When you’re debating big stuff like a career detox or a move to the big city, you probably consult your best friends and family. But there are times and decisions in life that call for more calculated measures, and in moments like those, you might want to consider turning to a professional. We talked to Katie Bennett, co-founder of Ama La Vida, who says that if you’re serious about making some big changes in your life, a life coach just might be the way to go.

“A person should seek out a life coach when they are feeling driven and committed to take themselves to the next level, whether that be in their career, their relationships, their health, their spirituality, or their sense of meaning and fulfillment,” she says. She explains that before you seek out a life coach, it’s important to be ready to commit to the process so you’ll get the most out of your sessions. Want to know more? Here’s what we found out.

What’s the process like? 

Once you’ve found a life coach, you’ll probably go through an assessment process designed to help you gain self-awareness and understanding of the things in your life that you most want to change. Then, you’ll work with your coach to create goals based on that assessment. At Bennett’s practice, these goals are broken down into six key milestones. “These milestones are then broken down further into action steps, creating a thorough, clear, and effective plan that enables each individual to reach their vision,” Bennett said.

Finally, these milestones translate to (hopefully!) accomplished goals that last beyond the coaching sessions themselves. “Not only do we want to ensure that our clients see meaningful changes beyond each coaching session, but we also want to ensure that they are able to maintain them far into the future,” Bennett said. “This means that we need to implement various strategies and mental habits to ensure that the goal outcome is fostered and developed long after the coaching engagement is completed.” Bennett says that while this process seems linear, it can get messy; the realities of life often creep in, which is totally normal. When her clients change strategies or milestones, she and her team help them learn lessons in this transitional period.

What’s the difference between a life coach and a therapist?

“A counselor is more focused on your past,” Bennett said. “Coaching is far more focused on solutions and your behaviors. Of course, it is important to identify the obstacles holding you back, and at times it may be necessary to touch on your past. However, the main focus is on the present, the future, and how to get you from where you are today to where you want to be.”

Bennett says that another important distinction is that a therapist aims to take you from a negative place to ground zero, while a coach will “take you from ground zero to infinite possibility.”

Who are these people?

Bennett admits that “life coach” can be an ambiguous title, and resents the fact that so many unqualified people use the term. In order to find a life coach who will be worth your time and investment, Bennett recommends seeking out an accredited coach with the correct qualifications.

While all real life coaches reach these standards, their backgrounds vary widely. Bennett began in the industrial banking industry, but found her way to life coaching after reading Your Brain at Work ($15) by David Rock. Others, she says, mostly come from different careers before pursuing coaching.

Have you had experiences with life coaching? Let us know what you thought @BritandCo!

Brit + Co may at times use affiliate links to promote products sold by others, but always offers genuine editorial recommendations.

(Photo via Getty)