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Life Coaching and Psychotherapy

Learn about life coach George Lough, how he became a life coach and his unique approach of combining life coaching and psychotherapy in helping his clients achieve their goals and improve their lives.

What is your definition of a life coach?

A life coach is a guide who gives you direct advice about your life. Perhaps the best way to understand life coaching is to contrast it with traditional psychotherapy. In psychotherapy the therapist allows the client to proceed at their own pace, typically using active listening to encourage clients to explore their feelings. But a life coach directs the client by helping them establish goals, identify and

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overcome the obstacles to these goals by setting up a disciplined program and monitoring the client’s progress. While a therapist is primarily helping you heal from past traumas and deal with psychological symptoms, a life coach is assuming you are psychologically healthy enough to make progress towards your life goals by utilizing the coaching.

Why did you become a life coach?

After many years of personal therapy I still had problems to overcome and I sought out a life coach for a change from supportive and reflective traditional therapy to a less gentle, more direct approach that works well for certain people at certain times. When I came to this coach I didn’t realize what an angry man I was, on the verge of irrevocable bitterness, my wife and daughter tired of my arguing and negativity; my relationship with my parents still fraught with trouble; unhappy in my career and lacking friends. It is a mistake to think that your friends and/or family members will necessarily tell you the bald-faced truth about they feel about you and your behavior in your relationship with them and in your life in general. They often have too much to lose by confronting you and risking your getting angry. And sometimes we don’t listen to those closest to us, feeling they have their own agendas and that’s why they are “criticizing” us. But a life coach is in an objective position and it is his/her job to tell you the truth, even if it offends you or makes you angry. Since we can be blind to our faults, there are times, more often than we’d like to admit perhaps, when it is essential to have someone tell us the truth about ourselves. The coach I chose immediately and strongly challenged me: when I said I loved my wife, he said, “Well you’re not acting like you do.” Along with his confrontation he made suggestions, even gave dictates about what I needed to do to change and as a result my life transformed. This personal experience convinced me of the value of life coaching and I incorporated it into my counseling practice. This is not to discount traditional supportive psychotherapy in any way because it was my previous personal therapy experiences that helped prepare me for the more direct confrontation of coaching.

What is unique about your coaching practice?

I’ve been a traditional therapist for 32 years and in the last 7 years I’ve incorporated life coaching into my practice. I use a blend of therapy and coaching, especially when the client needs to address issues from their developmental history that are keeping them stuck. Sometimes deeper emotional issues underlie our inability to formulate, work toward and reach our goals. I’ve been trained to work with people who’ve had developmental and shock trauma and I find that at times we need to work through traumatic issues as a way to remove the blocks that are preventing progress towards goals. Once these issues are addressed and resolved, then our energies can be freed up so we can reach our goals. When a client does not have significant unresolved personal issues from the past then we will work directly on outlining a strategy, staying on track and completing the goals they want to accomplish.

Who is your ideal client?

My ideal client is a person who has the ability and willingness to seriously consider whatever his/her coach suggests as ways to help him/her evolve. For example, at one point early in my experience being coached, my coach suggested that I do ten gigs of stand-up comedy at a nightclub’s “open-mic” hour. Well I don’t even like to stay up late and the whole idea seemed frightening. But I gathered myself and my few jokes together and did it. It turned out to be an amazing experience. I didn’t become George Lopez (I remained Doctor George!), but learned that I could get some laughs and more importantly, that I actually had the self-confidence to get up there and try, something I had not known about myself; and that lack of self-knowledge had negatively affected my professional life (something the coach perceived from our first session). So the ideal client has to have some courage and ability to be psychologically honest and act on the coaching, even when it seems contrary to common sense, trusting the coach’s judgment about what he/she needs to do to move forward.

When is it time for a person to start seeing a life coach?

At any time in your life you can always benefit from the input of a good life coach. You may have some specific problem you want to work on or you may have a vague sense that you could do more with your life than you are presently doing. If you have goals you’ve been trying to attain but have procrastinated or not had the motivation to

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accomplish them, a life coach may be able to help you.

About George Lough

George Lough, a cancer-survivor who still surfs, has been a licensed psychologist and university lecturer for 35 years and is co-author of the book What Men Are Like. He has extensive training and experience as a life coach. He lives in the San Fernando Valley with his wife, Cheryl Purdue, who is also a psychotherapist. They have a daughter who is about to graduate from college and they recently adopted a puppy to help them fill the empty nest.

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