I posted this article recently here: http://rationalmadness.wordpress.com/2013/11/11/finding-the-right-c...
I'd welcome comments.
In recent years, a vast number of people have become coaches, mentors, therapists. personal trainers - you name it, there's now a helper for it.
Some of these people are highly "qualified" and have taken formal routes through universities and colleges to get qualifications that are recognised by professional bodies. Others have gained various kinds of certificates from more commercially focused training providers. Some of these are bogus, some are affiliated to "proper" institutions. Some simply require you to attend a weekend course, while others demand a certain number of "completed hours".
Getting a university degree or professional certificate does not necessarily make someone a good therapist. Equally, someone who has completed a weekend course in Life Coaching and then printed some business cards, might just a danger to themself and to you.
Finding the right coach or mentor requires a bit of research - checking that credentials are authentic and seeking out real references. Ideally, try to get references from people you really know and not from the internet alone.
Your own gut instincts also come into play here. Your intuition can be a strong guide, but it might just be that the reason you are seeking help in the first place is that you've lost touch with, or even faith in your own instincts. In this case, a trusted ally or two are vital. Tap into the trusted instincts of a close friend and check that out with a range of real stories that suggest the therapist or professional helper will be able to serve your needs.
So, basically, common sense is key.
There are a number of other "checks" and tips that are useful in finding just the right coach or mentor for you. I call them "looks fors and listen fors".
When seeking out professional help. look for and listen out for...
1. ... picture of the helper - not just their glossy web site images. A google search can reveal other aspects of what they look like. If you can, get to a public event where the potential helper may be present. Meet them in person and see how you feel about the idea of this person helping you
2. ... their "take on life". Most professional helpers will blog or may have published how they work and their view of the world. Seek this out, read some of their stuff, and see if this feels like it resonates with your own need. If a therapist says "I don't have time for long conversations or bullshit", you might find yourself turning away, unless that is just what you feel you need.
3... signs that the helper has fled another profession and landed in the helping world for not all the right reasons. You might not want to be one of their first experiments!
4. ... an unhealed healer. A lot of people who are screwed up and have a whole host of problems of their own have projected their own unhealed state onto the world and decided their best way of healing (or not) themselves is to practice on willing other people. This is usually (though not always) dangerous. Sometimes an unhealed healer who is honest and open about that can be just the right helper for you, tapping into themselves a "raw material" and drawing on hard won life wisdom. But too often the unhealed healer craps their pain all over you in the name of helping
5. ... an openness to listen first and then respond to your need. Be wary of helpers who deliver their help and solutions "Off the shelf", often seeing you as simply yet another wounded soul to be helped as part of their plan to create world community and peace and for them to then ascend as a master into heaven.
6. ... someone who has lived a varied life, seen a bit of the world. Even if a helper is there just to listen, not being too narrow minded or unworldy is going to be important to the way they tune into you. If appropriate they can also tap into their own store of stories and life wisdom
7. ... an ability in the helper to listen attentively to without losing patience or rushing to judgment
Be awake, be savvy, and the help might just help you rather than harm you.
Did you have a bad experience?
After reading your post I almost feel afraid to admit that I am a coach, and that I graduated from a coaching programme last week. I do think that if you are going to get a coach, it is essential to have a 'chemistry meeting' first to make sure both the coachee and the coach feel comfortable with each other. That doesn't mean that the coach is not going to challenge appropriately.
Just to give another perspective, this a blog I wrote about what I learned when I was working towards becoming a coach.
It takes a long time to learn to be a coach, and I am till learning.
That's a nicely provocative post, Paul!
I agree that the unhealed healer is one to avoid - and that one way of doing that is to find someone who has had both professional training of some sort, and long experience. Word of mouth recommendation, as with so many other fields, is a good route too.
Curiously enough, I found my coach through AMED - at the time, there was a sort of 'matchmaker' initiative between new coaches and people looking for coaches. We went through quite a long and detailed process to check that we were right for each other - that process in itself was great for my personal reflection and goal-setting.
I take a similarly 'slow' approach when talking with potential new coaching clients.
Like Edward, I'm still learning....
Would you know what qualifications are usually good indicators that the person is serious about this? Thanks!
I think that is a very grey area. I know some excellent coaches and mentors with no formal qualifications, and some who would be my last choice who have a string of letters after their name. Also, different coaches root their practice in different disciplines and even "gurus"!
I'd look more towards that opening conversation, that "tuning in", in terms of the criteria I listed above. I do believe that any formal qualifications benefit from:
- access to real hours of practice during the course
- that the mentors or coaches are part of processes such as peer action learning or are also coached or mentored
- blogging, publication and putting their "take" on the world into the world to help potential clients tune in