Thursday, December 29, 2005

Consumer guide to life coaches

Consumer guide to life coaches

Radio 4’s You and Yours yesterday had a piece by Frank Furedi setting out his critique of the use of ‘life coaches’ and other such gurus who, he argues, are undermining people’s ability to make decisions for themselves and turning adults back into children.

Furedi was not part of the subsequent studio discussion, in which, first, Cherie Blair’s pal Carol Caplin was interviewed, followed by a panel discussion with Caplin, another life coach and an academic who took an ‘one-the-one-hand – on-the-other’ sort of line.

They interviewed one woman who sang the praises of her life coach. He had helped her to realise that as she approached the age of 60 she did not have a stark choice between working or retirement but could be more flexible in how she worked – or something like that. Anyway, it appeared that she had paid good money to get advice that she could equally have got by speaking to any moderately well-informed friend, colleague or acquaintance.

It was interesting to hear how gently ‘You and Yours’ treated the whole issue. Apart from Furedi’s contribution, the advocates of life coaching were given a pretty easy ride. As a consumer programme ‘You and Yours’ takes a tough line with private companies that it considers to be in some way ripping people off, even where the consumers concerned have been culpably credulous in their own behaviour.

I suspect, though, that because life coaching had some hippyish, new age overtones, it doesn’t get the same close scrutiny that might be given if such services were offered by multinational corporations.

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