Linda Dickens felt lost and directionless as she anticipated her last child leaving for college. After an intense legal career, she stayed at home with her children for 16 years. Linda toyed with the idea of donating legal services once her nest became empty but hadn’t gotten much further. Then she took a four-hour workshop with coach Marilyn O’Hearne, MSW, which included individual pre- and post-coaching sessions.

“I feel like I have direction, vision, excitement and energy,” Linda says of the result. “I have three essential parts of myself I need to include – artistic expression, interaction with people and providing legal services to the right [nonprofit] organization. Marilyn knew how to lead me from thoughts to a practical, written plan and gave me the confidence to do it. For each idea I wanted to develop, she asked, “What’s the first step for you and when are you going to do that?” then she’d point out roadblocks and inconsistencies in what I was saying.”

Marilyn was a psychotherapist and served as an adjunct college professor before she learned about the coaching profession in 1998. It still excites her a decade later. “This, to me, is the most effective and exciting way to work with people,” she says. “The excitement is working with people who are healthy but maybe have lost their vision – what you want to be doing in the world – and want to make a big change. Your vision is where the excitement and energy is [in your life].”

Coaching is designed to help people maximize their personal and professional potential and develop their unique gifts and abilities. Marilyn encourages and supports her clients but also challenges them to change. “I listen and feed back to the client,” she says. “Coaching is partnering in a way that is creative and inspiring. You can’t start with no energy and make any progress.”…

How it Works
Marilyn typically sees clients for about six months, although some leave after a month and some stay for 18 months. She most often starts with a three-month contract, but clients might leave sooner if they believe they’ve reached their goals. A monthly fee provides a client with two to four face-to-face meetings of half an hour to an hour, with phone and e-mail contact between sessions. “I keep my client in mind all the time,” says Marilyn, who includes e-mails (as part of her package)…

A professional coach should be ethical and provide a place of safety, where clients feel their confidentiality is secure and can freely express themselves. Coaches should be skilled listeners who offer direct feedback, ask powerful questions and assist clients in creative brainstorming. Certification is a plus. Marilyn is a Master Certified Coach through the International Coach Federation…

The Cost of Professional Support
The cost for life coaching varies, depending on the scope of each individual agreement. In most cases, a client pays at the beginning of a month for the entire month at rates of $330-$350 and up…

Some coaches offer a free initial consultation… while others charge a separate assessment fee. “I offer complimentary telephone coaching consults to see if we would be a good coach-client match, and for the potential client to experience coaching,” Marilyn says.

Finding a Coach
…The International Coach Federation website, www.coachfederation.org, offers a coach locator with information about each coach’s experience, background, age and fees…

“Whatever [people] want in life, they can find a [coach] to help them get clear and achieve that,” Marilyn says.