It’s a bit of a surprise that I ended up being a coach and not a psychotherapist. After all, my Dad is a Psychiatrist, my mother was a therapist and my step-mother was a psychotherapist. As you can imagine, I grew up steeped in conversation that wasn’t about sports or current events but more about the exploration of underlying feelings and the “meaning” of our day-to-day experiences. As a teenager, I felt like my parents were not-so-delicately excavating in a place that I wanted to keep private but inevitably this way of asking questions and having an intuitive sense of what lies beneath the surface of conversation was part of my DNA.
I always knew I’d end up in the world of psychotherapy but I ended up studying art and dance before taking a break from college and getting some experience in the “real world.” I spent time in a plethora of careers; fashion, business, personal fitness training and nutritional counseling before deciding it was time to get my college degree. When I graduated with a degree in psychology I still didn’t feel like I was ready get my PhD and sit in a psychotherapist chair. Instead, I fell into the technology world as a recruiter, just as the internet was exploding.
I found that my knack for asking questions and sensing what lurked below the surface in answers that job-seeking candidates provided, came naturally to me. I effortlessly noticed patterns in people and could sense “red flags” in candidates, garnered from conversations that lasted only 20 minutes. This innate ability made me highly regarded and successful in my career.
In my personal life, my former In-Laws (a conservative New England family) found my way of asking questions to be unique to their “close-to-the-vest” ways. They were both refreshed and terrified of my ability to know the truth beneath their proper exteriors. At one point, I believe they called me “Question Carla.” Truth be told, I’m curious about people and I feel a lot of us don’t get a chance to inquire into our own “stories” or patterns of behavior on a deeper level. I also feel that sharing “brokenness and suffering” helps us feel a deeper connection with one another; something so many people crave.
Eighteen years after starting in executive recruiting, I had also successfully started and ended a few businesses on my own, and was coming to the end of a 20 year marriage. At that point, I was really looking into my own truth and suffering. I was yearning to work with people on a deeper level than the 20 minute phone conversations I was having as a recruiter. I also found myself yearning to support candidates in overcoming patterns I could see in their work behavior which was affecting their careers as well as their overall happiness. Once again, I asked myself if becoming a psychotherapist was the way I wanted to go.
Somewhere along the way I discovered the world of coaching and a light went off. It felt like everything that didn’t feel “quite right” about becoming a therapist, clicked into place like perfect puzzle pieces. Coaching felt much more aligned with how I’ve always operated in my life: If something isn’t working; come up with solutions to change it. If the first solution doesn’t work; try something different. Psychotherapy is great for understanding, “WHY” you ended up with certain behavioral patterns or emotional responses but coaching is more about, “WHAT ” are you going to do to change those patterns?
What I love about coaching is, it’s really a partnership. A coach doesn’t tell their clients what to do; a coach guides their clients on a path towards their own inner knowing. This feels so powerful and collaborative to me. Of course, there are times when my clients dive into difficult emotional territory (and we can do some beautiful work there) but so much of what we do together focuses less on the past and more on the present and future and this is usually an exciting process for people. When my clients can reflect on the progress they made over the previous 6 months, they can see how far they’ve come and this “observable” development of capacities is so rewarding for people!
It may have taken me awhile to discover coaching. Maybe I had some of my own bias’ against coaching because of my upbringing and education. Now that I’ve found it however, it feels like I’m in the right place, doing the right thing.