“If you’re 25 and you want to be a life coach? Here’s the thing…old soul and brilliant or not? You gotta actually live life a bit more before you can have anything really valuable or relevant to impart or share. We all do have puzzle pieces for each other but develop yourself first. Then people will trust you more. When they know you have walked through your own fire. Someone close to you had to die. You have to have lost a job or a home or some lovers or your mind or your h…eart. You can’t be textbook. You have to have some real-world, real-life experience as a grown-up. To have traveled to and immersed yourself in other cultures. People have to feel from you not just that you get it intellectually or even emotionally. But that you’ve lived through something similar and come out the other side. That it has softened, strengthened, deepened and ripened you. That you sought out coaching or counseling yourself. Go. Live your own story. Gather experiences. Have adventures. Screw up. Make amends. Create your own life first.”~Courtney A. Walsh
When I was a student at Glassboro State College, studying psychology, I worked in a crisis counseling center called Together, Inc. There I cut my teeth on basic counseling skills; active listening at the core of the techniques, along with family therapy and crisis intervention concepts. I was building an idea of what I wanted to do with it all and I learned from my co-workers and clients every day. I was also attracting experience like lint fuzzies in the dryer.
Between college and grad school at Rutgers, I jumped on board the South Jersey Council on Alcoholism, offering educational programs for teachers so that they, in turn would offer them to their students. I was mentored by a man who had been in the field for at least a decade. I watched in amazement that he was so polished and at ease and I was fumbling with note cards and feeling not particularly eloquent. I asked him for his secret. He smile and said “Stories. When you have stories to share, it will be easier.” He was on target. All these years later, now at 55, speaking, writing, counseling and ministry are my chosen career path. I wish I could recall his name and tell him “I finally have stories.” Some are from my own life experience (foster parenting, adoption, marriage, widowhood, being a family caregiver, recovering co-dependent, various jobs, illness, injury, job change, losing a home to Hurricane Andrew, being an adult orphan) and some from working with clients for the past 30 some years as a social worker, therapist and coach. Being a privileged listener helps. I learn a great deal from my resilient thriver clients.
This in no way negates someone’s innate talent as a counselor/coach and their training. Theory will only get you so far. It truly is the falling down and skinning your knees and then getting back up again that will serve to make you the best possible guide for another.