An unexpected career in life coaching

Nancy Sowa was considering changes in her life, so she took a course with a life coach to explore her options. Unexpectedly, the course got her interested in pursuing the life-coaching profession herself.

Sowa (at left in the photo above) decided to pair UW’s Professional Life Coaching Certificate with the Grief Support Specialist Certificate.

“I realized how fulfilling it would be to help people identify the things in life that give them energy, that express who they truly are but that often get neglected,” Sowa says.

Sowa decided to enroll in a university-based life-coaching program. She chose the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Professional Life Coaching Certificate, based on the university’s reputation and the program’s competitive price.

“UW-Madison’s Professional Life Coaching Certificate is thorough, experiential, taught by excellent instructors, and supported by dedicated, committed staff,” Sowa says. “The instructors held the bar high and helped us reach it.”

Participants in the Professional Life Coaching Certificate program work toward professional credentialing as a life coach. Through a nine-month series of face-to-face classes and teleconferences, they learn to help people reach their potential and change their lives. Students include those seeking to become a professional coach as well as practicing coaches who want to improve their skills.

The program trained Sowa to listen more closely to people to help them make positive changes in their lives.

“I learned how to ask powerful questions that can help a person get unstuck,” she says. “A life coach can serve as a sort of midwife during the powerful and often challenging process of change and growth. My clients have told me that they think differently now, that their perspectives have changed, and that they have taken actions they otherwise wouldn’t have had the courage to take.”

Making progress in life

Sowa took a unique approach by pairing the Professional Life Coaching Certificate with UW-Madison’s Grief Support Specialist Certificate Program. The grief program is designed to help counselors, educators and other professionals assist people who are dealing with loss.

Sowa believes that making progress in life often involves healing, so she saw the Grief Support Specialist Certificate Program as essential to her training as a coach.

“We often think of grief as related to death, but we also need to recognize the many other losses that occur: loss of a job, a relationship, health, youth, a pet, an unfulfilled dream,” she says. “Saying hello to something new often involves saying goodbye to something else that may have been very important to us. I paired my coaching training with the grief certificate to learn more about healing from loss in order to move forward.”

Sowa works in nonprofit administrative management in North Carolina, and she traveled to Madison multiple times to attend classes for both her certificate programs. She’s found several creative ways to use her training as a life coach, both in her job and her community.

“I introduced a one-on-one life coaching pilot program into the mix of self-sufficiency programs in the organization I work for, and I am in the process of developing a group program for the local community that will combine life coaching, personal exploration through art-related activities, and connecting with others in a supportive environment.”

UW-Madison’s Professional Life Coaching Certificate program is unique in offering a cohort model, in which students go through the program together and gain a sense of community. Sowa appreciates the connections she made and stays in touch with several people from her group.

“We worked very hard, dug very deep,” she says. “I can’t imagine undergoing such a transformative experience without the level of trust, support, and camaraderie that developed among us.”

The next session of the Professional Life Coaching Certificate program runs from September 2015 to May 2016. For more information, contact Aphra Mednick, amednick@dcs.wisc.edu, 608-265-8041. To enroll, see here.

The next session of the Grief Support Specialist Certificate Program runs Sept. 10-13 and Oct. 10, 2015. For more information, contact Barbara Nehls-Lowe, bnehlslowe@dcs.wisc.edu, 608-890-4653. To enroll, see here.