So, you may be thinking about powering up the quality of your life by experimenting with life coaching or therapy. People come to therapy and coaching for many reasons – all of which are important, and choosing the right practitioner can make the difference between a ‘ho-hum’ experience and an ‘oh my God why did I wait so long to do this’ revelation!

Finding the right practitioner can feel like a daunting task, particularly if you don’t have a personal recommendation. Even then, a practitioner that blew your friend or colleague’s problems out of the water may produce quite different results in you! What can be done to make this journey less fraught with frustration and misadventure and more full of WOW? Well, read on and I’ll see if I can help.

Know your desired outcome

First things first, you need to be reasonably clear about what you want. Here are some common candidates:

  • I want to get clarity on some issues I am grappling with.
  • I am suffering from a mental health issue (anxiety, depression etc.)
  • I need to make a decision about something important in my life (relationship, work, parenting, business etc.)
  • I want to explore my full potential.
  • I want talk to someone about an idea or life change.
  • I want to improve my general health and wellness.

Are you after someone to just listen and act as a sounding board while you figure things out or are you looking for someone to actively get involved in helping you set goals and move forward?

Knowing your desired outcome from the process will help you be more clear when assessing whether the practitioner you meet is going to be able to do that with you.

Am I ready?

Another important question to ask yourself is whether you are actually ready and receptive to changing yourself or your life at this time. I cannot stress how crucial this is if you want your desired outcome. Sometimes people present, for therapy in particular, because someone else has sent them. Or they are unhappy and want someone else to make them happy again.….

No matter how good your practitioner is, they have almost no hope of moving you along if you aren’t intrinsically motivated to achieve your goal.

 So how do I find a good practitioner?

Good life coaches and therapists are not afraid to work in their own style, and great practitioners inject their personality seamlessly into their work. They may use similar models but how they convey what they know is highly individual. Qualifications and experience are important but their capacity to build trust and connect with you in a meaningful way is also an essential ingredient for success. This means that you may need to do some shopping around until you hit on the right person for you.

One ‘no commitment’ way to get an initial sense of the practitioner is to look at their website, particularly any videos they have made or blog posts they have written. This can give you an immediate flavour of who they are and help you decide whether to get in touch. When you do get in touch, try and speak with them directly over the phone or Skype as this is another way to suss them out and clarify their experience and qualifications. Testimonials are also good if you can find them but bear in mind that psychologists and some other health practitioners are prohibited from posting them due to their ethical guidelines.

So, once you’ve found the most amazing practitioner, how do you make the most of that first session?
  • If there are any questions that you want to ask, write them down so you don’t forget.
  • If you think you will have trouble articulating your concerns, write those down too. If you want to get your practitioner up to speed more quickly, give them a dot point summary of the things you most want them to know about you.
  • Apparently up to 80% of the content of a session is forgotten by our client after they leave! If that is likely to be you, take a notebook and jot things down as you go along. We luuurve that!
  • Keep your senses open to your internal feelings about this person as they respond to you – do you feel comfortable, inspired, reassured, valued?
  • At the end of the session, ask the practitioner how they think they might work with you, what methods or framework they might use or any initial ideas they have.

And after the session….

Ask yourself:

  • Did I feel heard and understood?
  • Did the practitioner appear authentic and genuinely interested in me?
  • Was I treated with respect (was I welcomed warmly, did we start on time – if not, did they apologise for making me wait, did they appear prepared)?
  • Do I feel that I can be honest or at least learn to become open with this person?
  • Was I comfortable with the person or in the office. Did it feel like a safe space for me?
  • Did I like their style of talking and the ideas they proposed?
  • Would I feel comfortable speaking up to this person if I disagreed with something they said or if I wanted them to do things differently?
  • Am I really ready to invest the time, energy and money into this work right now?
If you decide to continue, think about these things:
  • If you are a ‘doer’, ask about making a plan and setting some goals early on in the process.
  • Be prepared to do some serious but awesome work. You won’t experience the benefits of coaching or counseling just by sitting in the same office with a practitioner! We have a saying in this industry – if you are working harder than your client you are doing it wrong!
  • Most life coaching and therapy has two broad goals – to improve insight or awareness about what is wrong or could be better and then to follow it up with some kind of action connected to that insight. If you don’t do the action part you may not fully benefit from the process.
  • Have a go at any ‘homework’ suggested. At home tasks are designed to consolidate what was learnt in session so that it gets translated into the real world where it matters the most. If you don’t fully understand the rationale or purpose, make sure you ask.
  • Get your head around the money you are spending on this service. Coaching and therapy are intangibles but the bottom-line benefit is in an enhanced quality of life that touches everything you do. If you don’t value this and are constantly wishing you could spend the money on a new TV instead your commitment just won’t be what it could be!
  • Speak up early if something isn’t working – don’t just leave. Give your practitioner the opportunity to address your concerns and change if necessary. If that doesn’t work then by all means walk away.
To get the best value out of your coaching or therapy:
  • Turn up when you say you will and ‘show up’ for yourself – honour your commitment to your own self-care and say no to self-sabotage if it comes calling.
  • Take notes – I suggest purchasing a beautiful notebook or journal to record thoughts to share with your practitioner and other things like ‘aha’ moments, strategies, plans and goals, homework and anything said in session that resonates with you.
  • Be realistic about the process. If you have a lot of issues you may not resolve them in one batch of sessions. For many people, therapy or life coaching is part of a lifelong journey of self-discovery and refinement so they may dive in more than once with more than one practitioner. This is normal and healthy as, just like with weight loss, those slow and steady changes often translate into lasting rewards into the future.

The bottom-line benefit of therapy and coaching is an enhanced quality of life that touches everything you do and everyone you know. It will affect how you feel about yourself and the confidence with which you move through the world. If you invest with these outcomes in mind and truly value the opportunity to take care of yourself there is no end to what you can achieve.

I so appreciate you taking the time to read my posts and I sincerely hope that you find them helpful. Please understand, however, that the information you find here is not a substitute for therapy and I cannot respond to individual requests for help in the comments. If you have serious concerns about your mental or emotional health please seek personal, professional help.