Should a Life Coach Have a Life First?
Also from Marginal Revolution.
“I just made her aware of more options, like maybe you can try Splenda.”
I have immediate family members who are deeply, deeply involved in both the philosophy and practice of Life Coaching. It’s been an interesting practice to observe. For one thing, it’s incredibly expensive for someone to become one – there are thousands of dollars in training costs, materials and conferences. For another, it’s surprisingly cult-like, even in the Christian-themed circles, many life coaches build up their clientele by first leveraging their existing relationships and then spreading from there.
It appears that my family members started off by selling their “expertise” to their friends, essentially taking the exchange of advice typically shared by two people who just plain care about each other and effectively monetizing it. I thought this was really sad at first, but in thinking it through, it also makes sense. In a country that no longer makes things, I suppose one of our last commodities that can be bought and sold is our attention.
While “life coaching” isn’t Danny’s milieu, I live in a house where psychology comes up in conversation on a regular basis. And when friends visit, cult-like experiences, as well as spiritual, can dominate a conversation.
Danny has great stories of being on retreat with his cohort (from American University, the Organizational Development clan) in the Appalachian woods. I told him once, “I’m not joining that cult.”
I know there’s an element of tribalism in any situation where you feel kinship with others, but I never got that vibe with what I witnessed. It all felt a little self serving – like the reason everyone came to the party wasn’t because they thought they were changing the world for better (or fostering a professional community for support, research, etc.), but because they realized they had found a market they didn’t know existed. I know I’m biased, but I’m also closer to it than most, so it’s hard to be objective.
I hear you, Josh. It is hard to be objective. But I still feel, for some, it isn’t about monetary gain. Some people want to see the world change for the better.
Whatever the better is.
We live in an action-oriented society. When anxiety arises or excessive energy is spent avoiding/quelling/medicating emotional distress, life coaches provide a similar therapeutic value to CBT skills, self-help books, and gratitude lists. The short-term value is that I might feel satisfied by these steps taken to comfort myself. Maybe I really feel better for a while, maybe that’s all the distraction I need. Over the course of the long run, however, anxiety still blindsides me. Because the salve for internal pain is only the subtle strengthening of latent abilities to be with it. There’s nothing to do when you’re honoring your truth, painful as it can be.
I don’t have the money, nor do I ever imagine I’ll have the time, to consult a life coach. A life coach who is savvy in business — and it seems they must all be — would say that lack of time is exactly why I need coaching. On the other hand, putting words in the mouth of an imaginary life coach gives me all the straw man defense I need to never seek one out.
I don’t know what Kelsey means when she says “CBT” but it’s certainly not the same thing as I mean. Or maybe it is and the world of psychotherapy is much broader than I imagined.
Oh! CBT is cognitive-behavioral therapy, the beloved of insurance companies the world over since at least the 1990s. They claim it has measurable metrics, as opposed to psychodynamic therapies, and is therefore the only treatment worth covering for mental health issues.
These insurance fellows you mention sound charming.
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