Unlike therapists, life coaches dont diagnose or treat anything and unlike supportive friends, they charge money to listen. Is the hit to the wallet worth it?

How do we start the day? the deputy instructor asks.

Distinguished sharing! the room of 20 or so life-coaching students, ranging in age from their 30 s to their 50 s, aloud respond as one.

It is Saturday morning, and I am at the Andaz hotel on Wall Street find life-coaching training at a school called Accomplishment Coaching. The full educate takes a year of weekend sessions; this session marks the halfway phase.

Christopher McAuliffe, the CEO of the company, asks one of the students to share his personal problems with the class, to explain them in a way that allows the class to understand what he is really feeling. McAuliffe, in his shiny dress shoes, well-fitted suit and loud pink tie with tiny lions published on it, has the air of a auto salesman, all easy jokes and quick smiles.

Within minutes the student is talking about issues with his young son, and how helpless he feels. How he has lost his connect with his wife. How he wants to tell her he is also scared about their son, that she is not alone, but does not know how to talk to her any more. Twenty minutes later, McAuliffe sends the student out of the room with instructions to call his wife and discuss their connection issues. After the student leaves in a burst of energy and enthusiasm, McAuliffe has the rest of the students talk about the questions he presented and what they learned from listening to him.

Life coaching has emerged in the past 20 years as a new profession that straddles a middle zone between the work of a psychologist and a really good friend. Despite therapy of every stripe, weekly brunches for commiserating with friends and amateur athletics squads for camaraderie, life coaching has still been able to find a lucrative niche.

The practice has no regulation on a state or federal level , nor a licensing board or real oversight. Anyone can be a life coach as long as they call themselves one. Unlike therapists, coach-and-fours dont diagnose or treat anything. And unlike supportive friends, they charge you money to listen.

Coaches are part of a motion of self-improvement: learn to cook, get in shape, achieve your life objectives. Their websites often boast taglines about achieving your authentic ego or achieving miracles, as if working with them will move you to another airliner. They sub-specialize in everything from the very personal( such as helping people get over a messy divorce) to the professional( helping executives make decisions and operate companies better ).

Despite a lack of regulation or uniformity in train, the practice has become wildly popular, with the industry growing to an estimated$ 2bn a year.

The International Coach Federation( ICF ), which offers voluntary accreditation to coaching schools and functions as a coaching self-regulatory organization , commissioned a study of coach-and-fours worldwide in 2012. They found that there are an estimated 47,500 life coaches in the world, with 15,800 in North America, charging an average of $229 for an hour-long session.

As the practice has become more commonplace, in addition to about 300 training programs in the US, respectable and sometimes even venerated institutions of higher learning have gotten in on the act, with universities such as Harvard, Stanford, NYU and Columbia offering coaching classes or certifications for those with a substantial budget and a desire to learn.( Interestingly, the university programs tend not to be is reflected by ICF; McAuliffe believes universities are trying to approach the subject from an academic standpoint, to depict empirically that coaching can work .)

Since the profession is still in its wild west days, with some training courses as short as one weekend, it requires effort to distinguish a trained life coach from someone who had nothing better to do one Saturday. Certification means a program offers a certain sum of contact hours and practical training in actually coaching a person. That is what allows you to have letters after your name, explains Lisa Pisano, director of admissions at the Coach Training Alliance on an orientation call with interested students.

Pisano is another graduate of the program and in her private practice specializes in coaching recently divorced middle-aged females. Unlike the intense in-person sessions at Accomplishment Coaching, Coach Training Alliance, which is also a certified program, does its training solely over the phone, in a series of conference calls with students over the course of six months. The program has existed since 2000, which Pisano says attains it one of the oldest. It has developed more than 8,000 coach-and-fours so far.

Most realistic goals that people set would require three to nine months of coaching sessions to achieve, says McAuliffe. A life coach acts as a mirror that reflects peoples patterns to help construct them more well informed what they are doing in their own lives, said McAuliffe. They also help a client bide motivated and are of the view that an impediment is not insurmountable, he explains. When it comes to business coaching, for most people that are ascending in their careers there are fewer people that you can speak with candidly who have no agenda. Speaking truth to power is not welcome in most organizations these days.

For Stefanie Ziev, a life coach whose website boasts clients such as Mario Lopez, the former Saved by the Bell star, life coaching is a partnership to hold[ clients] accountable. Ziev likens a coaching session to an archeological dig to find the limiting beliefs of a client that prevent them from moving forward, which she then helps them learn to contain.

Ziev, like many coach-and-fours, conducts her conferences with clients by phone or Skype, and her practise includes both men and women, ranging in age from 23 to 60, though her core demographic is 35-to-45-year-old professional women. Like practically all life coaches, Ziev came to the profession after hitting a roadblock in another job. She was a successful television executive who felt stuck in their own lives when she decided to develop to be a life coach. She got her certification after a six-month program in November 2007, two weeks before she was fired from her task. She has been a professional life coach ever since.

McAuliffe was a businessman with a focus on hospitals and health systems. His coaching moment came in the early 1990 s, when he was in his mid-3 0s and starting to feel like there had to be more to life than making money and dating. After reading self-help books and looking for meaning in other places, he found a life coach. McAuliffe recollects: At the time, I was wearing Armani and feeling like I was at the top of my game, and yet I had this secret emptiness inside, or yearn. He challenged me in a way no one did in those days; I mean, I was wearing Armani for exclaiming out loud, but he spoke to me in a way that reach me right between the eyes about who I was. After that, he was hooked.

Annie Lin, a younger life coach with her own practise who signs her emails with the words boons, said today social media and the need to keep up is part of the reason life coaches have become popular. Facebook and Instagram have become the place to showcase ones best version, packaged for public intake. Many of my clients expressed their angst of lag behind because their friends constantly post photos of bridals, babies, parties and exotic trips, she explains.

It helps that, according to Ziev, we are at a time in history where we have the luxury to ask what will induce me happy.

While I remain skeptical of a profession that seems to be defined by the things that it is not namely, therapy or consulting or mentoring if it helps someone be happier and more productive, perhaps it cant be bad. Money is there to make people happy, so if that entails paying someone to tell you to set some realistic goals and call them with an update on your presented in a week, well, good luck observing the authentic you.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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