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Life coaching is a relatively new addition to the helping professions: what exactly is it?

Life, or personal coaching, is a way of creating a safe and supportive space for an individual to share their challenges as well as goals with a trained individual and get help with overcoming those challenges and accomplishing those goals. It involves an exchange that often includes a lot of humor and fun, but has no shortage of hard work as well. And empathy, always empathy. Life coaching sessions can be carried out over the phone, via video-conferencing, in-person, and even while strolling in the park. The life coach's goal is to understand their client as best as possible, get a sense of their life goals as soon as possible, and help them strategize an action plan that is compatible with their values. It can take 1-2 sessions for some people, while others may choose to work with their coach for years- it really depends on each individual's specific needs. Depending on the particular coach's training, they may employ a variety of different techniques in their approach, and tailor them according to the individual client's needs. 

What is Strategic Intervention (SI) Coaching?

"What we do is take the time to understand a person, with no other agenda, understand their objectives, dreams, goals, relationships, and world, and help them achieve what they want most in life... that's something that most people have never experienced before." This is a quote from the Strategic Intervention Handbook, written by Magali and Mark Peysha, two of the founding members of the Robbins Madanes Training institute that trains coaches in the SI methodology. The other two founders are Tony Robbins, arguably the world's most successful life coach, and Dr. Cloe Madanes, one of the world's leading family therapists. SI draws from the fields of Ericksonian hypnotherapy, human needs psychology and neurolinguistics, among others. This approach can be used with individuals, families as well as wider workshop-style groups.

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?

A form of psychotherapy developed by Dr. Aaron Beck in the 1960s, CBT uses the cognitive model to explore how a person's perception of a situation influences their thinking, feeling and behavior. In doing so, this approach helps clients to adjust their unhelpful thoughts and behaviors so as to create a balance in their mood and an improvement in their well-being. CBT was the first psychotherapeutic approach to directly address negative thoughts and identify their role in mood disorders, after Dr. Beck realized that all of his depressed clients reported having them. To this day, it remains the most-researched form of psychotherapy and according to some, it is the most effective treatment for both anxiety and depressive disorders. 

What is Emotional Intelligence (EQ)?

EQ is all about being smart with your emotions. What does that mean? Knowing your emotions and having an extensive emotional vocabulary to name them, being able to detect them in your body as well as in your relationships, being able to regulate them, and finally, being able to choose how to express them. 

What is Positive Neuroplasticity?

Positive Neuroplasticity is a relatively recent discovery that gives us great hope that we can change our brains for the better. For a long time we wrongly believed that we are born with a fixed number of brain cells that only decline in quality and number with age. We now know that our brain changes and grows just as we do, and this is what we call "neuroplasticity." Positive neuroplasticity is an approach championed by Dr. Rick Hanson, which consists of practices that create positive habits and by extension, an increase in psycho-emotional well-being. 

What is Interpersonal Neurobiology?

This interdisciplinary sub-field of neuroscience is interested in how our relationships play out within and between our brains and bodies (or the "embodied brain," which is how the field defines the "mind"). The field draws from many other sciences, such as anthropology, sociology, linguistics and even physics and mathematics in order to better understand what our mind is made of and how it behaves on its own and when connected to other minds. It's goal is to ultimately help people integrate the many different aspects of their minds and relationships in order to enable some of the highest facets of humanity to emerge, such as empathy, kindness and insight.

What is Attachment Theory?

This theory forms the core of any family or couples therapist's work, and really anyone who works in the helping professions would greatly benefit from having at least basic knowledge of it. It is a psychological model that describes and explains how our attachment [i.e. relationship] to our primary caregiver influences our relationships for the rest of our lives. The theory was first developed by psychologist John Bowlby in Great Britain, who was interested in understanding the intense distress experienced by infants when separated from their parents. His colleague Mary Ainsworth took his theory further and identified that, depending on the behavior of the primary caregiver in how they respond to their child, children will ultimately develop different attachment styles characterized by different emotions and behaviors. 

What is Positive Psychology?

A relatively new field within psychology, positive psychology is concerned with what is right with people, as opposed to what is wrong with them. A strengths-based model, it is interested in how people obtain and maintain states we consider to be "positive," such as empathy, joy, generosity and compassion to name a few. The main misconception when it comes to this psychological model is that it completely ignores what we consider to be "negative" states and emotions. Positive psychology researchers study "positive" emotions, habits, relationships, and generally positive states of mind, and this informs those of us working as therapists and coaches how to help improve our clients' well-being; the goal is never to surgically remove negative emotions and/or thoughts because those play a vital role in our psyche as well. The goal is always to find a healthy relationship between the two.

What is Mindfulness?

This is a mental process that involves paying attention to the present moment. Jon Kabat-Zinn, who was one of the first Westerners to popularize mindfulness and employ it as a healing method, defines it as: "Awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally." As you read this, notice the little toe on your left foot, become curious about how it feels, and be open to sensing it- something you probably don't do consciously very often. Congratulations- you were just mindful!

Why the Focus on Technology?

My hope is that now that you have familiarized yourself with some of these fundamental aspects of human psychology, it is easy for you to see just how disruptive device [over]usage is to our mental well-being and our relationships.