Diné bring life coaching to Native community
By Stacy Thacker
Special to the Times
SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich.
They found a way to empower individuals in their communities through communication and representation. Becki Jones, Diné, became a certified life coach in November with training through the Coaching for Transformation Program where she met fellow coach Vickie Oldman.
Both became interested in life coaching as a way to help Native American communities as well as build more Native representation in the specialty. Jones, who works with people who identify as Indigenous women, Indigenous femme, Indigenous queer and Indigenous transgender, found it hard to find a Native American counselor when she was seeking services for herself. “It’s pretty tough to find someone to talk to about what I’m dealing with or what I’m struggling with,” she said, “and so it made sense for me to go into this field of life coaching.”
As an education program manager and community health worker for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, Jones is already doing a lot of work in the Indigenous community. But with coaching, her goal is to create an avenue for other Natives who are struggling to find somebody to talk to and to make sure people seeking help don’t feel left out.
“There’s a connection there, I feel, from one Native to another Native when we talk about our struggles,” Jones said. It’s easier for clients to open up with somebody who looks like them and understands where they are coming from, she said.
For Oldman, Diné, the coaching journey started about 10 years ago when she came across it at a conference. From the moment she experienced life coaching she knew it was a service that would benefit the Native community. “This needs to come to Indian Country,” she remembers thinking. “Somehow or another I want to get certified, I want to bring this modality to our Native people.” Oldman is founder and co-partner of Seven Sisters Community Development Group, LLC, a consulting firm.
Life coaching is about helping individuals identify goals and stay accountable to them. “What I love about this approach and the benefits of it is that it’s really a way for individuals to lead themselves,” Oldman said. “It’s a sovereign act.”
Life coaching is neither therapy nor counseling. It’s more of a guided conversation where there is no judgement, she said. “We’re there for you to spill everything out,” Jones said. “To let us know what you’re going through, to celebrate your highs, to work on the lows that you’re feeling.”
For both coaches, being Navajo has brought a cultural perspective to their work that is unique. Coaching is an opportunity to normalize communication and it helps open doors to counseling and therapy in Native communities for those who seek it. And it feels natural. “It’s so in line with our values,” Oldman said. “As Native people, we listen. It feels natural from what I’ve been raised to do.”
But coaches understand opening up isn’t always easy. Many people grow up being told to keep their problems to themselves or within their family, Jones said. “That can be a lot of weight to hold,” she said. But when people are ready for a step forward, getting a life coach can be accessible if they aren’t sure about counseling or can’t afford it right away.
“It’s a really cool journey to take with somebody when they find that ‘aha’ moment,” Jones said, adding it’s the moment when everything starts coming together for the client and they begin to understand themselves.
Jones said with higher rates of suicide and domestic violence in Native communities, having Natives in these vital roles can help transform communities by opening up communication and alternatives for help. She experienced sexual and domestic violence growing up and having a life coach and a therapist was key. “I’m able to move forward and I want to live life and I want to be in my community,” Jones said, “and I want to have people feel this feeling, which is amazing. “It’s a high that makes me feel good,” she said, “that I know a lot of people can get to if we can just talk.”
Information: If you are interested in learning more about life coaching, contact Becki Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org or Vickie Oldman at Vickie@7sistersconsulting.com