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Did you become a life coach during the pandemic? Join the club

Lockdown forced us to examine our lives. Many looked within and saw a life coach.

During the coronavirus pandemic, Christine McDonough decided to become a spiritual life coach.
During the coronavirus pandemic, Christine McDonough decided to become a spiritual life coach.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

The personal trainer felt a tug. The more experience she got, the more she saw that physical training — as in bicep curls and planks — was only a small part of overall wellness. “There are 23 hours when you’re not in the gym,” she said.

One morning, working with a trusted client at her Quincy gym, the trainer, Christine McDonough, made a whispered confession: “I think I am being pulled to be a life coach,” she said.

Had the pandemic not hit, that call might have gone unanswered. It’s hard to carve time out of a busy schedule to change careers. But then came the lockdown, and with it hours and hours free for introspection and online training.

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A life coach was born! Actually, many of them.

Wherever you look, there’s a new life coach. In your Facebook feed talking about her “pandemic pivot.” In your inbox soliciting business. On the phone, chatting about his new endeavor.

“Life coaches are the new yoga teachers,” said Robyn Parets, founder of Pretzel Kids, a nationwide web marketplace for kids’ yoga classes and teacher training.

“If you are not a coach, your sister is a coach or your neighbor is a coach,” she said.

What is a life coach, anyway? Oprah Daily defined the job as an “action-oriented mentor.” Self-help guru Tony Robbins calls them a “supportive friend and a trusted adviser rolled into one.” A blog on the Huffington Post says they’re “people who couldn’t be bothered to actually study psychology, and instead want to earn a quick buck.”

Local coaches have told the Globe they have helped clients: “unlock secret talents,” “live a truly authentic life,” “explore their inner voice telling them they are destined for something greater,” “uncover repressed anger at God and church,” and “talk through why they are triggered by their mother-in-law and create a new mindset.”

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The pandemic’s combo of forced isolation and in-your-face mortality reminder prompted many people to reconsider their work-life balance. Unhappiness was so widespread that a Microsoft survey found that more than 40 percent of the global workforce is considering leaving their employers this year.

So many workers apparently think life coaching is the answer — yoga teachers, laid-off 9-to-5ers, entrepreneurs, and moms among them — that around mid-2020, the uptick started showing up in the monthly surveys taken by the Kentucky-based International Coaching Federation.

Why be a life coach? The better question may be: Why the heck not?

Hourly rates posted on a Boston-based coach-matching site mycoachspace.com run from $50 all the way up to $555, and you can be your own boss and work from home.

The growth may be explained by the simple fact that the more life coaches there are, the more people realize they can monetize the advice they’re already giving out.

That’s Taj M. Smith. He got laid off from a nonprofit during the pandemic and decided to use his master’s degree from the Harvard Divinity School in service of life coaching.

“A significant part of my previous job was to talk to people and help them figure out their goals,” he said. “Then I thought, ‘There are people who do this full time? How do I do it, too?’ ”

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He chortled the happy laugh of a person who just realized he could help people — without leaving his newly adopted cats home alone.

Jill Braverman, a yoga teacher from Brighton, became a life coach after spending lockdown listening to all 379 episodes of The Life Coach School podcast.

She was trying to calm her own anxiety, but when she was 200 episodes in, she thought, “this stuff is unbelievable. I’ve got to share it with people.”

Aspiring coaches can undergo 100 hours or more of training and earn certificates. But at the same time, the field is unregulated, so you could also just stop reading this article right now and hang a shingle.

Despite the good intentions of many coaches — of the people clicking on “Top 35 Life Coach Podcasts You Must Follow in 2021” and “27 Best Life Coaching Books of All Time” — there are charlatans, said Kristina Tsipouras, the founder of mycoachspace.com, which vets coaches to protect clients.

Tsipouras, who is also the founder of a popular networking group, Boston Business Women, has heard horror stories about women who feel they have been taken advantage of by coaches.

“A lot of coaches are really good at marketing themselves,” she said. “They try to lock you in for a 6- or 12-month contract” — which can cost $10,000 or more, she said.

“You don’t know what you’re getting into — it’s like dating,” she said. “Sometimes you need a few sessions with a coach to understand if they are the right fit for you before investing in a larger package.”

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In Newburyport, it’s not clients who are wary of life coach Cheryl Pokraka, but relatives. “When my family thinks they are being coached, they get nervous,” she said.

The extensive training she underwent taught her to ask questions that aim to empower, she said — but can feel uncomfortable.

“Are you coaching me?” loved ones ask suspiciously. “No,” she replies firmly, “You can only coach someone who wants to be coached.”


Beth Teitell can be reached at beth.teitell@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @bethteitell.