Q: How can I get help to make a big life-changing decision, such as changing careers or deciding whether to have kids? Should I see a therapist first?
After more than 40 years as a counselor, then therapist, then coach, I can tell you that the most important thing needed for important life decisions is Clarity.
Clarity about who you are and what you want, meaning your big picture, long term Vision for your life.
Most people have no clue beyond what’s in front of them. Gaining clarity about who you are and what you want at an authentic, deep level requires-
- Maturity- things are too malleable and changeable when you’re younger, there’s no substitute for…
- Experience- life can teach you lessons only by living it and making mistakes. You learn nothing by staying safe in your comfort zone. But life experience by itself doesn’t cause growth and learning…
- Evolution- with maturity and life experience we evolve and become a different version of ourself over time. This can be driven with conscious intention to become the person you want to be and live the life you want, but not everything can be planned or controlled, so evolution happens organically as well. But evolution by itself doesn’t create clarity.
- Expanding awareness- this is the key to your question. How do you expand your awareness and become so clear that your path forward and the decisions needed to achieve your big picture long term Vision are easily identifiable?
Realize that (psycho)therapists are trained and licensed to diagnose and treat mental, emotional, and psychological disorders, they are clinical mental health professionals, not personal growth experts. They will most likely see you through the lens of needing to “heal” your past to move forward and find happiness and fulfillment. As a therapist/coach, I don’t agree with this. You can spend years trying to “heal” and even if you do, that doesn’t magically make happiness or success happen. I’ve learned that “Success is Therapeutic!” (you can quote me on that to your therapist friends).
Many, if not most therapists, are personal growth oriented, so they may or may not be able to help you gain the clarity you need, it depends upon the skills and abilities of the individual therapist.
Professional coaches, however, meaning life coaches who have credible training, are certified by the International Coach Federation or similar credible certifying body, SHOULD have the skills and tools to help you gain the clarity you need to make pivotal life-changing decisions.
All effective coaching STARTS with gaining clarity about who you are and what you want for your big picture, long term Vision. This is exactly what Life Coaching is, but not everyone who calls themself a Life Coach will have credible training or the skill/tools needed, so be sure to examine and verify their references, testimonials, credentials, etc.
When you find one you have confidence enough to try, don’t sign up long term- you will know in a month if they can really help you, and if you’re not blown away, move on to find someone who can really help you. Like most important things in life, the search and journey is not always easy, but you’re totally worth it.