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by Dave Ellis
Crown House, 2006
Review by David M. Wolf, M.A. on Sep 18th 2007

Life Coaching

Most people don't know there exists a nascent profession called "Life Coaching" and would be surprised to learn, according to Dave Ellis, there are more than 10,000 professionals active in the field (Other sources report even higher numbers). But this book is for life coaches themselves and for the many thousands of people interested in becoming--or actively training to become--a life coach. Such readers already know this exciting, dynamic profession offers unlimited possibilities.

Life coaching appears to have emerged mostly since the 1990s from various sources, such as Life Purpose Work, the Forum, Lifespring, Lighten Up, success seminars like those offered by formerly Boulder-based Career Track and others, together with coaching tracks from sports and fitness training. As a practical matter, it has a mostly upscale client base.

Dave Ellis is ranked a leader in the field, successful enough to act the role of philanthropist for life coaching and author of several books. In Life Coaching he has written an excellent guide for professionals, many or most of whom are transitioning from counseling to coaching or are life coaches. It's a book that offers a great deal more than appears at first glance. What it teaches reflects a deep background in experiential adult learning and is consistent, concrete, and specific to applications.

Ellis makes a clear distinction between counseling--much more familiar--and life coaching: the latter is not about giving advice or following an agenda. Coaching is client-centered; coaches help people create the life of their dreams; coaches provide a relationship that advances and promotes what clients say they want in their lives. Ellis wants coaches who believe in and aim for transformation in the lives of clients, who believe in the inner "genius" of every client. It's difficult to fairly evaluate these locutions, and ideas behind them, out of context, because the language sounds like hype when reported. Ellis keeps it real even though what he is describing is possibility-thinking, somewhat mysterious to those not involved with life coaching.

In a way, the book is a surprise of comprehensive coverage, because its simple style lulls a reader into an initial under-estimation of its content. By the time one reaches, say, page 134 "Solving Problems" the materials begin to overwhelm, providing one creative, specific technique after another for life coaching with clients--as if it's all too much. Well, it isn't, of course. It's just that this manual is really meant to be read and then used as a reference and guide to selecting some needed technique, yielding its value over many different readings and times as needed while coaching. A manual is meant to be replete and comprehensive; this one is.

It follows that this book is useful in two ways: First, one should read it straight through to grasp its content with no attempt to retain or apply what it describes. Make annotations. Perhaps evaluation begins after this reading.

The second use: the book should be intellectually ripped for its many techniques, or at least those of most interest to each reader. There is much to choose from: powers and possibilities in coaching, coaching mechanics, how to listen, how to work with clients, enhancing skills, evaluations, using questions creatively, marketing a coaching practice, and much, much more.

 Anyone serious about moving from client counseling to life coaching would benefit greatly from making a curriculum of Ellis' work--even typing out techniques, exercises, approaches, creative methods based on Ellis' paragraphs.

Now, a few words of caution: Some of what Ellis describes is so creative, these things may well belong mostly to his character and his personality. A reader has to be the judge of what to use and what to overlook.

Also, Life Coaching presumes a high level of the reader's own experience and background in inter-personal counseling, group or coaching work. This reviewer can see many indications of Ellis' own non-traditional (non-academic) experiential learning, but not many younger or newer readers will perceive the depth of Ellis' roots. So, this book is not best for green counselors and would-be coaches right out of classrooms. Life coaching, after all, is meant for professionals with life experience as well as work experience.  That's the point of the subtitle: "A manual for helping professionals."


© 2007 David M. Wolf


David M. Wolf, M.A. has been leading a Philosophy Evening twice- monthly for the past year at Yoga Bookstore & Cafe in Honesdale, PA. He is the author of Philosophy That Works, a book about the foundations of knowledge, truth, and philosophy; you can read sections at Google Book Search or Chapter One at David is presently working on a new novel, and a growing collection of sonnets, and other works

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