They've helped people make more sales in their jobs, lose weight, do more creative writing and even get their spiritual lives in order.
As life coaches, Modesto residents and friends Lynn Telford-Sahl and Carol McKay help people figure out what they want to achieve and the steps they need to take to get there.
Popular in the Bay Area and Southern California, life coaches are a new concept to many in Modesto.
Telford-Sahl, who holds a master's degree in psychology and also serves as a counselor, defines the difference between the two fields: Counseling clears up the past and life coaching looks to the future.
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"I say I give encouragement, support and a gentle kick in the pants," said Telford-Sahl, who has an office at Balanced Living Counseling Center on Standiford Avenue.
She focuses her life coach work mainly on business coaching for women. She has worked with insurance agents, Realtors, salespeople and entrepreneurs.
Lynn Quijada-Splan, director of new business development at Warden's Office Products in Modesto, had never used a coach before but worked with Telford-Sahl because she knew her first as a friend.
"I had set four goals at the beginning of the year," said Quijada-Splan. "Within 90 days, I had reached three of them."
One of her achieved goals was to sell $100,000 worth of merchandise in a month.
Quijada-Splan said Telford-Sahl's methods were "down to earth and comfortable." The coach didn't tell her what to do, but instead asked good questions to help her find the right direction to take.
"I was able to find skills and talents that I had stifled for years," she said, adding that she became more creative in her problem solving.
Telford-Sahl says she does most of her work by phone, usually speaking with clients in a 30-minute session two to four times a month. She starts by assessing a new client's health, wealth, happiness, strength and weaknesses, then asks them to set goals. She then checks in with them to see how they've progressed. She charges $397 for four sessions.
She got interested in becoming a life coach about five years ago because she wanted a new challenge and she liked the results she got after her hiring her own life coaches. She completed a four-month training offered through the National Institute of Clinical and Behavioral Health Medicine.
Telford-Sahl published her own book, "Intentional JOY: How to Turn Stress, Fear & Addiction into Freedom" and the spiritual novel "The Greatest Change of All," and has spoken around the country about women's wellness, stress management and women's leadership.
She said she uses her intuition to get a sense of where her clients are on or off track. She has also helped clients lose weight and even find a spiritual path at their request.
"I'm interested in them exploring for themselves their own spirituality," Telford-Sahl said.
The International Coaching Federation said there are about 16,000 coaches worldwide, hundreds of schools offering training, as well as an endless variety of subjects: health, relationship, spiritual, creativity, business, career, acting, sewing, gardening, dating, parenting and divorce.
Coaching emerged in part from the human potential movement, in which people who were functioning well wanted to do better, and from corporate leadership and training programs, said Vikki Brock, a Ventura personal and business coach since 1995 who wrote about the profession for her doctoral dissertation. The field grew as people moved away from families, churches and other supportive institutions and became more isolated from humans and more connected to the Internet, Brock said.
McKay was certified in 2005 by the Life Coach Institute after completing a nine-month program. She follows the code of ethics listed on the Web site for the International Coaching Federation.
She does most of her coaching over the phone and on the Internet and works with clients who live in Modesto, Spokane and Phoenix. She charges $225 a month for three 30-minute or two 45-minute sessions per month, or $65 a month for e-mail-only coaching, and asks new clients to make a three-month commitment.
McKay said people are attracted to coaching because they want a fresh perspective.
"I think people get stuck in inertia," she said. "They're overwhelmed. They don't know what to do first."
McKay became interested in coaching after spending 20 years as a Weight Watchers group leader. She realized that people who have weight concerns often have other challenges in life.
In her coaching, she uses "The Passion Test," based on the New York Times best-seller of the same name by Chris and Janet Atwood. She is also trained in the Sedona Method, which teaches people to let go of any painful or unwanted feeling, belief or thought. She helps clients work with the Law of Attraction, a concept popularized in the 2006 film "The Secret," which says that like attracts like.
McKay also helps people clarify their values and strengths and figure out where their roadblocks are.
"The things that hold us back tend to be the same -- fear. (The idea) that the devil I know is better than the devil I don't know," she said.
McKay has coached men and women of a wide range of ages, though most clients are women in their 30s-60s. She also specializes in coaching teens of both genders and helping parents learn to coach their children.
"I rarely have men inquiring about coaching," she said. "I have had many men take The Passion Test with me and I'm pleased to report many successful outcomes."
One client is a schoolteacher who meets with her every summer to discuss plans for the school year. Another is a poet who uses McKay to help her set a writing schedule. McKay said she never makes people feel ashamed if they don't meet their goals.
"I tell people, 'I stand for you and not for your goals,' " she said. "It's about helping people get the insights to help them figure it out themselves."
Nicki West, a Modesto interior designer, had never heard of a life coach before she met McKay. When she checked out her Web site and read the description, she thought it was exactly what she needed.
McKay helped her come up with a list of her priorities, which has helped her make better decisions in the use of her time.
"I tend to go where the most energy is pulling me," she said. "It's helped me go, 'Wait a minute -- do I need to spend energy on this? Do I maybe need to be spending on something else?' "
Both McKay and Telford-Sahl say it's harder to get clients these days because of the poor economy. While people want coaching more than ever, they have a hard time coming up with the payment.
But West said she's glad she received coaching and considers the money well spent. "It's not therapy," she said. "It's somebody guiding you for self-counseling. You're the one with the abilities -- the coach is just getting you to the next level."
The Los Angeles Times contributed to this report.