Jobs and Careers: Do You Need a Life Coach?

Ten years ago, life coaching was seen as a fringe, New Age fad with just a few thousand practitioners. Today life coaches are represented by a trade group, the International Coach Federation, that claims more than 15,000 members. Search Google for "life coach New York," and you'll get millions of results, including links to coaches offering to help with just about any problem or anxiety. Work issues? A coach can help. Marriage difficulties? Let them reduce the conflict. Writer's block? They'll tap your inner poet. Even as the field grows, critics point out that there is no licensing system, standardized credentialing, or academic discipline behind this. "To me, it's like going to a psychic," says Dr. Marilyn Puder-York, a clinical psychologist who has coached executives for more than 30 years and who managed Citigroup's in-house Employee Assistance Program. "If you're lucky, you might find someone really good."