Talk is cheap. That is, until you have a coach. We’re not referring to your track and field coach, but instead someone who you can turn to for a professional, judgment-free pep talk.

Is coaching like therapy?
Coaching and therapy require similar skill sets in order to help clients; however, they have different orientations and approaches. Just because you have a coach doesn’t mean you need a therapist as well, or visa versa.

Ronni Murray, a therapist-turned-coach, explains that coaching is for people who need help but not mental help.

“In coaching it is assumed a person is complete and has everything they need to work from there,” she says. “Therapy looks for issues in a person’s life and operates under the assumption that these issues derive from their past.”

In other words, coaching doesn’t fix a problem but focuses on enhancing what’s already there and growing the client’s strengths.

This may be why professional coaching is so popular. Executives from top corporations talk to coaches to improve their leadership skills, while employees who have been recently promoted are working with coaches for several months. Murray says the client-coach relationship can last anywhere from several months to several years because it can take some time to see results.

Are coaches certified?
Certification is not currently required, but that’s quickly changing. The International Coach Federation (ICF) is considered to be the governing body of the industry, creating a code of ethics and requiring every coach to ultimately become ICF-certified.

It’s also interesting to note that many coaches are actually in their second career.

“I loved working at the hospital as a therapist, but when new management took over, I felt like I had to leave,” says Murray, who now works for Veria Companion, a personal and professional coaching phone line. “I went into coaching because, although it doesn’t share the same medical model as therapy, it still strives to develop a holistic client-coach relationship with positive psychology and emotional intelligence.”

Why should I find a coach?
Everyone needs a nudge now and then, and if you’re looking to optimize yourself a coach can help get you there. In this day and age, one’s mental health is extremely important. With coaching, you can create an action plan and learn about accountability.

So, how do you find the right coach? Murray says that, like therapy, it can be trial and error. There has to be a comfortable connection, but Murray advises not to judge a book by its cover.

“One of my most memorable clients was a 19-year-old intercity hip-hop artist who came to me as a new father,” she says. “Although we came from a different world and generation, our souls seemed to be from the same place. We had a six-year coach-client relationship.”