Today’s blog is about 8 tips for how to choose a life coach or therapist. Part of this is going to be based on my own experience as a therapeutic life coach and also as having been a client in the past myself.
Here are some things that I think might be helpful…
Tip 1: Gender matters when it comes to trauma
If you are seeking trauma based therapy and it’s coming from having experience with abuse or assault, it’s important to decide if you want to work with someone who presents and dresses as a male or female. I know with gender pronouns it makes it a little more complicated. I’m going to just say it how I would see it, which is if you have been assaulted or abused by a man and you’re a woman, you might want to pick a female therapist and vice versa. We want the therapy space to feel safe and if the sight of a certain type of person triggers you, stay away from that as you are healing. I.e. If you were assaulted by a tall man with a beard, choosing a tall bearded man as a therapist might be traumatic for you.
Tip 2: Do I need traditional talk therapy?
If you are new to coaching & therapy, ask yourself: “have if I have ever had a full conversation with someone, maybe perhaps an hour-long, where up someone just held space for me and just listened to my thoughts and was able to just completely join me where I was and not interrupt me and not try to make the conversation about them?”
If you’ve never experienced that then seeking out traditional therapy might be really helpful for you as a jump-off point. In order to change behavior, we need to bring awareness to the behaviors and often we need to tell our own stories in order to do that.
So, if you’re new to this and you’ve never really had someone be able to just listen to you and hold space for you then picking a traditional talk therapist might be helpful.
Tip 3: Do they offer a pre-session meeting?
Seek out people that offer a 15-minute get acquainted call or Zoom session – not a full session but just a brief way to interact with them prior to setting up your first session. A lot of coaches and therapists are doing this now especially post pandemic when they’re using zoom and there’s nothing wrong with wanting to have that person-to-person interaction prior to booking a whole session. I think that’s important for a lot of people and they need that point of contact before making that decision.
So look for people that offer that and don’t be afraid if you don’t see it readily available on their website, to ask them, if they do offer that. Again, not asking for a full free session, just asking for a touch point before committing to a full session.
Tip 4: We get what we pay for…
Cheaper isn’t always better or best. A lot of therapists and coaches do not take insurance and I know that can be kind of defeating and is totally understandable. There are plenty of good therapists that do take insurance or that offer sliding scale options and if you get a referral for somebody who charges a bit more, don’t be afraid to at least try a session.
In my experience you can get a lot more done with someone who really knows what they’re doing and works with different modalities that are really effective so you can see change and see it quickly. That doesn’t happen with all therapists.
If you’re just starting on your journey, talk therapy is great for being able to tell your story and start to bring awareness to your patterns. It’s been my experience that if you really want to get a jump on changing those patterns after you bring awareness to them, you’re going to want to find somebody who specializes in different modalities to allow those changes to happen. For me personally, that is through the use of PSYCH-K, which is a subconscious change modality. I find that to be incredibly effective in helping my clients create immediate long lasting change in their lives.
Tip 5: Are they qualified?
My fifth tip when looking to choose a life coach or therapist would be checking their credentials, which seems obvious. But there are so many life coaching programs now, that it is really difficult to tell how much experience somebody has or how qualified they really are.
So, for me, personally, I prefer working with someone who has either a graduate degree of some sort and/or a lot of experience OR someone that I have either a personal relationship with or know people who have used their services before and they come highly recommended. So if you’re going to use somebody who doesn’t have higher education degrees, I would strongly strongly recommend that they have a lot of experience in their field and they come highly recommended.
Ideally you want to find someone who has both graduate degrees AND experience. This is really important because it helps them know their scope.
They need to know that not all areas of discomfort are theirs for the fixing so to speak and a lot of life coaches don’t learn that. So it’s really important to pick somebody who knows the scope of their work and knows what they’re able to help with and knows when to refer you out. And a lot of those boundaries are not learned in life coaching programs.
In my own experience with completing a life coaching certification, I don’t feel like I gained enough knowledge in any way, shape, or form to be able to run a full coaching practice. So, the foundation or undergirding of the work I do really came from graduate school and then through experience with other certifications, like PSYCH-K and holistic self-care.
Tip 6: Get to know them
My sixth tip for choosing a life coach or therapist would be to try to follow them on social media. When you’re working with somebody, traditional therapists are going to have a different set of boundaries and ways of interacting with clients, typically they’re not going to pull from their own stories or their own life experiences in a session. In fact, they’re taught not to do that but when you’re in the coaching realm, the borders really open up.
Life Coaching is not regulated in the same way as the traditional therapy world, people are not taught the same way. And so you have that addition of life experience and drawing from the coach’s own stories to create context and impact during a session. I prefer that, I think it makes us more relatable and I think it helps get rid of the “do as I say, not as I do” sort of mentality, which is like: “I’m going to tell you how to help yourself, but you know, you’re never going to really know if I’ve ever had to use or apply any of these tools myself.”
Social media is kind of an interesting way to get to know your coach or therapist because I think that’s important – whether or not we’re trying to put boundaries or borders on our own experience when working with the client, it’s always relevant, it’s always there. We can’t ever fully turn off our own experience when working with someone, it’s in the room even if it’s just energetically or unconsciously.
So check them out. If they have social media, give them a follow, pay attention to how they talk. I think that’s a good way to get to know someone’s energy and how they present outside of a session, which I think is important.
Tip 7: No minimum session requirement, please!
Tip number seven, for choosing a life coach or therapist, is pertinent for after you’ve already started working with someone. If someone requires a minimum number of sessions, I’m inclined to not work with them.
I think one of the most important parts of effective coaching and therapy is empowering the client. And part of that empowerment is helping the client understand that they are always in the driver’s seat. If, as a potential client you are told: “I have a four (or however many) session minimum so you have to work with me for at least this long,” and that doesn’t it feel right to you, then say, no. I still, even after having worked in this field for almost 13 years, have watched other people require a minimum number of sessions and it doesn’t sit right with me. I still offer single sessions because for me, it’s important that you go into a session knowing that if it doesn’t feel right to you after, you don’t have to continue working with that person. I am not a fan of a minimum number of sessions being a requirement. I would not personally work with someone who requires that.
Tip 8: You can leave whenever you want
And my last tip for choosing a life coach or therapist plays off of the seventh tip and that is: don’t be afraid to take a break, pause or fire your coach or therapist if you need to even if they’re trying to push more sessions on you. If you feel like you got what you came for and that only took two sessions, then listen to your intuition.
Sometimes we only need one session with someone to get what our spirit needs. I had a situation like that in college. I saw a coach twice, he was very, very intense and I got what I needed after two sessions. It wasn’t something I wanted to continue, because I knew that I had come for something specific, an answer to something, and I had that answer within two sessions. I never saw him again, it served its purpose.
So just like with other people in our lives being here for a reason, a season, or a lifetime, don’t think that sessions have to look a certain way or that you have to continue going for years. Listen to your intuition and if you feel like you need to pause, step back or take a break, do it, this is your process and journey.