In middle age and beyond, the familiar roles of parent, employee, son, daughter, husband or wife can be upended by the loss of a job, retirement, grandparenthood, health changes or caring for elderly parents. A life coach can help ease you into these changes.
Redefining yourself is a common thread for people 50 and older, says Zach Prosser, president of the Cleveland Chapter of the International Coach Federation (ICF), which provides accreditation and training for life coaches and referrals for potential clients.
“People are healthier now. They’re living longer and they still want to do something. They ask ‘Who am I?’” says Prosser, pastor of an Akron church.
“You need to redefine who you are and find a balance between your personal goals (and responsibilities). You need a fresh start,” he says.
“I love working with people over 50,” says Mentor coach Tracy Baranauskas. “Most are very comfortable with themselves or ready to get comfortable with themselves and willing to take some valuable risks to move forward.”
Do You Need a Coach for Your Life?
But what exactly is a life coach and how do they differ from a therapist? According to ICF, coaching involves goal-setting and is future-focused, while therapy tends to delve more into someone’s past.
“A consultant (therapist) answers clients’ questions. A coach questions clients’ answers,” Prosser says.
A look at noomii.com lists Cleveland area coaches with a variety of educational levels from PhDs to certifications, as well as hourly charges ranging from $50 to more than $200.
Lakewood coach Jim Kargakos says there is no set course of study for coaching. Often, he notes, life experiences can draw a person to the field. A professor of psychology for over 25 years, he decided that he wanted to share his knowledge with others beyond the classroom.
“As I got older, I became more interested in everyday living,” says Kargakos, adding that creating his “Psychology of Happiness” course was the catalyst for becoming a certified coach five years ago. “I realized I had so much to share.”
Likewise, Prosser’s experience of counseling people as a pastor plus working with a coach himself set him up to coach. “I thought, ‘Wow, I want to perfect the skills I honed in the ministry,’ and I did see that happen. Coaching has provided a deeper training and a richer experience.”
Does coaching work? For Laura F., a home stager and real estate investor, the answer is a big “Yes.”
“I’ve gone to (my coach) for three years. I’ve been going through some major life changes, and she has helped me through. I couldn’t have reached my goals as quickly myself,” she says, adding that her coach gave her the jumpstart she needed during a stressful business situation.
This chemistry is key, Prosser says.
“There has to be a personal connection,” Prosser says. “You must have open communication, or it’s hard to create an environment for personal growth.”
Sue Botos is a former newspaper reporter from Rocky River, who is always open to redefining herself.