Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
"What is Life Coaching?"
The role of the coach is to help you delve deeper into yourself and your life situation, so you can surpass your barriers and resistance to change, and to have someone to help you uncover what is holding you back.
For the general population, life coaching helps people discover live out their dreams and remove obstacles and junk that hampers their progress. Coaching sessions are conversations that explore goals, unblock actions, teach and uncover skills, hold you accountable to yourself, while provoking new thoughts and inspiring you to develop and follow your burning desire.
Coaching plural, multiple, or DID (dissociative identity disorder) systems is a specific type of group coaching where we work on leadership, trust, team building, communication skills, removing barriers, delving into difficult relationships in the group, and helping the group unite around common goals and dreams. Plural systems pick their goals and we help them work towards them. We can help plural systems create or learn new tools or adopt new paradigms to uncover what is there waiting to be seen and heard. If they don't have a goal, our focus will always be improving communication so that the team can make group decisions (such as what they'd like to work on in coaching next).
Coaching sessions for singulars or individual system members are "Enlightened Conversations". Life coaching is an invaluable service to help you move your life forward and change it's trajectory -- by your own rules. It's a process of guided transformation, where you can leverage consistent support, encouragement, mentorship, role-modeling and clarity from your coach to help empower you to see through massive and rapid life changes. It's an end to procrastinating your life away, an end to struggling with the daily grind. It always allows leveraging your freedom to choose so that you can choose wisely.
"What holds people back from progress?"
Sometimes you don't know what you don't know. Part of coaching is asking the tough questions to uncover the blocks and barricades you don't even realize are there.
We help you or your team explore what's possible to uncover what you want to work on next.
Many people are held back by fear, anxiety, worries, concerns, confusion, and not knowing their own resources. Sometimes people have a dream but can't figure out where to start, but most people who have a dream or goal allow it to be set aside due to other priorities. A good coach will help you find ways to make your goals a priority while managing your stress levels.
When people are afraid they have a hard time making long-term plans or figuring out their next step in achieving a long-term goal. When you're anxious or worried you feel rushed about what you feel stressed about. You're consumed by it. So fear keeps you locked into the big problem, and doesn't allow you to set it aside and take care of other things too.
For survivors of trauma, it escalates another level. Anxiety can bring up unconscious automatic behaviors that hamper progress, provoke flashbacks and intrusive thoughts, initiate episodes of self-harm, sleep disturbances, angry or emotional outbursts that threaten relationships, etc. As a trauma-informed coach, we help you manage anxiety and learn how to mitigate some of these reactions.
"How does fear tie in to stress?"
"Fear" is the big category for a lot of very personal emotions: concern, worry, panic, anxiety. It also ties in with other undesirable emotions like frustration and anger. Some philosophers say there's really only two emotions: Fear and Love, and everything else is simply a matter of degree and blending those together.
When we have these feelings, our body releases a chemical into our system that tells us to shut off everything unnecessary and go into "Panic Mode". It shuts down our digestion, it changes our circulation, it changes how we think. If we're just a little anxious, it's a trickle of the chemical. If it's outright panic, then it's a flood. It puts us into the state that medicine and biology calls "Stress" -- our body changes systems to handle the crisis even at the expense of our long-term health.
The problem is that our body is not meant to live in a state of distress for a long period of time. We're supposed to spend most of our time in a relaxed state, and sometimes have something that worries or frightens us, resolve it, then go back to being basically relaxed or excited about something we're working on.
But in our modern world, we're subjected to stress every day. We've forgotten what it's like to have no stress in our lives. Instead we have deadlines, crunches, workaholism and even Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Some of us are in a constant state of anxiety. We need help.
"My parents want me to get coaching. What if I don't want coaching?"
So, a note to parents: we can't be bought. We are not money-motivated. We will help your child work towards their goals and dreams, not yours. You can't bribe or blackmail us into coercing or harming your child. We will happily coach you on being more accepting that your child is not an extension of you, and as their own person they will make their own life choices.
Back to addressing the "child" in the situation:
Your parents can pay for your coaching, but they can't hire your coach for you. No coach should allow someone other than the person receiving the coaching to hire them. I always proceed with the utmost caution when the person paying the bill is someone other than the person being coached. Coaches do not "fix" people's problems, or "make" people do anything. It's not how this works.
So let's make this clear: you have to be all-in. It's your coaching. No matter what goal the payers have for you, I work with and for you and work on your goals. I will not report your progress back to them.
I'm often faced with the prospect of a parent wanting something about their child to change. And that may or may not align with what the child wants to change or work on. So my initial discussion will be with the parents to make sure they understand that they do not direct the coaching relationship; their child does.
The child is the client even if the parents are paying the bill. The parents may not get what they expect from paying for coaching since it's about working on the child's goals and future, not the parents' idea of what the child's goals and future should be.
So say the parents want their child to build up more confidence and become a leader. They're secretly hoping the child will go into politics and become President one day (but don't mention this during our conversation). I explain to them that the child directs the relationship in coaching, and that I'll be working with their child on their child's goals and uncovering their dreams, and the skills and tools they want to develop to move their own life forward. The parents are perhaps uncertain, but agree to a 6-month coaching commitment and are prepared to pay for it. I do not start coaching yet.
I now have a coaching intake conversation with their child and explain that if they choose to work with me, the sessions will be paid for — however these are the child's sessions (not their parents') and I want to know what it is the child would like to work on. So let's say we have a conversation, we hit it off, and the child decides yes, they want to work with me. Terrific, I just send the parents an invoice and ask for payment. If asked, I'll say "your child agreed to work with me." If they ask what we'll be working on, I will say "I'm sorry; that's confidential."
Say the child loves music and art. They want to work on getting into an art school and continue to play music. In the meantime they are considering short-term options to increase their income so they can go to concerts and performances, pay for trips to museums, and perhaps take some music lessons on the side. So this becomes something of a customized career coaching arrangement, not a confidence/leadership building coaching arrangement. Along the way, we may role play or discuss strategies to help the child communicate this change of expectations with their parents, if that's what they want to do.
The only exception to confidentiality is whether or not the sessions took place, any fees for cancellations or late/missed appointments, and whether or not the coaching arrangement has ended. This all also goes for corporate coaching. With the payer's permission, I may discuss what outcomes the payer wants from the client, but I will not put pressure on the client to comply with the payer's wishes.
"What is a 'peer'?"
A mental health peer is a person who has or has had a known mental health issue.
To provide support services for other peers, a mental health peer must be stable enough to provide services to help support other peers without putting themselves into crisis or getting triggered, and without creating issues of codependence or projecting their own issues on their customer. Peer services are available in a variety of environments, such as substance abuse counseling or peer support for people with mental illness or mental health challenges (neurodiversity).
The peer support philosophy is that no one really understands the complexities of mental health issues, living with a mental difference, the stigma of having a diagnosis, and the daily living issues of mental health struggles like a peer, so peers can provide additional emotional and experiential support to their clients over persons who have never experienced a mental health issue or crisis.
How can you both be a peer and a life coach?
We are both a mental health peer and trained as a life coach. Our experience with the mental health system as a client, with the struggles of mental illness, self-regulation, difficult internal processes & relationships, digging ourselves out of depressive spirals, etc. have given us a unique insight and empathy for others who have similar or worse struggles than we do.
With DID it is common to spend 6-8 years with a variety of misdiagnoses or to have comorbid disorders such as PTSD or C-PTSD. We have had a variety of mental health diagnoses (dissociative identity disorder (DID), generalized anxiety, mild-to-moderate major depression (episodes), (C)PTSD, autism (in process of diagnosis), schizotypal personality disorder (possible misdiagnosis, not a current diagnosis), borderline personality disorder (possible misdiagnosis, not a current diagnosis)).
We spent time in a mental hospital (9 months in 1986-7), with both inpatient and outpatient individual and group therapy over the next several years. We took a long 25-year break from therapy once discharged from outpatient services, and did self-help work making enormous progress on many of our issues, coping skills, internal and external functioning, etc. We raised 2 children during this time, which brought forward several traumaholders. We are currently in therapy (we started therapy again in 2017) to work on trauma issues that some of us still struggle with. A specific sub-group of Crisses are life coaches, and they are not traumaholders. Our traumaholders and untrained headmates are not allowed to participate during coaching sessions.
As a life coach, we are trained in maintaining a professional distance from our client in terms of not creating codependence or projecting our issues on our client. We set aside our own issues and are fully there for clients during sessions, but still come with additional knowledge and perspective of having experienced mental health crises, hospitalization, therapy, anxiety, the effects of stress on mental health, emotional break-downs, the recovery process, triggers, stigma, judgement, inability to work, inability to care for myself, etc. We know this brings additional value to the people we work with, and helps them feel understood, and seen for who they truly are rather than a set of symptoms. Me don't pass judgement on our clients or their diagnosis. We help you see who you are, determine where you want to go, how to get there in spite of your issues, and help you work around any disabilities, differences, or limitations you may have or experience.
"Do you work with people without disabilities or differences? I've never been diagnosed with a mental health issue."
Yes we can work with people who do not have disabilities or differences. We have worked with singular clients, folk who have no diagnosis, authors and writers on specifically coaching through the writing and publishing process, and with business owners and entrepreneurs on business coaching or a blend of personal and business work-life balance issues and coaching in the past. It's not our major focus, so we do not market ourselves to those groups.
Setting goals and achieving them is a universal struggle for everyone. Managing energy, attention, concerns & anxiety, etc. are all part of life, so we have the skills and knowledge to coach these things plus those other topics of experience. We have additional compassion and sympathy for people struggling with daily stressors and the toll these can take on clients, and that has a universal value regardless of your circumstances. Some people undervalue the cost of what our society may see as "normal" stress and we recognize it and help you overcome it. Stress does not only take a toll on people with mental health issues — it can have enormous impacts on our physical health as well.
"Do you need to know about my past or trauma?"
Coaching is about mentoring you into the future, not about digging into your past. If you feel that you want to mention something that happened that is playing into a current obstacle to move forward, we can be an ear and listen. But we are very careful to not pry or ask probing questions into your deep traumatic past. That's not where we belong. We may ask about patterns in recent behavior that directly impact your ability to make progress on the topic you have chosen to discuss.
If significant trauma is what's holding you back from making progress in the area you want to make progress in, and you're looking to process trauma or make sense of your past, then therapy may be warranted. Do keep in mind that you can have coaching and therapy at the same time.
Since hearing about too much adversity and trauma can be mentally and emotionally exhausting for practitioners (and very draining and destabilizing for you), sometimes it is best to set it aside and work on what you can work on to make improvements in your life overall. We are holistic creatures, and improvements in any area of life can help with other areas — so for example proper nutritional support can help build mental resilience, which in turn can help when working with a therapist on trauma recovery. We are convinced that if coaching looks attractive to you, there are areas that can be improved to support you through whatever else you are going through.
"What will you do for me?"
We will ask pointed questions, evoke ideas and emotions, and help you find what is in the way and how to either work around it or through it, or how to make it less of a barrier. We will help you open up to possibilities, keep you on-track and accountable to your goals. We will accept you — whomever you are at the moment — as you are while challenging you to become the person we both know you can become -- the person you want to become (each of you, individually). We will help you learn the tools you need to grow into your dreams. With plural clients especially, we have unique perspective on the competencies you may need to develop, and the challenges you are likely to face. We can help you adapt tools to fit your system and circumstances and help with encouraging everyone in your system to come to agreements and work towards a shared future.
"What won't you do for me?"
We won't hand you a plan* or tell you what to do. We can't and won't do the work for you. We won't pass judgement, label you, or ask you to change to fit into society's opinion of "normal". A coach is not a therapist, and we will not fix your problems for you, but we can help you find what's getting in the way of you transforming dreams into reality, and help you get past it. We will help you find the gifts that your challenges have given you, so you can experience unconditional love and profound gratitude.
* With the one caveat that group coaching or a pre-made program may be a pre-designed series of ideas and exercises intended to walk you through a specific process of self-development. In this case, you have chosen to go through a pre-made process and since you are bringing your unique situation and perspective to it, we fully expect you to get something unique out of it. So even if you are going through a "pre-made program" with our help in individual coaching (say going through the United Front Boot Camp with coaching on the side), we will help you focus on how the suggested ideas or exercises apply specifically to your system, how to adapt ideas so they work for you, or help you figure out and explore why a specific ideas doesn't work for you. Maybe you're not ready. Maybe you're almost ready and just need another skill before you can get there. We'll help you figure out what you need to make progress, or how to continue on without that step.
"Is this like being a paid friend?"
While some aspects of coaching may overlap with what you can get from a really good friend (listening, sounding board, confidentiality), this is a professional relationship requiring trained skills and much different boundaries. A coach is to push you in ways that hopefully a good friend will not. You may be made uncomfortable in the way that a loose tooth is uncomfortable when you wiggle it, or a muscle is sore after exercise and could use a massage. The coach listens when you speak for where there's resistance, denial, or a lack of personal insight. For patterns of thinking and the self-talk that keeps us from making progress.
So for example if a client is using the word "should" too often, the coach may realize that they are feeling heavily obligated and start to ask, "What makes you think you really have to?" or other questions that help them see that they have more choices or help them dig into the real "Why" for doing it so they find out that it's not an obligation after all; they have chosen to do this thing for much better reasons, but their motivations got obscured along the way. Once there's less of a burden, energy is freed up, and their mind starts to see things as choices and possibilities.
A friend doing the same would be seen as pushy and intrusive. But a coach who does not nudge or lead you away from your own obstacles isn't doing their job. If you think of a coach more as a mentor rather than a friend then you get a more accurate picture.
Also, a friend should hopefully take your side in a dispute with someone else, where a coach may need to step outside of that to look at how you play into the situation, where you are in control of your responses to the situation, and to see better outcomes to guide you to see them as well. A coach will notice when you're not being authentic with yourself, or when your beliefs are feeding you bullshit.
It's not a coach's job to hide the truth from you. Friends may tell "white lies" to protect you from the full truth. Coaches are there to hold up the mirror and let you see yourself with as little distortion as possible.
"How is coaching different from therapy?"
Coaches are not interested in exploring the past or labeling you with any disorders, prescribing medications, or assigning therapies. The best coaches are interested in helping you see more possibilities, work into your best possible future, and transform obstacles into opportunities. You choose whether you want to have a coaching relationship, and you choose the agenda for each session. With consistent coaching, you can expand and determine your goals, then make rapid progress towards them.
"If I ask questions by email, how quickly can I expect an answer?"
You may email me or text me with questions at any time, and I will usually answer quickly, but I may be with a client or out of the office, so please remember that life coaching is not an emergency. I do not always monitor my phone or emails. If you think you may need to talk to someone or ask questions on an emergency basis, you would probably call someone other than your life coach. Life coaching is proactive and preventative. If you're having an emergency or crisis, please seek out emergency assistance, a therapist, or other health professional. There are suicide hotlines, emergency caseworkers, etc. who are set up to help in times of crisis. There are also hotline texting services for mental health issues. We are happy to help when we can.
"Where are you located? Where can we meet?"
I do most of my work on the phone, which allows for travel, client privacy (you can't accidentally bump into my other clients), and making my services available at a lower price to more people. For some clients, I can arrange to travel to you, or arrange for office hours in the Orange County (NY) area — so long as I'm not on the road. Visits to your location may incur travel charges.
I am willing to do in-person intake appointments for free in a public space such as a diner, coffee shop, etc. However, phone still adds an extra layer of privacy, and isn't possible if I'm travelling.
"Are our sessions confidential?"
Yes, your session is confidential. There is a confidentiality statement in our coaching agreement.
"Do you accept insurance?"
Unfortunately we cannot accept insurance, however you should inquire as to whether or not you can use a flex spending account (should you have one) or self-direction monies for life coaching sessions.
"I'm on disability insurance. How can I afford you?"
We do our best to be flexible and offer sliding-scale services. We provide discounted services with the caveat that if you should improve your income you voluntarily increase your session fees. Honesty in our relationship is important, and we do need to pay our bills as well.
"What is your refund policy?"
If you are unsatisfied with your session, we will refund you for one session.
"What is your late/cancellation policy?"
Individual sessions can be canceled without penalty with 24 hours or more notice. If The Client cancels a scheduled appointment without 24 hour notification, 1/2 hour of coaching will be deducted from the current prepaid sessions. If The Coach misses a scheduled appointment without 24 hour notice, 1/2 hour of coaching will be credited to The Client (this has yet to happen — but we figure turnabout is fair play). If a scheduled appointment is missed without a courtesy call, the entire session length shall be deducted or credited. This agreement works in favor of the party who is "stood up" in case I miss an appointment due to an emergency involving my children, etc. Sometimes Life Happens. As it hasn't happened in all my years of coaching, it would be pretty darned unusual. :)
"How many coaches are in your practice? You alternate between 'I' and 'we'…"
Liberated Life Coaching is run by one body-person, Rev. Criss Ittermann. However, we are a group entity sharing one life. We discovered that we had a mental difference in 1986 and have lived as a knowing group entity ever since, with no desire to try to eliminate one another in the name of "normalcy". We consider our multiplicity or plurality to be a strength, and as a result we have several internal trained life coaches, shamanic practitioners, and Interfaith ministers who can provide coaching and supportive services for persons with mental health differences, issues or disorders. As a result, we do sometimes alternate between I and we depending on our comfort level with revealing our multiplicity, or the external culture of the people we are dealing with. We are quite happy to use either the first person singular or plural in your sessions, whichever you are more comfortable with.