Even successful business people need coaching and support, and Walla Walla Valley is home to several life coaches who each take a slightly different approach to helping.

It’s not therapy, life coach Debra Arlyn Rose clarified from her home in College Place, but coaches serve as thinking partners for their clients to assist them in determining and achieving personal goals, whether it is work or family.

And they have been especially busy during a pandemic that has left people in despair, isolated, confused or scared — people seeking some direction and help in dealing with the stress and uncertainty felt by many the last two years.

“Most people are looking to feel more empowered, to feel like they have more choices,” Rose said. “They’re really looking to be coached through the perceived limitations and barriers, and certainly there’s been a lot of more that people are experiencing because of the pandemic.

“They feel like they’ve tried everything they know how to do, and they’re looking for someone to help them see new opportunities ahead of them.”

Life coaching was already a thriving industry worldwide before COVID-19, according to CNBC, with the number of practitioners in North America from 2015 to 2019 increasing 33% to about 23,000 certified by the International Coaching Federation.

Here in the Valley, Rose specializes in helping women navigate career and life transitions, such as divorce or entrepreneurship. Weekly or bi-monthly sessions include conversations, meditations, journals and other activities.

She started coaching in 2019, a couple years after discovering it while herself in need of help.

“I was going through a really difficult time in 2017 and needed to talk to someone,” Rose said. “I had tried therapy and I was doing yoga and things like that, and then I just started Googling and found a life coach here in town, Terri Cotts.”

They had an immediate connection.

“The first time I went and talked to her, I thought, ‘Oh my gosh,’” Rose said. “I must do this. I must walk this same path.

“I still work with her, off and on.”

Cotts has coached all sorts of people over the last 30 years through yoga meditation, spiritual counseling and life coaching. The Walla Walla businesswoman’s clients have included men and women of all ages, from teens to senior citizens.

She works to help them stop questioning their abilities, stop feeling stuck, and adopt a healthier mentality to be able to move forward.

“I like to think of it more like a personal trainer,” Cotts said.

“We’re encouraging and challenging people, helping them drop the beliefs that they’re limited and find the strength that already exists in themselves. We’re helping them change their perspective so they can achieve their goals.”

Ian Gregoire has followed a similar mindset in his first year as a life coach in Walla Walla, with a growing number of clients. He especially likes motivating, encouraging and supporting small business owners.

He has expanded weekly one-on-one talks to include group meetings, assuring clients they aren’t alone.

One of his clients is Kathryn Witherington, executive director of the Downtown Walla Walla Foundation.

The idea of how a life coach might help was a little abstract at first, she said, but working with Gregoire has helped her develop a positive mindset.

“I started in April of last year, about a year into this whole COVID thing, and I was mentally exhausted,” she said. “I felt like I had used up all my creative energy. I couldn’t feel motivated or driven.

“But discussing this with Ian weekly, we identified my lack of motivation was from a burnout issue. He helped me realize that, OK, I’m driven to try and do everything, but that can be detrimental. I had to learn to say no, and that was OK.”

Another talk over the phone this week helped Witherington write a clear to-do list for the remainder of January.

The positive vibes may start at a weekly meeting, Gregoire said, but his goal is for clients to keep building momentum toward their personal goals.

“It’s still important to get some fresh air, get some sunlight, get outside or inside and just move,” he said.

“Do some form of activity, whether it’s dance or calisthenics. I believe in only putting healthy, life-giving food into your body. Put positive, uplifting messages around you. Make sure you get a good night’s sleep. All that. Just focus on the fundamentals.”

The idea behind life coaching is for clients to come away rejuvenated.

“Coaching is different from therapy in that we’re not coming up with a diagnosis or just talking about our problems,” Rose said.

“Coaching is really about helping people move into a state of thriving, really looking at the future and the possibilities and the opportunities.”

Hector del Castillo can be reached at hectordelcastillo@wwub.com or 509-526-8317.

Hector writes stories about local sports, helps produce the daily section and updates the web site. A lifelong sports nut having grown up in Maryland, he joined the U-B with more than 15 years experience in journalism.

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