It’s almost Elul – the month when we evaluate the year that is about to end and set goals for the coming one. It’s often helpful to work with a professional when you look at your goals. Our community has skilled people who have made it their profession to help others achieve their goals. These are life coaches, providing coaching and support to various segments of the population dealing with all kinds of challenges. We spoke to three Los Angeles-based coaches to find out what they do, how they can help, and what advice they would give to those who would like to grow this coming year.
“As a life coach, I help people make a plan for their success,” says Rabbi Nesanel Berkowitz, who coaches men and women both within and outside the frum community. He explains two ways in which a coach differs from a therapist: coaches don’t deal with the past, with any traumas or psychological issues, but only focus on the present and the future, and coaches do not give advice, instead asking their clients questions and helping them formulate their own game plan. “Most feel that they own the plan if they come up with it themselves,” he explained.
Muriel Levin, who coaches frum men and women, agreed. Generally she avoids telling people what decisions to make. At the same time, she recognizes there are different approaches within coaching. “My goal is to help a person feel better, think better, and do better. I do whatever is best for the client,” Levin explains. “Sometimes people need to be told what to do [initially], and once they move forward and feel stronger they can make their own decisions.”
Yehudit Eichenblatt, who coaches women, says, “I consider myself a spiritual coach – I coach the higher soul. My goal is to get people more in touch with their neshama, connect to their belief in G-d, their desire to do G-d’s will, and experience the delight and pleasure of being connected to G-d.” Eichenblatt started out as a teacher of Chassidus, with the blessing of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Early on she saw that teaching Torah was only part of the learning that would make a difference in people’s lives. She wanted to give her students tools to apply what they learned to their daily living. “Women need to be coached on how to integrate the knowledge into their own lives, how to remain connected to G-d and their higher goals in everything they are doing, not just when they are in a good mood,” she adds.
Levin also has a teaching background, but it was her experience as a shadchan that led to her coaching career. She finds that both men and women in shidduchim benefit tremendously from coaching. “Talking to a friend is good,” she says, “but it might not change your life. [As a coach] I’m there to support them on a consistent basis.” Unlike therapy, coaching is not regulated. “It allows us to do what therapists can’t do,” explains Levin. “I can call the client, meet over coffee, and take a walk together.” In coaching, there is no assumption that something is wrong with the client. “I assume that all is well and they need some help. I don’t have to know everything about their whole life. Coaching is much faster and helps right away.”
When working with couples, Levin usually meets with both spouses together for a short session, but then works with each one separately, one on one. “Usually, the problem is what’s happening inside them,” she explains. “I build them up, help them become more confident, and then put them together.” Eichenblatt agrees that in coaching, she helps her clients with what is bothering them inside themselves. “I help them look at themselves objectively and very deeply.” Once the client understands her own difficulty she is able to use her higher soul to bring Hashem into the picture. “When they deal with their own issues it has an effect on other people,” she adds.
Levin uses different techniques in her coaching, depending on the client’s needs. Often people know what they must work on, but they don’t know how. “When people want to change they need to change their brain,” Levin explains. Levin follows the latest neurological research and includes techniques that enable her clients to change the way they use their brains, for instance NLP, EFT, meditation, and relaxation techniques. She finds them very effective. “Nine out of ten people who hire a coach improve quickly,” she says. Levin also gives her clients tools to do the work on their own.
All the coaches enjoy their work tremendously. “It’s my passion,” says Levin. “I love to see people’s neshamos light up,” agrees Eichenblatt. “It also helps me understand myself better. I learned the most from working with other women.” “I enjoy seeing people come up with their game plan and carry it through [successfully],” Rabbi Berkowitz concurs.
The main challenge coaches encounter is with clients who are not willing to put in the work required to get the desired results. “People expect a quick fix,” says Rabbi Berkowitz. “They need to give it time.” “People feel they’re done when they need to continue,” adds Levin. Eichenblatt admits that it is challenging to maintain the balance between being empathetic and keeping perspective. “I need to be able to see the good in every struggle to help each woman experience the positive in her challenge, to gain strength and happiness from working through it.”
When asked about advice for this coming year the coaches enthusiastically recommend coaching. “Find a coach that is able to connect you to your higher neshama and who will teach you how to use the ten powers of your unique soul,” says Eichenblatt. “Where people get stuck is knowing how to change,” Levin explains. “You can go to a lot of lectures and change slowly. But in one session of coaching you can learn right away how to change.”
Rabbi Berkowitz lists the three steps of growth. First, define one area where you’d like to grow. Then determine where you are in that area and accept yourself as you are. “This step is crucial,” says Rabbi Berkowitz. “You can’t go forward if you can’t accept the present.” The third step is prayer. “You’re allowed to ask Hashem for help even in spiritual matters and in teshuva!”