At age 49, I was desperate for a new career. I’ve worked in the mental health field for over 30 years, 20 of them as a psychologist. You could say I was a little burned out.

I lived in the mountains, far from any city, and wanted an online business so that I could kiss my commute goodbye. 

I also wanted a career where I could use my hard-won mental health skills. Previous jobs had me working with clients who were not voluntarily seeking help, and most of whom weren’t open to change, even though they wanted to feel better. 

This time, I wanted to work with people who truly desired change and were motivated to take action toward their own success. 

I hoped and prayed I wasn’t asking for too much.

Lo and behold, I actually found what I was looking for – life coaching. It met all my requirements and more. 

When I excitedly told my friends and family about my decision to become a life coach, they all said, “Good for you!” 

After they saw that I was serious about my new pursuit, some of them meekly admitted they had no idea what a life coach actually does. 

When I clumsily provided them with an answer, hoping they weren’t paying close attention, I realized even I didn’t have a good understanding of “life coach.” 

To become a life coach, I went back to school to get a certificate in coaching, took a marketing course, and started building a website (as well as many other tasks to start an online business, but that’s a whole other blog article or two). 

And yes, I finally acquired a clearer description of what a life coach does! 

Every time I tell people about my career switch, almost all of them ask me, “What the heck is a life coach?” So, I decided to answer this question on a broader scale.

What exactly is a life coach-Dr. Tristan Sophia
Coaching is collaborative.

Official “life coach” description 

The International Coach Federation (ICF), which is the leading global coaching organization and professional association for coaches, defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”  

The ICF lists four responsibilities of coaches:

1-Discover, clarify and align with what the client wants to achieve

2-Encourage client self-discovery

3-Elicit client-generated solutions and strategies

4-Hold the client responsible and accountable

Inevitably, the question following, “What is a life coach?” is “If you’re a psychologist, why did you have to go to school to learn to be a life coach?” Technically, I didn’t have to go to coaching school; I chose to. 

Life coaching currently is an unregulated industry (hopefully won’t be much longer), and anyone with no training or experience can call themselves a life coach (and charge money for their services). 

I chose to get formal training because I wanted to learn precisely how to be a life coach and not assume I knew what coaching was just because I’m a psychologist. Because while life coaching and counseling have similarities, they also have differences

Counseling vs. Coaching 

One difference between counseling and life coaching is that counseling focuses more on examining emotions, while life coaching concentrates on accountability and results. 

As a coach, I typically don’t ask, “How does that make you feel?” Instead, I’ll ask, “What action have you taken this week toward your goals?” At the same time, paying attention to and fostering intuition is a big part of my coaching.  

Another difference relates to what clients want. Therapy clients often seek relief from intense emotional distress, depression, anxiety, trauma, and/or painful relationships. Coaching clients are not in significant emotional distress and feel ready to make changes in their lives.  

More about coaching

Coaching is not mentoring, consulting, or advice-giving.

Coaching is collaborative

You and your coach work as equals – your coach is skilled at coaching, and you are the expert on your life. Together, the two of you come up with new ways to approach obstacles, so you can immediately start seeing success on your chosen goals. 

Your coach will ask you powerful questions that help you think outside the box, see things from a different perspective, and make gains often quicker than you ever anticipated. 

Additionally, most coaches provide email, text, or phone support between sessions, which is a game-changer for coaching clients. 

Not having to wait until the next coaching session to talk to your coach and being able to ask a question or get needed support is a unique and beneficial aspect of coaching.

Overall, coaching assists people to reach beyond habitual behavior patterns and truly start living the lives they have always wanted. Of course, the key is a solid and consistent commitment on the part of the client.

Some coaching clients have specific ambitions, such as improving stress management, becoming more assertive, or increasing self-care. Other coaching clients can have less-precise goals, like achieving more balance in their lives, finding their true selves, or healing from narcissistic abuse.

Coaching clients who make the fastest gains are the ones who have the willingness to look at themselves and replace their limiting beliefs while taking consistent action to move forward on their goals.

Dr. Tristan Sophia’s Niche

Dr. Tristan Sophia coaches career women who want to heal and thrive after narcissistic abuse.

I coach career women who want to heal and thrive after narcissistic abuse and create fulfilling relationships and joyful lives. 

I couldn’t be happier with my new career. It’s definitely a win-win situation.

If you want someone to be honest, supportive, and creative while advancing your motivation and inspiring you to stay dedicated to your vision, a life coach may be in your future.

Or if you’re looking to have a rewarding career where you work with determined, motivated clients, who are changing their lives for the better, life coaching can be your future!


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