You Choose: Your Mother’s Advice or Theirs [The News Marin Newspaper]

By Anna Galan, Editor
The News Marin, October 7-13, 2005
[Interview with Jaya Schillinger]

Sitting on the sidelines of people’s lives, coaches gain a reputation by offering guidance on everything from revenue to romance. Squeezed in between “clutches” and “cocktail lounges” in the Yellow Pages lies “coaches,” a listing that just may change your life. Going through a divorce? Need help managing your money or balancing your checkbook? Perhaps you just need relationship or career advice, or tips on dealing with a demanding boss or an annoying sibling. Hire a coach to help.

“Coaches and communication consultants” or, more commonly, life coaches, are an emerging industry, and one not as New Age as many might think. But with the profession in the process of defining itself, the rapid growth rate might leave some consumers vulnerable to unqualified coaches or those looking to capitalize on the field’s newfound popularity.

Not surprisingly, searching the Yellow Pages won’t necessarily lead to the ideal life coach. Most coaches say they don’t even advertise; the majority of their business comes from referrals or the Internet. To change their lives, clients will probably have to dig a little deeper.

In Marin County, there seems to be a life coach for every possible problem. Lindsay Kenny says she can help solve almost any specific problem in just one session by unblocking electromagnetic pathways in the body. Maureen Smith coaches women through transitional periods of their lives. Jaya Schillinger helps service-based businesses increase profits. Diane Boivie is a dream-recovery specialist who helps people acknowledge and actualize their lifelong dreams.

“In Marin, everyone’s into personal growth,” sayPaul Jaramillo, who’s been coaching in Marin since 1997. “People here are very receptive; it’s a kinesthetic kind of community.”

Boivie is president of the Marin Coaches Alliance, a local chapter of the International Coach Federation. She has been a coach for the past three years and lives and works in Novato. Like the majority of life coaches, she works out of her home. Through her work with the MCA, she hopes to promote coaching as a profession and help grow it into an established and respected field. “I firmly believe in having coaching as a profession,” Boivie says. “I was surprised, when I became a coach, at the variety of people that called themselves coaches. The range varied from highly trained to those with no coaching training.” Boivie studied at the Coaches Training Institute in San Rafael. She, along with many other coaches, is finding her second or third career in coaching. She thinks the ICF will help provide people with a baseline understanding of what coaching is, so that potential clients know what questions to ask. “I think there’s confusion in the marketplace,” Boivie says, “People don’t even know what questions to ask to find out whether coaches are qualified.” She thinks that within the next few years the ICF will come up with a set of standards to certify practitioners. There is currently no national licensure, certification or training required for anyone to call him-or herself a coach.

And while, in some ways, coaches bear some similarities to counselors, Boivie insists coaching is different from therapy, counseling or advice. “It’s not therapy at all” she says, “I can’t stress that enough. It’s coaching.” Boivie says therapy often looks to the past to solve problems, while coaching looks at the present and how it can be used to shape the future. She also insists coaching isn’t about giving advice. “Most coaches don’t offer advice,” Boivie says. “What they do is ask guided questions that allow the clients to find their own answers.”

Schillinger says she is careful to define herself specifically as a coach or a consultant when working with clients. As a coach, she doesn’t offer advice. But as a consultant, it’s her job.

Kenny, however, is happy to offer advice to clients – if they ask for it. She says there’s a definite need for life coaches because they fill a void that therapy can’t. “People that go to therapy have dysfunctional lives’ she says. “What I do is work with functional people in getting their careers, relationships and economics working.” Kenny uses Emotional Freedom Techniques, or EFT, to solve problems quickly. She says she is one of four coaches in Marin to use the technique, which is also used by body workers. Years ago, Kenny studied psychology, but knew she didn’t want to be a therapist. During an uncharacteristic bout with suicidal depression, an EFT session helped her recover. It was this experience that prompted her to help others using the same techniques. “I didn’t want to spend hours listening to someone say, “Your dad locked you in the closet when you were a child. Now how did that make you feel?” Kenny says. She says her use of EFT allows people to surmount problems quickly and easily, whether it’s overcoming writer’s block, losing weight, erasing a phobia or understanding a romantic relationship. Her specialty is helping people find their life partners. Over a long period of time, Kenny says, therapy has a 50 to 55 percent success rate, but she has a 90 to 95 percent success rate using EFT. She even has clients that are psychologists and psychiatrists, she says. “It’s the most exhilarating thing to show they can make a difference in their lives,” Kenny says, “that people aren’t necessarily stuck with the lives they were dealt.” Because her sessions are so effective, she says she doesn’t have ongoing relationships with clients. They will come in, solve a problem and move on with their lives in a more positive direction.

Others have longer-lasting coaching relationships. Jaramillo’s longest client has been seeing him for eight years. Schillinger says she will see people over the course of a few months. And Smith, who coaches women specifically in financial matters and life transitions, says in some ways she’s a counselor to them, providing ongoing support along with her consultations.

But not all who make the leap to a life coach find their problems solved. Smith says some clients will be stuck, but “when you’re paying money to work with someone, you’re not wanting to be stuck,” so they’ll do what it takes to change their lives.

While some worry the lack of standards and regulations in life coaching might leave room for some to take advantage of the growing market, many life coaches believe the referral system helps keep coaches in check. “If I were a terrible coach, people wouldn’t come to me,” Kenny says. “Because coaching is reliant on reputation, it’s like a restaurant: if it’s not good, people won’t go to it.”

Life coaches also insist that location coach isn’t all that essential to what they do. They do a combination of work in person, on the phone and by email. Schillinger says 80 percent of the business she does is over the phone. While Kenny prefers for people to visit her office in San Rafael so she can get a sense of them, she also works with clients over the phone, which allows her to coach people all over the world.

A complimentary initial session is also offered by many coaches. This allows the coach and the client to make sure it’s a proper fit. “It’s a two-way process,” Schillinger says. “You’re going to be a team, and it’s good to have a little time to decide.”

She also recommends that coaches find a particular niche. “A lot of people start out in the coaching business as generalists,” Schillinger says. “They say, ‘I’m a life coach. I’m going to help you figure out what your life is about,’ but that’s not really marketable.”

Now, with Oprah Winfrey bringing a life coach on board for her TV show and magazine, it seems life coaches are a trend that’s here to stay – at least for now. Regardless of its popularity, the industry is still struggling to define itself. “A lot of people are playing fast and loose with legalities,” Schillinger says. “They are basically offering therapy without the training. For the coach, it’s a huge liability. And clients need to know if they want coaching or therapy.”

Regardless of the varying services they offer, coaches seem to fill a niche that’s proved profitable for them and beneficial for the people employing their skills.

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About the Author

Jaya Savannah - Chief Inspiration Officer. Strategy Coach for Holistic Businesses. Trainer, speaker, and writer. Spiritually aware, yet street smart. Elephant lover.