involving the use of power and dominance are critically important in the coaching relationship. No one is dominant in the coaching relationship. A coach approach to clients involves an equal balance of power. Coaching makes certain that the client holds their own power while the coach holds their own. It’s a true partnership of equals.

As a life coach, I am not expected to be wise or to dispense wisdom from on high. Instead, I must listen carefully to my client as she or he is the authority on their life. I will only become the authority on life coaching.

Life coaching takes a reverent view of the client as their own unique font of knowledge. People have their own answers inside them. They might just need a bit of assistance hearing themselves.

That’s where a coach learning to ask powerful questions enters the picture. The answers are already inside the client. The skill I needed to grasp was asking questions. I reviewed lists of coaching type questions and despaired knowing I literally cannot memorize.

Finally, lightbulb time. I recognized that I have the skill of listening very well to the things people say and don’t say. I think in metaphors and colorful language. As I read coaching case after coaching case, I eventually got it. I can use my very own skills of listening and metaphor to reformulate my insights. I can change my insights into questions. I can use the sum total of everything I learned as a mental health counselor and turn it into something better. I think it’s better.

I felt such relief to understand that I already have a body of knowledge. I simply needed a new way of looking at the world of my work. With that change, I can move forward into learning more about this profession of life coaching.

Back to my original topic. Board certification for a life coach is important because anyone can say they are a life coach. There is no licensing requirement, yet there is an identified body of knowledge that distinguishes a life coach from other professions. This body of knowledge includes a way of looking at the world, competencies and ethics. If a person who says they are a life coach does not have the required training, they might not be able to help you find the answers inside yourself that you are seeking. If they do not commit to the ethics, they might harm you.

This is why I am going to school. To my knowledge, there are two credentialing organizations for life coaches: International Coach Federation and the Center for Credentialing and Education. The certifications are Associate Certified Coach (ACC), Professional Certified Coach (PCC), Master Certified Coach (MCC), and Board Certified Coach (BCC) credentials.

I’m working toward the Board Certified Coach (BCC) credential because it is offered specifically for therapists who transition into life coaching. And now I can say I feel like I’ve begun my transformation.

 Contact me:

If you’d like more information or would like to make an appointment.


Telephone: (615) 464-3791

©2016 by Laura Coleman, Ph.D.  All rights reserved.