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Who is Helping You? Making an Empowered Choice and Heeding the Red Flags

We are finally entering a place in time where people are more open to asking for help. The idea of reading self-help books or leaning into personal development doesn’t hold the same sense of intense shame it once did. There is an overall culture that is beginning to openly support personal development, and taking the journey to better ourselves and achieve goals and dreams. Not too long ago if you wanted help from a counselor or coach, that was done in extreme secret, and it was only talked about in whispers…if at all.

We have come a long way since those days. People are beginning to embrace the understanding that we can’t do everything on our own. The “we rise by lifting others” mentality is strong. Social media is flooded with motivational posts, quotes, and live videos. “Coaches” are popping up all through the social media space.

All of this is beautiful, and needed. And absolutely creates a massive impact in the overall culture of our world. Yes, let’s be more positive, let’s lift one another up, let’s build the global community that social media provides, that nurtures connection and living our very best lives!

It can also be very confusing. All of these “helpers” are all of a sudden using social media as a platform to get clients. If you don’t know what to look for or what type of helper you should be working with, it’s really easy to sucked into the flashy adds and sales funnels that are crossing our pages every single day.

Two sides of the coin

As with everything, there is always a flip side of the coin. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful for the growth shift! My hope and mission is to continue to destigmatize getting help. To open up the hard conversations, and continue normalizing working with a helping professional. And…I think there are some things we need to be more aware of when thinking about who to work with.

I’m writing this article because I have seen too many people come out the other side of working with a coach or a counselor worse off than when they went in. I feel an intense need to educate people in this area so we can put a stop to it. I don’t want this growth mentality to end, but if people keep getting taken advantage of… it will. The growth, support, and healing that people have been craving for SO long is being exploited by some of these big wig “helpers” you see online. Most people aren’t educated about the differences in the helping roles, and what the training requirements should be to help guide you through different issues and hurdles in your life.

Anyone can put “coach” or “mentor” behind their name, and all the sudden charge clients obscene amounts of money to give advice on marriage, relationships, parenting, business, and your health. All things they have never been trained to do. As long as they have a flashy car, a huge house, and are really good at creating a life they want you to believe they have, no one cares about whether or not they are qualified to help in these areas.

Like it or not, we need to talk about this!

This article may ruffle some feathers but I’m going to say it anyway… it needs to be said. This issue needs to be brought out into the open and talked about. Your essential oil consultant for example should not be giving you advice unless it’s about how to use the oils and build your oil business. Unless they have a separate certification in life or wellness coaching. They should also never give medical advice! This type of thing is happening in many areas, oils are just the example here.

It is absolutely fabulous that there are so many people with a heart to help others! However, too many people are taking that desire and practicing in ways that are outside their area of expertise. Extra training is often times needed to make sure the client is truly being served in a way that is healthy and helpful in a sustainable way.

We are Humans, NOT Lemmings

The desire to achieve our dreams and goals is powerful! Even greater in our society today is the desire to earn lots and lots of money and obtain a lifestyle that is free of the confines that having little money puts on life. I understand this drive, believe me! And, this feeling that takes us over can cause us to make poor decisions and completely ignore red flags in a leader.

So often we behave like lemmings and follow the leader to our demise, rather than using our brains and listening to our own inner voices. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of growth and wanting more for ourselves! AND we need to make more educated and intentional decisions about who we decide to work with. And more importantly, who we allow to speak into our life.

I’m a firm believer that we NEED help. We are not made to exist alone. Usually when we try to do it all by ourselves, it doesn’t turn out well. We need GOOD mentors, coaches, counselors, consultants, and advisers in our lives. People who are going to lead us forward and expand our knowledge. But not all helpers are created equal. Too many are not qualified, and are trying to serve in roles they don’t belong in. When that happens, it only makes things worse in the long run.

I want you to work with amazing helpers! And in order to find the best fit, sometimes we need to know what we don’t want. Awareness and knowledge is key!

Be knowledgeable about who should be helping you with what.

Who are you paying to speak into your life? Are they qualified? What’s the difference between counseling, coaching, and the other helping professions? These are all very important questions that I’ll break down for you. First, let’s look at the types of helping roles and when you should seek that service in your own life.


At the very minimum, counselors should hold a masters degree in counseling. They should be licensed or working on obtaining their license. Counselors are trained to work on all different kinds of issues with their clients. WAY too many “coaches” are acting like counselors. This is dangerous for the client! Counselors are trained to dig deep into past issues with clients. Childhood experiences, family dynamics, past trauma, mental health disorders, relationships, and more.

Most of us have a past history that has created roadblocks in our lives, and negatively impact the way we perceive the world and ourselves today. Counseling is a healing process. Digging up that old stuff and sorting through it with you. You need a trained professional to do this work. People who aren’t trained in this area don’t understand how easy it is to trigger someone, and send them reeling backwards. None of the other helping roles should EVER go into past events with a client unless they are specifically trained to do so. The past work is almost always saved for a counseling relationship.


Coaches should hold a certification in coaching, especially if they aren’t already a counselor with a masters degree. A lot of counselors are now also doing coaching which is a great fit, as they are already highly trained in personal growth. Even in this situation though, the roles are VERY different. Coaches should NEVER go into the past. The focus should never be on healing; rather, on the present and where you’re going moving forward. It’s a very goal oriented relationship. There are many different kinds of coaches. Health, life, business, wellness, divorce, parenting…you name it.

This gets a little dicey, because coaches aren’t regulated by a governing body like counselors are. So that means pretty much anyone can tell you they are a coach. Some “coaches” have NO training at all in what they are claiming coaching status in. Some have a ton of training. The only way you will know is if you ask! I know one woman who is a trauma coach. She is HIGHLY trained to be able to call herself this. Many other amazing coaches I know have worked hard to get the certifications and experience needed to do the very best work they can with people. It’s important to be aware that not all people are. And, if they aren’t, they can cause damage and push you backward!


A mentor seems to be a name that is used interchangeably with coach. The thing is, there is no certification available (that I’m aware of) to become a “mentor.” If someone tells you that their role is mentor, it means they are purely practicing from their own life experiences and knowledge. Some try to add words like “elite” to make it sound even more important or fancy. The title of mentor can also be used very loosely to describe someone who has guided you and impacted your life.

The thing to know here is that most mentors teach in areas they have personally experienced. That does not mean they have any professional training in these areas. This can be tricky because not all experiences and situations are alike. When working with a mentor, you have to decide if their own experiences are enough for you. What has worked for them may not work for you, and if it doesn’t there is no other knowledge base to pull from. I personally don’t want anyone speaking into my life if they don’t have additional training in this area.


Consultants can hold degrees in many different areas, and they should. Consultation with the professional is the only role that should be giving you direct advice. Their role is to tell you exactly what to do, and what changes to make. There are four areas of consulting. Personal, technical, business, and executive. You would ask for a consultant to help direct you on how to use the face cream you ordered, or exactly how to change the current employee structure in order to increase employee satisfaction and retention. They are highly knowledgeable and trained in their specific area of expertise. An adviser would also fall into this category. These are people who you are paying specifically for their advice.


Ok, I had to include this one. I hear people say ALL the time that they are just going to talk to their friend, and that’s enough. Your friend is your friend, and should never be used in place of a professional helper. First, they are bias as hell of you. They probably don’t specialize in the area you’re needing support in. And…it puts too much pressure on the relationship. Yes, we should be able to chat with our friends, and get their feedback. A lot of times these end up being venting sessions that don’t give us a lot of direction for moving forward. Somethings they can even perpetuate the problem. Friendships should be a mutual relationship. Not one where you are constantly seeking advice.

The Difference Between a Counseling and Coaching

The difference been these two needs to be addressed. As I said earlier, too many coaches and mentors are acting as counselors. I’ve seen this play out in a damaging way. Not all coaches know the difference, and even have an awareness of, when they are entering the counseling realm; especially if they have no formal coaching training. This is why it’s SO important for you as a client to know the difference.

My favorite analogy that paints the picture so well about the difference is one by Tom Henschel. In his article in Forbes Magazine, “The Difference Between Coaching and Therapy.” He starts off by saying that seeking therapy or coaching starts off with the same premise.

Each presumes that all of us, in the natural course of life, experience events that wound us psychically when we are young.
As we grow, some people’s wounds remain raw and painful. Those people often act defensively, protecting their wounds from further injury. Other people grow healthy callouses over their wounds, protecting them from everyday buffets and blows. These people are often seen as resilient and high functioning. But, in truth, both types of people, the raw and the protected, have wounds in their systems.
The natural outgrowths of these wounds are self-limiting beliefs. These beliefs, born to protect our younger selves, often create some degree of self-sabotage as we mature. Consequently, people may find themselves hitting the same pothole over and over as they drive along the paths of their lives. At some point, desiring a different result, they seek help. Perhaps coaching. Perhaps therapy.

All of that — primal wounds developing into self-limiting beliefs which become sabotaging patterns — is common ground between coaching and therapy. It is a shared point of view.
But now the roads diverge.

Tom Henschel

Climb in the hole or not?

He goes on to explain that the pothole is approached differently by the counselor (therapist) and the coach. The counselors role is to help the client approach the hole and eventually climb inside and repair it from the inside, until the hole is eventually filled in and is no longer an issue. A coach should never go down in the hole with clients. Their role is not to approach the pothole, but to help the client strategize and find ways around it. While coaching and counseling share the goal to keep the client out of the pothole; coaching is focused on strategies to go around the pothole, and counseling is focused on healing the wound. You can read the full article HERE.

This Part is SUPER Important

No matter who you decide you need to work with, you need to know that you have the full and complete right to interview people BEFORE you decide to work with them! Most people feel like they have to stick with someone if they’ve met them a couple times and it’s not feeling like a good fit. NOT SO! I always encourage people to interview 2-4 people before choosing who you will work with. If the helper doesn’t have time to meet with you and give you a consult appointment in order for you to get a feel for them, move on. That’s a red flag in itself.

Within each profession people do things differently, have different personalities, different ethical compasses, and some people simply just rub you the wrong way. On the flip side, some people just seem to instantly fit. Do your interviews and ask your questions! I want you to be empowered in this area! The helper is working for YOU! Be sure they are the right one to help, and facilitate healing, and get you to where you want to be. If at any time it doesn’t align with you anymore, leave. This is a professional, business relationship. Sometimes you outgrow the helper. You deserve to be paying the person who is right for the season you are in.

Recognizing red flags BEFORE you get sucked in is very helpful!

I worked with an “Elite Business Coach” a couple years ago that really ended up hurting me, and actually ultimately sent me backward, instead of forward, to where they “promised” I would be. Unfortunately, there are people who present themselves as helpers out there, who are motivated by their pocket books, rather than a true desire to help. Did I learn from the situation? Absolutely! I mostly learned how I DON’T want to treat people and run my business. It was helpful information, but it seriously wrecked me for a while. I had the feeling that I never wanted to work with a coach or a helping professional ever again…and I AM a helping professional! My sense of trust in people claiming they wanted to help me grow was completely destroyed.

I know this happens to people all the time, and it deeply hurts me! If you have experienced this, I’m so sorry! Please know there are so many pure hearted and ethical helping professionals out there. I am now working with two people who are amazing. I realized I also can’t isolate and grow alone. So, we should never avoid asking for help. But, what we can do, is be aware. Going in with both eyes fully open and being totally aware of red flags is HUGE! I wish I would have known these a few years ago. So, let’s go through what I believe are the biggest behaviors that should send you running for the hills.

Top red flags to keep on your radar when looking for a helper!

Having power over.

Any helper you choose to work with is working for YOU. The relationship should always be equal and collaborative. If you ever feel this person owning a sense of power over you…get out at soon as you can! An example of this would be a feeling that if you don’t do what they suggest, you won’t be a part of the tribe, or that you will be reprimanded. Growing out of fear is not sustainable.

Claiming to be an expert in everything.

If the person you’re considering working with doesn’t acknowledge their limitations in knowledge, or areas of expertise, this is a huge red flag! None of us know everything. A good helper will recognize the areas where you may need support from someone else. I know of a “business mentor” with a large following who openly tells people that they are able to give marriage advice because they’ve been divorced, and now know what not to do. What?! This makes me want to scream. Because they have a really convincing sales pitch, and present like they live the elaborate life of a wealthy entrepreneur, people are taking advice that they are absolutely not trained to give.

Giving advice and misalignment

Most people don’t know that counselors, coaches, and mentors really shouldn’t be giving you advice at all. The goal is to get to know YOU, and help guide you to your own truth. Not their own. If you go into a coaching situation with the desire to own a cat rescue, you should never be guided to do something else that doesn’t fit for you and all the sudden be running a lama rescue. Too many coaches project their own agenda on to their clients because they want better numbers. So, they will guide clients to do what is “better” for them, pulling the client away from what they truly want to be or do. Don’t ever allow ANYONE to guide you away from the desires in your own heart! A true helping professional should help you clarify that, and see it into fruition with you.

Dangling Carrots

I am absolutely not a fan of sales funnels. Just spend this $500, and I’ll teach you everything you need to know. Oh wait, there is still one thing I can’t tell you until you do this next course, and pay me $1500. Didn’t get everything you need there? Well then you’ve got to pay the big bucks to get me one on one, or at an exclusive retreat, if you really want the answers you crave. Ugh…this makes me want to vomit. There should be full transparency and structure in what you are actually getting, every step of the way. The learning objectives should be identified and clear before you sign up. If you ever question what is being offered, run away fast!

Over promising

I was told once that I should put thousands of dollars on a credit card, or I should sell my things, because I would be making 10K a month very soon anyway. I kick myself over and over, because I freaking fell for it. The thing is, I totally knew it. I just didn’t listen to myself. Don’t believe everything someone tells you. If something feels off…it probably is! If someone is asking you to put a second mortgage on your home to pay to work with them, I would seriously consider digging further into what this person is all about! What is actually motivating them to help you? A true desire to see you succeed and move forward, or to fill their pocketbook? There are AMAZING helping professionals that don’t charge ridiculous amounts of money to get you to where you want to be.


Fear of missing out is a real thing. The desire to be a part of a group and something that feels bigger than ourselves is also real. If a coach or mentor is using FOMO to suck you into a sales funnel…beware!! I promise that not all “tribes” function that way. Find one that isn’t conditional, and based on whether you’re paying high dollar to be involved in EVERYTHING.

Be an advocate for yourself and get the help that’s the best fit for you.

If you’re looking for a helper to move you forward in your life, I hope you feel better equipped to make the best decision for yourself. I really encourage you to take a good look at your goals and what YOU are wanting to work on. Ask yourself the important questions. What exactly do I need help with? What’s their training and education? What’s their motivation for helping? What do they charge? Make sure these are all in alignment before moving forward.

If it’s healing you seek, a counselor is your person. To accomplish goals and have accountability, find a great coach who is trained in the area you’re wanting to focus. Or, do you need a mentor or a consultant? Now you know who to look for based on their particular roles. Sometimes it’s appropriate to be working with more than one person at a time. I have often worked with a counselor and coach simultaneously. My biggest hope for you is that you go into every situation with wide eyes, and having done your homework to find the very best helping person that is the best fit for YOU.

Hear me when I say this last piece. It’s of the utmost importance that no matter what… you own your own power. No matter who you’re working with. No coach, counselor, mentor, consultant or ANYONE should ever take your power. They should only be working to further empower you. Find the person who will help you to feel and understand what you’re made of!

The We Spot has a list of amazing helping professionals for your convenience on our site! Please visit our directory page to get connected with one!

Sarah Monares

Sarah is the founder and creator of The We Spot. She is a Colorado native and she absolutely loves to travel yet, feels blessed to live in a place where she also loves coming back home. She has two awesome kids, and has been married to her hubby for 12 years. Sarah is passionate about helping women make authentic connections with their true selves. She is a counselor and a business and life coach/mentor, as well as a speaker, and author. More than anything she loves belly laughing, coffee, vulnerability, authentic connection, adventure, ice cream, horses, QT with her fam, and seeing women walk in the full power of all they were created to be.

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