A city characterized by its overachieving and career-driven population, New York’s need for life coaching—both in private and corporate settings—is on the rise. For those individuals looking to put their good listening skills, patience and nurturing to use, programs at NYU, Columbia and other educational institutions offer programs in this relatively new, increasingly popular field.
Coaches assist clients with everything from improving prioritization skills to discovering a new career path, always striving to optimize the client’s potential for success in achieving certain goals. Coaching helps professionals communicate effectively and be better managers—as a result, classes appeal to everyone from yoga teachers to CEOs. "Because coaching draws creativity and resourcefulness out of people, students come simply to add coaching skills to their tool box," said Richard Michaels, a program leader for the International Coaching Federation’s New Jersey branch. Additionally, many students choose to turn life coaching into a career in its own.
Based on the positive psychology movement of the late 20th century, life coaching can seem rather foreign and ambiguous. "It’s a problem with educating the public," said Ellen Ades, a full time, NYU certified, ICF accredited coach who practices out of New Jersey.
On the surface, life coaching has a fair amount of crossover with psychotherapy. However, "people don’t turn to coaching when they’re in need of a healing intervention that therapy might provide," said Michaels. While therapy gives weight to the ways in which family origins and past experiences have affected the client, coaching concentrates on the present and how the client can move forward. "It’s the action orientation and the focus on the client’s own wisdom that sets it apart," said Michaels.
Michaels has been teaching a ninemonth Coaching for Transformation program at the New York Open Center in Midtown for seven years, and finds interest in the field has grown consistently.
"When we first started, we were running one class a year, and now we’re at two," said Michaels. His program trains 36 people in each class, in addition to one- and two-day seminars that draw about 25 people twice a year. Designated as an Accredited Coaching Training Program by the ICF, Michaels’ course, which he teaches along with two others, is designed to accommodate the lives of busy, working professionals.
"ICF is the only globally recognized school within the profession," said Ades. "They’re at the forefront of championing the science." In addition to the ICF, iPec is another organization striving to further the profession based on scientific data. Both groups offer training in Manhattan and across the country.
Students at NYU’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies can choose to specialize in personal/ life coaching or organizational/executive coaching as part of the leadership program and are required to complete seven classes for certification. Mandatory instruction focuses on decision making, communication and motivational skills and may be complemented with courses in marketing and human relations. "Even now, after I’ve gone to so many other classes, the quality of that program is unbelievable," said Ades.
On the Upper West Side, the Teachers College at Columbia University and Columbia Business School together offer the Columbia Coaching Certification program. Students focus on learning guiding principles such as ethics, core competencies that help establish successful relationships with clients and the mechanics of the coaching process. Columbia offers five-day intensives for individuals looking to establish life coaching as a profession (external coaching), and for those looking to incorporate it in their existing jobs (internal coaching). Students have the option to continue on to a coaching practicum, a semester of in-field coaching work and an advanced coach intensive, a five-day wrap-up session, to earn certification in coaching. The program can be completed in as little as eight months, although schedules can be stretched out over longer periods of time.
"It takes dedication and money.
You have to continually learn and better yourself and constantly strive for excellence," said Ades. "Everything is changing so fast, it’s incumbent on every professional to continually get better at what they do." No matter your career, taking life coaching classes may help get you there.
Where to become a life coach: Columbia Coaching Certification Program, 525 W. 120th St., 212-678-8240; $900–$8,700.
Coaching for Transformation at the New York Open Center, 22 E. 30th St., 212-219-2527; classes begin Sept. 10, $5,485. NYU SCPS, 7 E. 12th St. #923, 212-998-7100; $895–$995.