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by Laura Berman Fortgang
J P Tarcher, 2001
Review by Diane Goldberg, MSSW on Feb 24th 2002
Living Your Best Life is potentially a very useful book
and potentially a rather dangerous book. As most "coaches"
suggest potential is critical to success in life, work, and love.
And how the client uses coaching or anything else for that matter,
determines outcome. It is important that the consumer not use
coaching instead of therapy.
Fortgang walks the reader through a workbook-like set of instructions
so that the reader can define goals, assess values, identify,
and overcome obstacles to getting what he or she wants from life.
Many of these exercises in self-discovery can be quite useful
for a person who feels "stuck." If a reader is in a
quandary about an occupational choice involving change, it is
easy to see that the process outlined in the book could be very
A reader who is not suffering from depression or anxiety and is
in need of a formula to clarify thoughts and feelings can benefit
from Living Your Best Life. Despite disclaimers and the
"coaching-standard" coaching-is-not therapy and the
claim that coaches frequently refer clients to therapy, there
is some potential for harm here. The author states that coaching
is a profession that assists people in dealing with the "here
and now" while therapy helps clients deal with the "past."
This vast oversimplification underlines the author's layperson
perspective on therapy and may seduce some readers into avoiding
the help that they need. To compound this, the author's personal
disclosure of her past: anorexic, depressed, unable to function
for year combined with her arising phoenix-like from the ashes
could easily stimulate a person suffering from illness to self-help
her way into greater distress. It is important to keep in mind
that the author, prior to discovering the wonders of coaching,
had been unable to function for a year. This reviewer does not
wish to denigrate the author for this, anything but, simply to
remind readers that perhaps serious problems cannot be glossed
over with aphorisms.
The author must doubtless be an excellent speaker; her numerous
television appearances suggest that she is personable and interesting.
She could have benefited from the services of a more forceful
editor. The work is often convoluted; the reader must wade through
tons of vague verbiage, and will often trip over long passages
that make points that could be covered in half the words.
Many of the ideas in this work seem similar to solution-focused
brief therapy. The author introduces the idea of asking yourself
"what" questions instead of "why" questions
as well as several exercises that seem to be reminiscent of "the
miracle question" a popular brief therapy technique. Again
if the reader is not experiencing severe distress this can be
The author also borrows a bit from Buddhism in her discussions
of "being" instead of "doing." In an anecdote
from her life where she is demonstrating the importance of "ego-reduction"
and the need to "be" not "do" she discusses
attending an alumni event after changing careers. She explains
she was feeling internal pressure to "do" something
to explain or promote her new career and when she let go of the
pressure and simply "was" that people approached her
and she made important contacts. This reviewer found herself glancing
at the author's photo on the cover and cynically thinking, well
of course, here is a very attractive young woman alone at a social
event, she has a nice smile that would make both women and men
comfortable --- why wouldn't other people talk to her?
If you have considered paying a coach to assist you in sorting
out your life, this book might be a good investment. In addition
to exploring coaching strategies it provides contact information
for coaching certification programs and professional organizations.
The smart consumer will want to check out these resources to get
a firm idea of what this new profession of coaching does. Living
Your Best Life is definitely worth a read for anyone curious
© 2002 Diane Goldberg
Diane Goldberg received
her MSSW from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and is an
LCSW in North Carolina. She is currently a consultant and free
lance writer with a particular interest in stress management,
crisis intervention, travel, and woman's issues.