In December 2012, my life was falling apart. I had just lost a major freelance client, was recently dumped, and had no idea how I was going to pay rent. I knew 2013 needed to be different; something major needed to change.
I was considering applying for a more stable job, joining an online dating site, and moving back in with my parents. It was the epitome of the so-called “quarter-life crisis.”
Around the same time, I saw a few tweets about a three-week online course hosted by life coach Molly Mahar, who is from Seattle and now lives in Southern California. The course, called the Holiday Council, offered a gorgeous downloadable workbook accompanied by three group phone calls and several emails every week. The online program is designed to help clear out the past year and set clear intentions for the next.
Yes, intentions. Because who the heck actually keeps resolutions?
I spent my last $30 and signed up for the program, which almost immediately changed my life. I landed a high-paying job, paid my rent, and got over that ugly breakup. Since Mahar focuses on 20-something women, she had tackled the issues I was challenged with many times before. I ended up working with Mahar one-on-one for several months in private coaching sessions, which are notably more expensive than therapy (at the time I paid about $500 a month for her sessions), but life coaching focuses more on the future than the past, and that was refreshing. There are few questions about your childhood, and no blame is placed on anyone else. It’s all about accountability, authenticity, and making smart decisions to work toward goals.
“Therapy is more about diving into the past and healing past wounds, or getting someone out of a crisis situation,” says Seattle life coach Amber Rochelle. “Coaching is more about forward movement and goal setting. Therapy asks ‘why,’ whereas coaching asks ‘what’ and ‘how.’”
Mahar’s thriving business, called Stratejoy, has programs of varying intensity. Kirkland resident Karmen Horton is enrolled in Mahar’s Elevate Mastermind program, a $7,000-a-year group in which 14 women from around the world work toward personal and professional goals. Past members of Elevate rave about the program and how it has revolutionized their career goals, or helped them move beyond a dead-end relationship or a broken marriage.
Horton considers herself a life-coach addict — over the past four years, she’s spent thousands of dollars a year on life coaches and retreats they host — but she’s not the only one who believes in their value. While most of us are still referred to a therapist when life starts to suck, there is a boom in women offering life coaching to women such as Horton and myself — women who need purpose, direction, and advice, but not necessarily a deep dive into why our childhood led us here.
“Life coaching has been around for a long time but has definitely grown exponentially in the past five years,” Rochelle says. Digital communication has allowed life coaches to broaden their reach, she says, and U.S. consumers are more interested in a holistic view of health, which life coaches can better assess than a therapist focused on a specific issue.
It should be noted that most life coaches aren’t trained to handle clinical conditions such as addiction or mental-health disorders, but a life coach still can prove beneficial in those situations. “A good coach knows what to watch for and is aware when their client needs to see a therapist,” Rochelle says, “and will have referrals already set up.”
I’m lucky enough to have insurance that covers traditional therapy with a small copay (as long as I pay my ridiculously high monthly premium), but I still choose life coaching, or therapists that incorporate life coaching, over traditional therapy as life coaching seems to more quickly address my needs, which means my life gets better even faster.
Therapy can have amazing benefits for those who need certain treatments or are lucky enough to find the right counselor. But if you just can’t find someone who will listen, understand, and, especially, help you establish goals and accountability, you’ll likely be able to find a life coach who can help.
And the best part? You can meet with a life coach from the comfort of your couch or the empty corner office. Forget stuffy clinics and couches. This is about figuring out whatever’s not working in your life — on your terms.