I’d like to introduce Tara Vossenkemper, an amazing life coach! She and I discussed Self Love!! It was remarkable and insightful.
Tara was also gracious enough to provide written answers to a few of my questions so I’m presenting that in a Q & A format (let me know what you think!). We discuss these and other topics during the interview…
How does Coaching differ from Therapy?
In a few ways. I know these ways intimately, since I’m both a licensed counselor (aka therapist) in the state of Missouri, but also because I do life coaching.
I hate to burst this bubble, but life coaching (any coaching, for that matter) doesn’t require schooling, certification, licensure, or any formal training. My mother-in-law and I were just talking about this the other night – she could, literally, become a life coach (or business coach, or love coach, or self-love coach) tomorrow. Without any training, without any experience, and without any schooling. If you are looking for a coach, please ask what sort of experience and training that person has.
Therapists, on the other hand, have to have their master’s degree (in counseling, or social work, or clinical mental health counseling – this list is not exhaustive). Plus, once they have earned their master’s degree, they have to receive ongoing supervision for a minimum of two years AND 3000 hours. This is specific to the state of Missouri, but most other states are going to have similar requirements. Therapists also have to pass a national exam that assesses knowledge of different pillars, so to speak, in the field of counseling, such as career counseling, theories, diagnoses, human development, etc. You get the gist. Additionally, therapists have to engage in continuing education units (CEUs) – at least 40 per year (in the state of Missouri), which means that therapists have to consistently be reading and attending workshops or conferences (i.e. always learning).
The main thing here is that there’s no standardization of becoming a coach, whereas with therapy, there’s a large emphasis on the formal training and ongoing education (plus supervision).
OKAY. Just to clarify, because I’m sure I just ruffled some feathers here. There are plenty of coaches who are good at “attending” skills and who are fantastic coaches. Especially those who have been through their own sort of growth period and can then relate to others in really great ways. My bias, if you will, is that there is so much damn knowledge and nuance to human behavior and experience that personal experience isn’t enough. In other words, I highly value additional trainings, education, and experience.
This is how life coaching and therapy differ in actuality. I mean, yes, there’s the education bit (see above), but I also see them as distinct (with some overlap) in practice.
Coaches should have a future-oriented approach. This means that coaches are going to work with you strategically to enhance your life in ways that impact your future. Whether that’s through growing your business (i.e. focusing on steps and things to do to make you money, expand, or grow in new ways), enhancing your relationships (i.e. focusing on building new relationships or making current ones better), finding a partner or mate (i.e. figuring out what you value, “how to attract” another), connecting to your intuition (i.e. finding that inner guidance, connecting to Source), and anything else in between. These are all reflective of moving forward in your life and coaches will likely focus there.
Therapists, depending on their theoretical training and background, will focus on either the past (i.e. working through old traumas, hurts, family-of-origin relational dynamics), the present (i.e. what’s most distressing right now and how to working through it in a way that is meaningful), or the future (i.e. coaching, in a sense). Therapy is about creating and living a life with a sense of congruence. Therapists are also going to turn you towards the scary and painful things in a supporting, nonjudgmental way (sounds horrifying, but it’s ridiculously cathartic when it’s “done”). Whereas coaches are going to focus on positives and building (which is beautiful), therapists are going to dig through the muck AND focus on positives and building.
As another brief note, these are generalizations AND generalities. Not only am I summing up lots of different styles of coaching and therapy into “two” types, but I’m also writing in a way that may imply all coaches or therapists do one thing. This is not accurate. I wrote in a general sort of way to make the blog way shorter than it could have been, as well as easier to digest. Your experience with a coach or therapist may have been different from what I wrote, which is completely freaking fine. Just to clarify.
How does self-care contribute to the wellness of relationships (particularly married relationships)?
First, I love this question. I think that it is common for people (women, in particular) to invest in others at the expense of self. And this is why I love to focus on self-care.
Second, the importance of self-love cannot be understated. This statement cannot be understated. No, I’m not joking.
Let’s start out with a brief definition/explanation of what self-care is. When I write about this, I’m not writing about selfishness. I’m also not writing about martyrdom (which is another form of selfishness, but I can get into that in another blog – it’s touchy for lots of people). I’m writing about a distinct mindset that in order to be your best self in life, you have to actually take care of yourself.
The great thing about self-care is that it comes in many, many different forms. It’s not always going to look the same because we extend ourselves in different ways. For example, if I’ve spent three days solo, holed up in my office writing, researching, or working in some capacity, then my self-care is going to include getting outside of my head and spending time with my friends. Yes, my friends. Having rich conversations about life, and love, and nature, and family. Laughing. Eating. Walking. It doesn’t matter, just spending time with friends. It can also be the opposite. Maybe I’ve spent three days running around for family events, friend’s outings and gatherings, or birthday parties. If that’s the case, then my self-care is going to be way more about isolation from others and time with myself.
Do you get what this is about? Self-care is about taking care of yourself in such a way that you want to give back. That you’re full enough from the inside you have the energy and desire to spend time giving to others.
It’s also something that’s preventive. So, when I write about self-care, I definitely don’t mean to write about it in such a way that I’m painting it in some golden orb of light, or that I’m talking about it like it’s a perpetually-feeling-euphoric experience. No. That’s not the case. If I may borrow Rev. Beckwith’s language for a moment, self-care is a “blisscipline.” It’s an act that can overall enhance the bliss in your life, but it’s also an act that requires discipline. Hence, blisscipline. One of my favorite words ever.
Self-Care in Relationships
Alrighty, this is where it gets fun. As a primer, you may want to read my post on flexible boundaries, as it will give you an overview of boundaries and what I actually mean when I use that term, since I will likely throw it around in this section.
SO. Self-care in relationships is crucial. One of the cultural notions that’s flying around in this world is that we get our fulfillment from our partner. That if our partner isn’t filling us up, then something is wrong and we’re with the wrong person. That our partner should just respect us enough NOT to ask us to help when we’re tired, busy, overwhelmed, or stressed – they should know that we are any of those things and then they should avoid asking us to extend ourselves in any other way. WOW. That’s a lot to ask of a partner. I mean, seriously, that’s a lot to ask of a partner. Not only are you supposed to fill me up, but you’re also supposed to be able to read my mind. … ::crickets:: … No. That’s not what this is about. It is not our partner’s job to read our minds, nor is it our partner’s job to fulfill our every need. I would say that’s impossible for any person (other than you) to do. I would also say it’s not our partner’s job to make sure not to cross a boundary that they don’t fully understand and that is completely contextual (i.e. if you’re happy, you may be more willing to do something; if you’re stressed, less likely = contextual). Really, it’s up to you to set and maintain your boundaries, which does not mean that your partner will cross them, rather it means that you’re comfortable and willing to maintain them.
Okay, lastly, there are two things that I often think and talk about when the topic of self-care is at hand. The first of those is actually scripture. “My cup runneth over” (Psalm 23:5). This is one of my favorite things ever. The way that I understand and embrace it, although I’m sure it’s debated, is that you have more than enough for your own needs. To extend on this, it also means that since you’re full and have enough for your needs, then you have more to give. If your cup is full and running over, then you have spillage from your cup and that spillage can go to others. Such a beautiful concept. The shift here is that you are not receiving from others to have a full cup, rather you are filling yourself to give to others. You are giving from a place of excess and not lack. To touch back on martyrdom for a quick minute – giving to receive or having your needs/value solely met through giving to others is actually selfish in nature. If you are giving because it’s your way of feeling full, then you’re giving only to receive. However, if you are full on the inside and giving because you have extra, which means that you are giving without expectations and not to meet any feelings-of-lack needs, then you are giving from a place that is steeped with self-love and grounded in self-care.
The second thing that I often think about when the topic of self-care is at hand is of airplane rides. Oh my gosh, I can see the eye rolls already! I know, I know, this is common among life coaches, but it’s such a great example. If you’re on an airplane, the flight attendants will take a few minutes before the flight and walk you through what to do in case of emergencies. One of the things they say is that if the plane is going down, you should put your own mask on first before you help anybody next to you, including children. Yes, put yourself before your children. This is an ideal analogy for self-care. Ideal. The message is this: you cannot help others unless you have oxygen. If you don’t have oxygen to breathe, then you’re going to pass out and you’re going to be of no help to anybody. However, if you are fully masked up and able to breath, you are significantly more helpful to those around you. They get it right. If you are full in life, then you are much better at being with others. You’re not relying on them to fill you up and you’re able to help when they need it without feeling resentful or angry.
For those folks who like examples, here’s one from my blog (i.e. it might be familiar if you’re a consistent reader). You are driving home from work thinking about how good it’s going to feel to take a bath for 20 minutes, or to have a glass or red wine, or to do yoga and stretch out your body. You feel exhausted from work and want to relax in a way that is meaningful for you, even if only for 20 minutes. That 20 minutes will feel heavenly and fulfilling for you. It’s your way of recharging. When you walk in the door, your partner says hi and asks, “what’s for dinner?” Being aware of your own needs in the moment, you respond to your spouse, “I’m really exhausted and need 20 minutes of down time. I’m going to take a bath and relax, but I’d love to talk about dinner after my bath.” Easy as pie, right? You’re not saying to shut the hell up, you’re not getting mad because he should know you’re tired, you’re not resentful because you said okay instead of telling her you needed time – all of that goes by the wayside when your focus is on self-care and how to live your life in a way that is enhancing, rather than draining.
How can you get a hold of me?
This is under the assumption that you’ve enjoyed this blog and/or like what I have to say about coaching, therapy, and self-love. If that’s the case, then you can reach out to me directly with any questions, comments, or wanting additional insights at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find and follow me on facebook, youtube, instagram, and pinterest. I’m digging pinterest these days. Big time. :):)
Questions: Emily Pelligra Responses: Tara Vossenkemper
Q & A also posted on Tara’s blog: Simplify Your Existence.