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April 22, 2008

Focus: Coaches help those who 'feel stuck'

In seven hours, a group of professionals say, they can change a life.

The certified staff help clients find a goal and reach that goal — but they're not counselors, they're life coaches.

Life coaching began in California about 20 years ago, and it's slowly becoming an everyday word for New Englanders.

There are about 20 certified coaches in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. And although most are located near Boston, life coaches can be found in the Merrimack Valley and Southern New Hampshire as well.

Methuen resident Cecilia Robinson opened her life-coaching business, Positive Contact, in 2002. But Robinson said she was acting as a life coach long before she even heard the term coined and earned her certification.

"I'm the type of person that was always consulted for advice," she said. "After a while, I realized I had been coaching without realizing it."

She's helped people find new careers and overcome obstacles in personal relationships — but she's not a therapist.

"This is not hard therapy for ill people; it's for well people that need some motivation and clarity," Robinson said.

And she's not afraid to tell a client that she can't help them — that's part of what it means to be a life coach.

"Absolutely, I've referred clients onto therapy," she said. "If it appears to be more clinical or serious, I will be honest and suggest not to waste the time or money because I may not be able to help you."

But other life coaches are counselors. Marcia Nicoll of Exeter, N.H., a counselor, became certified as a life coach because it's another way to "help people come unstuck."

She said the root of almost all life-coaching problems comes from a lack of confidence or self-esteem. Counseling problems are often related to a deeper issue.

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