By David B. Wolf

What Actually Happens In A Life Coaching Session?

Most life coaching sessions, in my experience, begin with the client expressing a life area on which they want to focus. The life coach then enters the client’s world and demonstrates understanding of the client’s perspectives, emotions, and inner conversation. Such a climate of empathy becomes the driving force for transformation and self-realization for the client, and often for the coach as well.


In this safe environment the client gets to courageously introspect, lifting the lid to parts of the self that have until that point been less than conscious. With this raised awareness, and the supportively challenging presence of the life coach, the client encounters and addresses issues, fears, inspirations, patterns and connections, and maybe self-deceptions and unacknowledged strengths. Countless times we have witnessed this process lead to clarity about identity and life purpose, as well as resolve to boldly stretch limits and move forward to create a life consistent with one’s highest vision.

Focus On Experience

Melissa opened one life coaching session stating that she wanted to examine a specific relationship in her life, and asking the life coach for feedback on how I perceive her in connection with interpersonal relations. I shared my perceptions with her, and then endeavored to understand Melissa’s situation.

In this attempt my listening focused not so much on the story or external details, but rather on Melissa’s experience and feelings, and on the meaning that Melissa gave this experience. My hope and intention was that Melissa felt safe, respected and secure, to honestly explore.

Self-Reflection Leading To Insights

This self-reflection resulted in fresh insights for Melissa. These realizations were painful, though also exhilarating for her to experience. She saw that in this particular relationship she did use principles and practices, such as win/win, full personal accountability, and avoidance of common roadblocks to communication consistent with highly effective interpersonal relations, and that the other person, most of the time, didn’t evince or employ such principles. Further, Melissa realized that her frustration, hurt and resentment stemmed from disappointment that this other person was not more evolved in his way of interacting with her.

With deeper consideration Melissa recognized that accompanying these feelings of hurt and disappointment were feelings of superiority. She got to feel right, better than the other person. Subtly, Melissa was playing the same right/wrong game for which she severely judged the other person. This was quite impactful for Melissa to acknowledge, and it led to contemplation and conversation about her insecurities that fueled her need to feel superior.


This session closed with the client committing to herself and the life coach to complete a specific exercise that would facilitate her to concretely identify self-defeating beliefs surrounding the patterns she noticed during the session, and to doing focused journaling within a day after her contacts with this other person. Every productive life coaching session contains cultivation of self-awareness, and most effective sessions also include a specific plan of action.

Where Could Life Coaching Be Beneficial?

The above example relates to life coaching around relationships. The same principles and process are naturally applied to other areas of focus, including financial management, health, and spiritual practice. I encourage you to bring to mind an issue or challenge in your life that is emotionally-charged. Consider what it would look and feel like for you to parallel Melissa’s process, of taking inventory of what’s happening in an honest yet compassionate spirit. The next step includes peeling off the layers and seeing what’s beneath, and then playfully challenging yourself with a detailed action plan. In this process, you can also reflect on where in this self-coaching process your blind spots might be, and where a transformative coach, outside yourself, might be beneficial.

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