New Year’s Dreams versus Decisions

Rhona Epstein, Psy.D.



broccoli-952532_640Are you kidding? Another New Year’s resolution to lose weight? Whether it’s you or a client, all of us are guilty of dreaming we’ll eat better, exercise more, wear more attractive outfits, and put on that bathing suit this summer. The list goes on to the endless fantasies we have of making this year different. (Honestly, how many times have you determined to change, but in just a little while find you’re right back to the same old thing?)

Making resolutions and breaking them is an age-old problem. The Apostle Paul struggled to change, and felt the same confusion and discouragement. “I do not understand what I do,” he said (Romans 7:15, NIV). “What I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”

The solution is to stop dreaming and start deciding. It’s an intentional decision that creates change—not a thought about it, a decision! So how to do that?

For anyone wanting to change eating habits and get off the yo-yo dieting cycle, these steps are important:

Make the decision to change. A decision is an intention and not just a fantasy. The decision requires commitments from you, your passion and desire, and action. It is a choice to make again and again each new day and hour.

confused-880735_640Go a new way, pursue things differently. Remember that what you’ve done in the past isn’t working. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. You’ve got try new things for a new result.

Take it one day at a time. Don’t worry about how you ate yesterday or what you’ll do to exercise tomorrow. Keep making the decision now to choose activity and foods, and amounts of them that are good for you at the right times. Will I exercise this one day? Drink the water I was told to drink? Go to the support group I’ve been meaning to try? Taking things one day at a time means we can’t focus on how great we’ll look when we lose twenty pounds. We need to think about how to eat this one meal, this one day, and what else to do now to live healthier and better. Today is all we have, after all. Yesterday is done and tomorrow may or may not come. When we live in a fantasyland of what we should have done or what we could do, we only end up disappointing ourselves. Concentrating on what we are doing now, on the other hand, never fails.

Find support. This is a major part of turning a dream to a decision. Take that piece of humble pie and let people help. Accountability and encouragement go a long way. A good counselor or a support group (and both) can give you guidance, inspiration, know-how, and support when you need it most. People who have made the changes you are hoping to accomplish might know the way out. Call on them and know that can be a strength to do so. A cord of three strands cannot be broken. That means . . .

bible-1850859_640Depend on God. With support from people around you, your own decisions, and reliance on God, you’ll be able to climb closer to your goal. Too often at the new year, we start a diet and never ask if it is God’s will to restrict ourselves or hurry up and lose weight. God wants what’s best for us. He can help! Transformation doesn’t always happen in the blink of an eye, but over time. Rely on Him for strength to make good choices. Turn to Him instead of food for the things you really hunger. Find rest for your weary heart in His presence. Go to the Real Source of all life to find what you really need, because it’s not in the cupboard.  That means decide this year to connect more with God in prayer through the day. Plan time to hear Him by reading His Word. Make appointments with Him to worship and receive His grace. These are decisions and the process of practicing them will get you to your goal.



img-rhona-epsteinRhona Epstein, Psy.D., C.A.C., is a licensed psychologist, certified addictions counselor, and marriage and family therapist in the Philadelphia area, and the author of the new book  Food Triggers: End Your Cravings, Eat Well, and Live Better (Worthy Publishing). For more than twenty-five years, she’s lead seminars, conferences, and therapeutic workshops to help people overcome food addiction and its underlying issues. She received her doctorate in clinical psychology from Chestnut Hill College, and her master’s degree in counseling psychology from Temple University. She’s passionate, from her own personal experience and recovery from food addiction, to address the needs of the whole person (mind, body, and spirit). Visit her web site at


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The Holiday Pendulum: An Interview with Rhona Epstein

Dina Jones, M.A., with Rhona Epstein, Psy.D.


Dina: Can you talk to us a little bit about the swing from food-centered holidays—with sweets and heavy dishes galore—to January 1st when it seems like health and weight loss goals are everywhere? This is a lot, emotionally and physically speaking, for many people to take in and walk through every year. Can you give us some insight on this cycle and how it relates to a long term commitment to wellness?


Rhona: I try to help people do the best they can to avoid making their holidays about food. Reminding people about how losing control during the holidays can cause great set backs with the progress they have been making in their health and wellness goals and challenging why they want to let the party atmosphere throw them off their personal goals. There are many other wonderful aspects of the holidays to enjoy. We can change the focus from the food to the Lord, to His peace, to loving others, to service. It needs to be a conscious deliberate decision to enjoy the party without the indulging. All things are possible with God!!


Dina: Sometimes people can have a long chain of days where they meet a certain standard they’ve set for themselves—for example, they have gone 3 months without drinking soda or 21 days with no sugar. Then, when this chain of success gets broken, it can become very tempting to just throw in the towel. Getting re-started after a perceived failure can just be downright discouraging and difficult. If someone breaks a chain of success, what can they do to get back on track?


Rhona: Part of the problem with temporary diets is just that—they are temporary. A lot of the problem is the mindset. If a person thinks of making a lifestyle change it’s different than a temporary weight fix. People need to think about why they are dieting. If the goal is to be healthy and fit they are better off thinking of one day at a time and seeing it as a change they want to make for good. Why get off soda for a while? It’s not going to start to be good for you in a few weeks. If the goal is to lose some weight, the weight will come back if you go back to your old ways so what’s the point of doing any diet if you are not planning on a lifestyle change? So the goal should be reaching for a change.  If you fall, keep getting up and reaching for the change again. Everyone falls. Everyone struggles. We just have to get up each time and try again. I believe some people may be fighting a bigger battle with addiction so that one soda will lead to more and more. In that case total abstinence from those addictive foods might be better.  In any case, if a person has made progress and falls, I think of it like this… it’s like if you walk a mile and fall, you still walked a mile.  Get up and keep walking.


Dina: Can you give us two or three quick tips for preparing for a gathering where there will be food temptation?


Rhona: Plan ahead!  Find out what is being served and decide ahead of time what you will be eating and stick to it.  If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Use accountability—if you have a friend or family member you can trust, let them know your plan so it helps you stick with it. Focus on the other aspects of the gathering- the people, what might need to be done, play with a child or an animal. Don’t hang around the food table.


Dina: Sometimes people shy away from diving into healthy eating either because they don’t like to cook, they don’t have a big food budget, or both. What are your thoughts for anyone with those hesitations?


Rhona: That’s true of a lot of people. Learning to eat right is like learning anything new. It takes time and effort. But there are plenty of short cuts one can learn and it does not have to be any more costly than eating junk. Nowadays many grocery stores have prepared washed and cut up vegetables ready to be cooked. Learning a few simple delicious ways to prepare veggies can make all the difference.  No one wants to eat canned vegetables or steamed bagged vegetables. They are boring and lack flavor.  Just using a sauté pan with a little olive oil and garlic makes many veggies yummy (even spinach).  Salads can be quick and easy too since they are often found washed and bagged. For working folks it’s super easy. There are also many ideas like grilling a bunch of chicken on the weekend and then fixing it different ways through the week.  Some people make a large pot of brown rice that can be portioned out through the week so it’s easy to reheat.  For people who can afford it there are many grocery stores that even prepare chicken and fish meals and you can just heat and eat. There is little excuse for fast food junk meals. There are even places on the go like Panera or Zoe’s Kitchen where you can get a healthier meal in most cities. A lot of it is trying out new things and realizing some foods that are good for you taste good too.  There are way too many examples to squeeze in here but I highly recommend finding people who eat healthy or looking up quick healthy recipes online and give things a try. Many of my clients have been surprised how much they love their healthy foods once they find their groove.


Dina: Can you tell us one or two ways in which you personally make healthy living fun?


Rhona: To me it is not fun to be unhealthy. To overindulge and make myself bloated, sick and guilty is not what I call fun. It is fun to be free of guilt. To live free of worry about what I ate, to know my clothing will always fit and I can shop and the size is the same each year. It’s fun to be able to walk, be active, feel good and have people tell me I look 10 years younger than I am. It’s fun to be able to get on the floor and play with little children and puppies, to be able to walk all around a city and not become easily worn out.  Healthy eating can also be fun. There are plenty of great healthy options that taste great. Once your taste buds get used to good food it is far more enjoyable to eat and feel good about tasty options that also are good for your body. Healthy food can be fun once you learn how to make healthy fun choices. It takes some learning but with some help and a sincere desire to be well it is possible!


Rhona Epstein, Psy.D., C.A.C., is the author of Food Triggers: End Your Cravings, Eat Well and Live Better; and a licensed psychologist, certified addictions counselor, and marriage and family therapist in the Philadelphia area. For more than twenty-five years she’s lead seminars, conferences, and therapeutic workshops, to help people overcome food addiction and its underlying issues. She received her doctorate in clinical psychology from Chestnut Hill College, and master’s degree in counseling psychology from Temple University. She’s passionate, from personal experience and recovery from food addiction, to address the needs of the whole person (mind, body, and spirit).

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2017 Word for the Year

2017 Word for the Year
Dina Jones, M.A.

Hello, Friends. It is almost time to say goodbye to 2016 and a big hello to 2017.

My dear friend Georgia Shaffer brings so much warmth and wisdom to a concept that has grown in popularity over the past few years: selecting an overarching word to focus on throughout the upcoming year. My word for the latter half of 2016 was “grace”, a word I claimed for a season of adjusting to the joys and challenges of three children and a full career.

The theme was such a lifeline for me that I asked some talented friends to create a sign for my office, stating simply, “Grace.” The word “grace” reminded me of so many things in this season. The theme encouraged me to offer grace to loved ones and to myself as we are all imperfect humans and to accept the available grace from our Lord each day.

My word for 2016 came to me partway through the year. I strive to set my word for 2017 more intentionally (before the year begins) using Georgia’s four tips below.


Identify Your Word for 2017 in Four Thoughtful Steps
Georgia Shaffer, M.A.

1. Specifically pray that the Lord will direct you to your word for 2017.
Do not doubt that God speaks to you. While it is not usually with an audible voice, get still, pray, and listen to what word God brings to your mind. You may not be certain, but write it down and then continue to pray and watch until you have a sense of where he is leading you. For example, Deb [one of my readers who gave me feedback on selecting a word for the year] said, “After I prayed and asked for a word for the year, ‘word’ as in ‘word of the Lord’ popped out at me on January 2nd.”

2. Pay attention to what Scripture says about your word.
Deb became curious and she learned in 1 Sam 3:1 that God’s Word was rare in Old Testament days. In 2 Sam. 22:31, she was reminded that God’s words are flawless and in Psalm 119 she learned that God’s Word convicts us of sin, shines light on our paths, and prepares us for what is ahead.

3. Record in a journal or on your computer what God reveals to you during the year.
Having a permanent record is vital. After I asked Deb about her word this year she emailed, “Thanks for asking me about this. I forgot that I put away my journal months ago. I just now found it and reread my notes. Wow! I got some real gems.” Thankfully Deb had taken the time to write down what could easily have been forgotten.

4. At the end of year, look back at what God has revealed to you.
One of Deb’s key principles was that she lives only by God’s Word (Deut 8:3). “This one made a big impression on me, and gave me confidence,” she said. “I wrote in my journal that “I live only by every word that comes from the mouth of God (not by food). One word from God and I’m dead-despite all my efforts otherwise. Likewise, one word from God and I stay alive-despite anyone else’s efforts or my mistakes and failings.” She said, “Looking back at my word for the year is really neat. I felt called to lead a new Women’s Bible study effort at my church this fall. (I had no idea I would do such a thing and it didn’t even exist in January.) I believe God prepared me for that responsibility by leading me to focus on His Word this year.”

If you would like to hear more from Georgia, you can visit her website here and you can learn what Georgia’s word is for 2017 in her newsletter here.

Speaking of 2017, Georgia and I will both be speaking at the 2017 World Conference in Nashville, TN. Fellow coaches, I hope you are able to attend Georgia Shaffer’s preconference workshop with Shannon Ethridge on Creative Strategies for Exploding Your Coaching Practice.

Love & Work well in 2017!


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Webinar Recap: Knowing, Accepting, and Maintaining Our Limits: Boundaries and Health for Leaders


On December 1st, the ICCA, in partnership with AACC, hosted their fourth webinar of 2016 featuring Amy Simpson, M.B.A. This dynamic webinar covered the powerful topic, Knowing, Accepting, and Maintaining Our Limits: Boundaries and Health for Leaders.

Coaching can be difficult, especially when it comes to identifying where and how to draw appropriate boundaries. In our desire to further our coaching businesses and help as many people as we can, we sometimes sacrifice our own health and sanity. In order to be an effective people-helper, a coach must first take care of his or her own health.  Rather than restricting our effectiveness, setting boundaries actually helps you and your clients. Furthermore, we can be a positive example for our clients when it comes to setting and maintaining boundaries in our personal and professional lives.

This webinar focused on equipping coaches to set boundaries in their own lives. In the first half, Amy Simpson focused on boundaries for the coach, and then in the second half, she provided guidance on ways to help clients set boundaries in their lives as well. As part of the webinar, there were two engaging Q&A sessions where Amy Simpson answered viewers’ questions in real-time. Listeners agreed that this was one of the most practical and helpful webinars to date!

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Webinar Recap: Marital Satisfaction – It’s a Choice, Not an Outcome

Cunningham, Ted

On November 17th, the AACC hosted a special ICCA webinar featuring Ted Cunningham, M.A.C.E. This engaging webinar focused on building healthy marriages as Ted Cunningham spoke on Marital Satisfaction: It’s a Choice, Not an Outcome.


In this heartfelt and relatable webinar, Ted Cunningham emphasized the importance of choice in marriage. Good marriages take intentionality and work, and couples need to be intentional about making the marriage fun! Although there are many challenges that surface in marriage, there are also many joys. Focusing on the positive can bring much happiness to a marriage.


Throughout the webinar, he highlighted scriptural passages to underscore his points, such as Ecclesiastes 9:9, “Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun—all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun” You do not need to choose between life and spouse—choose both. When couples stop enjoying life and marriage, they blame each other as the source of the problem, question their compatibility, repeat mistakes and develop patterns, close their hearts, isolate from others, doubt their futures and explore other options. Ted Cunningham provided encouragement, fun, and simple, easy-to-follow solutions for couples to increase marital satisfaction.

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You Can Make a Difference


When you think of a hero – what do you picture? Do you picture an attractive, fit, thirty-something man? Do you picture a beautiful, athletic woman? In this culture of superheroes and celebrities, it is easy to equate success and impact with looks and popularity. In our minds, we think of great influencers as people with youth and beauty. When great men and woman are represented in media, they pick attractive actors to play them. But is it true, what we think in our heads, that only a certain type of people can make a difference? Is it only the athletic, good-looking, and the popular that can influence the world? No


You can make a difference.


John the Baptist was in his early thirties. He was a young man – he started his ministry and gained fame in his twenties. He and Jesus were second cousins, and John was only a few months older than Jesus. John the Baptist lived and became known as a great prophet, paved the way for the coming of the Lord, and was killed – all before he reached 35. The young can make a great difference.


Abraham is the known as the father of many nations. Yet he was 86 years old when his first child was born, and 100 years old when his second was born! Can you imagine becoming a father at that age? Yet he demonstrated his faith time and time again, even proving his willingness to follow the Lord wholeheartedly by being willing to sacrifice his son. And yet everything we know about Abraham happens when he is an older man. The old can make a great difference.


Many people in a village of Samaritan people believed in Jesus because of one woman – a woman who had been with five husbands and was currently with a man to whom she was not married. She likely had a very poor reputation in the city, yet she told everyone about meeting Jesus and because of her testimony, many believed. The outcast can make a great difference.


Time and time again in scripture, God uses people who are broken. People who are hurting. People who have horrible pasts. People who are tired. People who are lonely. People who are single, married, widowed. Anyone with a heart for God can make a difference. 


Think of Jesus himself. Isaiah 53:2 prophesied about Jesus that he would have “…no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.” Jesus, the Son of God, who out of everyone in the world you would think would be good looking, came to earth as an ordinary person. Nothing special about Him in appearance – what was special was who He was. What He did. Not what He looked like. An average looking person made the greatest difference of all.


You can make a difference.


It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done in the past – the great apostle Paul, author of nearly half of the New Testament, hunted down Christians and killed them prior to his conversion. Matthew was a tax collector, a profession notorious for its corruption. Zacchaeus was short and overcharged people money to pad his own pockets.


It doesn’t matter what you look like – God formed you in your mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13) and He has an incredible plan for your life, written in His book from before you were born (Psalm 139:16). It doesn’t matter what you look like – it matters who you are. What you do with the life that God has given you. Are you going to place your trust in societal standards of beauty and popularity, or in the Word of God that says you are created by God in His image?


But how does one person make a difference in a world full of billions of people? You can make a difference in many ways. Perhaps it is as big as speaking to crowds about the gospel. Perhaps it is as small giving a hug with someone who desperately needs it. Those of us in the coaching profession are already striving to make a difference – one person at a time. You can make a difference in the lives of your clients. You can make a difference in the lives of your friends and family. You can make a difference in the life of a stranger by doing something as simple as lending a hand or sharing a smile. You can make a difference by just being you.


It doesn’t matter who you are.


It doesn’t matter what you look like.


It doesn’t matter what you’ve done in the past.


What matters is placing your trust in God. He can and will use you. Yes, you!


You can make a difference.

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An Interview with Shannon Ethridge

Elizabeth Hixson

“[She] who refreshes others will [herself] be refreshed.” – Proverbs 11:25

ethridge_shannonIn the November eNews, we get an inside look at the life of a women’s coach. Life coach and author Shannon Ethridge (pictured right) shares about her experiences coaching women through family, boundaries, and personal dreams.

Elizabeth: “Shannon, why would you recommend the niche of woman’s coaching to a fellow life coach? How has it enriched your life as a coach?”

Shannon: “Because women are such deep emotional wells, the potential for growth is enormous! Plus, there are so many ripple effects since women have such a deep impact on their husbands, children, community, etc.  And although helping your client is always the primary goal, a coach can’t help but be strengthened herself when she sees her client getting stronger!  My favorite scripture is Proverbs 11:25, “[She] who refreshes others will [herself] be refreshed!”

Elizabeth:   “What’s your journey? Can you give a little background about yourself and how you got involved in the niche of coaching woman?”

Shannon: “My journey into becoming a “people helper” probably began when my 8-year old sister died when I was only four years old.  Not only did I lose her, but my entire family shut down as a result.  Hungering for attention and affection, I made an easy target for several uncles in my family to make inappropriate advances.  I lost my virginity at 14, and became quite promiscuous from 15-20 years old.  But working as an embalmer in my early twenties awakened me to the reality of the dangers of my lifestyle.  I gave my life back to God and asked Him to help me show young people how to live a sexually healthy life such that they didn’t wind up on that embalming table prematurely.

I began speaking to teenagers and college students about abstinence, but I also grew with my audience as they got older, eventually got married, and started families. I was blessed with the opportunity to publish the “Every Woman’s Battle” series in 2003, alongside Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker’s “Every Man’s Battle” series.  Those books sold over 1 million copies, and were published in over 30 languages, so I was fortunate to be invited to speak in a wide variety of venues, and appear on a plethora of radio and television outlets.  Coaching was the obvious next step, as many heard my testimony and reached out looking for a lifeline to hold onto as they processed their own sexual and emotional baggage.

After several years of individual and couples coaching, I launched two different programs that I absolutely love leading.  B.L.A.S.T. (Building Leaders, Authors, Speakers, & Teachers) is a 12-month online mentorship program for aspiring writers and speakers, because I want to help others who are passionate about a particular topic to break into the speaking and publishing world themselves.  And then I also host Women at the Well 4-day Intensive Workshops for 8-10 women at a time who are either acting out sexually, or shutting down sexually.  Through this workshop I help both married and single participants find a healthy balance once again – where she is an interested and motivated sex partner, but only with her husband and no one else!

Between my writing, speaking, mentoring, and coaching, I’ve created a life and ministry beyond my wildest dreams! I pinch myself that I actually get to invest my time in others in such fulfilling ways!”

Elizabeth:   “How do boundaries impact women for reaching their goals?”

Shannon: “Women are “people pleasers” by nature, and we hate saying “no” to anyone.  So we too often let the needs of others crowd our agenda such that we don’t really have any personal priorities other than to keep others happy with us.  But a woman can lose herself in that lifestyle.  She needs her own visions and dreams, and she needs to be assertive about guarding the time and energy required to invest in bringing those dreams to life!”

Elizabeth: “What are signs of burnout, and what are effective coaching techniques to coach a woman who is burnt out?”

Shannon: “Loss of joy and passion is the most common indicator that someone is burning out, and that usually happens when we spread ourselves too thin and fail to take care of ourselves the way we need to.  To regain passion, a coach can point a woman to disengage from others long enough to rest and refresh ourselves.  It is never selfish to do whatever fills our own cup, such that we can offer others our “overflow” and not become depleted over and over again.”

Elizabeth:  “Can you share about the goose that lays the golden egg?”

Shannon: “A woman needs to remember that when it comes to life, marriage, family, and friendships, SHE is the goose that lays the golden eggs!  We absolutely must make our own physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health a priority if we are going to take care of others.  This means putting our own needs at the top of the list on occasion.  What does this look like?  Maybe hiring a part-time gal to help the kids with homework and get dinner started while you go to a yoga class to de-stress after work.  Or asking your husband to take the kids out to dinner while you bask in a bubble bath and paint your toenails.  We can’t underestimate what a BIG impact a little self-care can have!”

Elizabeth: “A lot of times a woman absorb the emotional impact of the struggles that are facing her family members. How does she not let it consume her?”

Shannon: “Being the sensitive, nurturing creatures we are, empathy runs deep.  This is a good thing, but when we are so empathetic that other people’s problems become our own problem, that’s a problem!  It’s okay to communicate healthy boundaries in advance, such as “I only have about 10 minutes to chat, but what’s up?” or “I can take care of mom on certain days of the week, but she is going to need more help.  How can we work together to make sure all her bases are covered?”  Don’t give people the impression that you’re willing to be a martyr for anyone else’s cause.  Expect full participation from others, and you’re far more likely to get it than if you operate under the assumption that they’re going to take advantage of you, and you have no choice in the matter.”

Elizabeth: “Can you speak to the transitions a woman faces – marriage, divorce, motherhood, empty nesting, menopause. What are ways a coach unlocks a woman to move forward in the face of these life transitions?”

Shannon: “A woman’s life is filled with one transitional season after another, and major adjustments are always required in each season.  Equipping women with the tools to grieve properly is absolutely vital in the coaching journey.  Whether it’s getting married, having children, kissing our kindergartners (or college students) goodbye, watching parents age, going through divorce or the death of a loved one, etc., we have to let go of what’s behind us before we can fully embrace what’s in front of us.  Through proper grieving, we can courageously face our fears, appropriately vent our anger, fully embrace our sadness, and in doing so we make room for gladness to come bursting forth with each new season!”

Elizabeth: “How do you see underlying sexual issues a woman is facing impact the other areas of her life?”

Shannon: “Women, throughout various seasons of life, will often wrestle with frigidity or sexual disinterest.  In the busyness of everyday life, we can lose sight of just how vitally important a vibrant sex life can be – not just for our husband’s benefit, but for our own!  Not only does it greatly improve satisfaction in a marriage relationship, great sex has tons of health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure, releasing oxytocin (nature’s Valium), reducing stress, and improving sleep quality.  In fact, the best prevention for Alzheimer’s disease is frequent orgasm, because it lights up every part of the brain like no other activity!

On the other side of that pendulum swing, women also can find themselves entrenched in emotional affairs for similar reasons.  She loses sight of the sexual and emotional bond she can experience with her husband, and the loneliness creates a vortex that other (equally dissatisfied and unhealthy) men can get sucked into.  Then that relationship is like two ticks and no dog – they latch on and such the life out of each other!

In either scenario – a woman shutting down sexually, or a woman acting out sexually, she jeopardizes what she treasures most – her marriage and family, not to mention her own self-esteem.”

Elizabeth: “What is the dive deep principle and how does a coach use it?”

Shannon: “While in Hawaii, we signed up for the ultimate adventure — a nighttime scuba dive with manta rays.  As my entire family was descending to the bottom of the ocean, I was stuck at the surface.  The dive master saw that I was nervously kicking my feet, which with fins on kept me at the surface of the water.  So he swam up, grabbed me by the ankle, and pulled me deep with a swift tug.  It was bewildering at first, but I soon realized he was doing me a favor.  I didn’t fly to Hawaii to snorkel.  I flew there to go DEEP, and I needed his unexpected grab-and-tug to get there.  That’s what it may feel like with clients when I lob an unexpected question in their direction.  But I remind them that I’m only trying to help them get to the bottom of their issues, not play around at the surface where they’ve been stuck their whole lives.”

Elizabeth: “How do you help a woman find her voice?”

Shannon: “I love doing life mapping with women such that they recognize the most pivotal moments of their childhood, and how those experiences set them on a trajectory that landed them in whatever predicament they may find themselves.  So often the woman who is sexually shut down will realize the sex-negative messages she was given throughout her childhood by well-intentioned mothers (like “Good girls don’t!”).  Or the woman who is acting out will often realize that it’s not another lover she longs for, but rather, the love that she never felt from a distant or busy father. 

I will often ask clients to write a letter to that parent, or have a conversation with an empty chair, pretending the parent is sitting there absorbing every word without retaliation.  It’s remarkable what actually comes out of a woman’s mouth when she feels oh-so-safe speaking her mind and expressing her pent-up emotions!  That is usually the first BIG step in healing old wounds, because you can’t heal it until you allow yourself to feel it!  Helping women unpack their emotional baggage and recognize what their sexual acting out or shutting down is really all about is one of my greatest passions!”

Elizabeth: “What holds her back from finding her voice?”

Shannon: “We simply don’t know what we don’t know about how emotions need to be processed.  As children, we’re told such things as, ‘Stop that crying or I’m going to give you something to cry about!’ or ‘If you’re going to be angry, just go to your room!’ or the proverbial, ‘You’d better change that face or else the wind is going to blow and freeze it like that!’ Translation: You’re feelings aren’t welcome here!  Stuff ‘em!  But stuffing emotions only guarantees that they will fester and swell and create much bigger problems down the road.  And that’s usually when women seek me out – when their emotional bills come due, and they have no earthly idea how to write those emotional checks.  But processing emotions in a healthy way is a skill that everyone can learn.  For a woman to learn these skills means she’s going to be a much more emotionally stable wife and mother, and she will be able to teach her children to be far more in touch with their own emotions, too.  That is a journey that’s definitely worth taking since it can positively impact our families for generations to come! 

Elizabeth: “What is a best practice (i.e. an exercise you do with a client or an approach you take) that you could share with the ICCA eNews readers?

Shannon: “The thing I love most about coaching versus counseling is that there’s a lot more freedom to try unconventional methods such as orchestrating a “Trust Fall” for someone attempting to overcome trust issues, or a “Comfort Hold” for a client who has been sexually acting out when all she really wants is to be held by a safe person who won’t take advantage of her.  But the most important concept that I help clients internalize is that “It’s okay to ASK for what you NEED!”  Most individuals have no idea what they really need; they just know that they are angry with their spouse (or parents or children or friend) for not giving it to them.  But this is so unfair, and so self-sabotaging!  Once we get in touch with our own feelings, we can then invite others to meet a specific need in a sincere way such that they’re inspired to fulfill our request rather than feeling required to do so.”

Elizabeth: “Can you recommend resources that you use with your women clients?

hannon: “For women who are acting out, my books Every Woman’s Battle and The Fantasy Fallacy are must-reads.  For women who have been shut down sexually, I most often direct them toward my books The Sexually Confident Wife and The Passion Principles. 

I also enjoy using the How We Love book by Milan and Kay Yerkovich to help a woman (and her mate) determine their attachment styles (Avoider, People Pleaser, Vascillator, Controller, or Victim).  This information can be incredibly transformational as she seeks to develop a healthier marital dynamic.

Elizabeth: “Can you recommend resources that you use with your women clients?

Shannon: “Over the past 20 years of speaking to women, publishing over 20 books on healthy sexuality and spirituality, and leading over 20 Women at the Well 4-day Intensive Workshops, I feel as if my understanding and insight into what women really struggle with sexually and emotionally has increased exponentially.  I feel like I’ve become an incredibly safe, non-judgmental person, and I thoroughly enjoy fostering similar growth in others.  This is our best contribution to society – to grow far beyond our own weaknesses, become the strong women God created us to be, and recognize how we can become “soft places” for other people to land.  There they will hopefully encounter God’s unconditional love, grace, and mercy in real and powerful ways simply by being in relationship with us.”

Shannon Ethridge, M.A. is a million-copy best-selling author, international speaker, and life/relationship coach with a master’s degree in counseling/human relations from Liberty University.  She is the co-host of the Sexy Marriage Radio podcast which reaches over 100,000 listeners each month.  To learn more about Shannon’s books, speaking, coaching, B.L.A.S.T. Mentorship Program, or Women at the Well 4-day Intensive Workshops, go to

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An Interview with Georgia Shaffer

Elizabeth Hixson

For the October eNews, we get an inside look at the life of a communication coach. Life coach and author, Georgia Shaffer, shares her experiences coaching individuals in communication skills.


Elizabeth: Georgia, what’s your journey? Give a little background about yourself and
how you got involved in the niche of communication coaching.

Georgia: The niche of communication coaching grew naturally out of my expertise. For years, I was on staff for an organization that trained Christian speakers and writers through three-day seminars held around the country. As part of that, I would critique presentations and book proposals or a chapter of a book. People would then ask me to coach them on larger or longer projects. For example, one client wanted help writing a book proposal. Another had a book contract and wanted someone to encourage her, support her in prayer, brainstorm with her, and keep her accountable to finish the book on time. Others were speaking at women’s retreats and wanted to hone a message they were giving to make it succinct and memorable. Later in my coaching, I started working with leaders on EQ and communication skills.

Elizabeth: What makes communication coaching distinct from other forms of

Georgia: Communication means to share information, skills, and wisdom with others—and it is the connection (i.e., communion part) that is very important. Communication takes interpersonal skills. Communication coaching is a broad category—some types of coaches listed on one Web site follows. The ones in bold are types I do:

  • Voice coaching (for the quality of the client’s voice, regardless of purpose)
  • Speech therapy for speech problems and foreign accents
  • Relationship enhancement for the client’s personal life
  • Advertising and company image services
  • Emotional intelligence training for business relationships, including assertiveness training
  • Training in facilitation and team building
  • Systemic Communication Coaching, which can be much like several of the above with the “systems” label attached (and perhaps some genuine attention to systemic issues)
  • Evaluation of, and help with, speech and report writing, or of speaking style

Elizabeth: What sort of people become communication coaches?

Georgia: Communication coaches are people who have experience as communicators on some level and have the skills involved. They have a passion for helping others find ways to connect. They care and want to help clients understand where they are now in their communication style and their strengths and weaknesses. They want to assist clients in sharing the message God gave them.

Elizabeth: What kinds of clients come to you for communication coaching?

Georgia: The clients that come for communication coaching are coaches, ministry leaders, professionals, authors, and speakers who want to grow to the next level. I coach lots of Christian coaches. Currently, communication coaching is working with coaches to use speaking and writing to connect with potential clients. Both speaking and writing help them create visibility, build a relationship in a non-threating way, and establish them as an expert. Since there is so much noise out there in the marketplace— it’s about clients learning how to be effective in their writing and speaking so they communicate in an effective and memorable way. It doesn’t matter what a client’s level is, he or she can always grow.

Elizabeth: What is a best practice (i.e., an exercise you do with a client or an approach you take) you can share with ICCA readers?

Georgia: I ask myself, “Where is the client right now? And where does he/she want to go?” Get a baseline, identify strengths and weaknesses, and determine how the client can build his/her particular style of connecting. Part of a person’s style is his/her God-given personality.

Elizabeth: Can you recommend resources you use with your clients to help them sharpen their communication skills?

Georgia: As mentioned, part of our style of communicating is how God wired us— our personalities. I use a personality assessment with clients. I have the three assessments I use on my Web site ( of books and resources. I use Wired that Way with most clients, and sell that assessment at a discount in quantities for coaches if they e-mail me personally. On the free resources page of my Web site, there is an outline titled, “Understanding Your Communication Style.” Other coaches are free to use it as long as my copyright information is disclosed. For leaders, I will also use EQ assessments. I also have those listed on the books and resources page of my Web site. And when it comes to books, I like Andy Stanley’s Communicating for a Change: Seven Keys to Irresistible Communication.

Elizabeth: What powerful coaching question(s) do you tend to use to help unlock potential in clients?

Georgia: Asking the right questions is unique to the client who is struggling, but one question I often use is, “What are you saying to yourself when you sit down to write or stand up to speak?”

Elizabeth: People often fear public speaking. How do you unlock clients to move past the obstacle of fear?

Georgia: Pay attention to their mindsets. Maybe someone once told them they couldn’t speak. Maybe they think it is either a talent they have or don’t have versus a skill they can develop. Maybe they think they have to be a Billy Graham instead of who God created them to be. Yet, it’s guiding them into taking one small step at a time. It’s making the message personal and keeping the big picture in mind—what did God call or give them to share?

Elizabeth: Since coaching is results-driven, how have you seen the power of communication coaching affect your clients’ lives? Is there a particular story you could share?

Georgia: Sharing your heart and life in a message is what makes others connect with you. Yet, I’ve observed being transparent and vulnerable are not easy. Many clients feel “naked.” They want to “tell” rather than “show” others what to do. However, as simple as it sounds, it is far from easy to do. When I’m watching clients share a piece of themselves and seeing the positive difference it makes in one person’s life—well, that is the best to me. Recently a client wrote a powerful blog. When she received comments like: “You challenged me to stop and think what I need to do about this in my life”—they just fed her passion to continue to reach out to inspire and encourage her readers.

Elizabeth: Why would you recommend the niche of communication coaching to a fellow life coach? How has it enriched your life as a coach?

Georgia: I witness how lives are transformed when clients are empowered and equipped to share their experiences, hope, and knowledge—and the kingdom of God is advanced forward. I would recommend that every
coach gain basic communication skills. Find your style and build on it. As far as specializing in that area—recognize if you have the desire and skills (or willingness to develop the skills). And the most important question to ask yourself as a Christian coach: “Is God leading you in this area?”

Elizabeth: What growth have you seen in your own life as a result of being a communication coach? How have you seen God move?

Georgia: The journey, especially when developing speaking skills or writing a book, can be tedious and overwhelming. When a client is in the midst of that journey and the initial excitement has worn off… and when the end seems impossible and out of sight, watching people in that difficult place is a constant reminder for me that when I want to quit a breakthrough is usually right around the corner. I believe God honors the never giving up attitude IF it is want He has called you to do. I have seen a few give up and it is sad, but it is the rewrites and repeated practicing of a skill or message that makes all the difference in another person’s life—and that makes all the tedious efforts worthwhile. I have seen in communication coaching that while we ask God to give us a message, He instead allows us to live a message!

Georgia Shaffer, M.A., MCLC, CPLC, is a credentialed life coach, Pennsylvania licensed psychologist, professional speaker, and the author of five books, including: Coaching the Coach: Lessons from Christian Coaches and Taking Out Your Emotional Trash. She is on the teaching team of AACC’s DVD-training series: Life Coaching 101 and 201. In 2015, Georgia received AACC’s award for Excellence in Christian Caregiving. She specializes in individual coaching for coaches, women, and communicators, as well as group coaching using EQ, Strengths Finder 2.0, and personality assessments for coaches. To find out more, visit

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Message to Millennials: Not Yet

Shirene Gentry, M.A.


I have a message to millennials. But not yet.


Today has been sacrificed on the altar of the future.


This generation that has prepared more for the future, like no other before it, is the very one that struggles with it the most. Striving for the future has left them empty for today. And they are certainly struggling.

I’ve listened, coached, and mentored those within my circle of influence. It breaks my heart to think of the hostage situation many are in due to the following areas marked with questions:

  • career
  • graduate school
  • friendships
  • location
  • financial independence
  • loneliness
  • soul mates

The unknowns of what is not yet have robbed their ability to settle in the today of what is. So here it is:

That career opportunity? Not yet.

That graduate school acceptance? Not yet.

That new friend? Not yet.

That financial independence? Not yet.

That soul mate? Not yet.

The security and trust that is scraping to be found in self and circumstances must be replaced by a greater trust.


Let your trust in the future be sacrificed on the altar of today.

So how do you handle the “now?” Here’s a simple formula:

N = Never compare. Ever. It doesn’t matter what others are doing.

O = Offer gratitude. No matter the future, be thankful for all those things you normally take for granted.
[Numerous scientific studies give evidence for the benefits of gratitude.]

W =What can you learn in this season of time?
Asking “why” is the wrong question and only leads in diverting attention with all that’s good today.


Place your security in the God who works in the margin of your unknowns. And if you don’t have that trust yet? Okay. Not yet. But would you take a moment to lift your gaze with me? You don’t need to let go of your grasp yet. Tilt your head up, just a bit. Do you see the Creator of the Universe who is the “Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Revelation 22:13)? “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17). He, who knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10), desires to work on your behalf in all of those areas of life that aren’t in your control (Romans 8:28).


For today, walk confidently in the day. Lean in to any challenge and embrace it wholeheartedly.

For today, trust in your abilities for the day. Lean in to your strengths and passions.

For today, be grateful with what is. Lean in to what you’ve been given, no matter what it is.

Be certain of today, not uncertain of tomorrow.

Today, don’t settle. Settle in. It will come. Just not yet.


This is Hope Unveiled!


Shirene H. Gentry received her bachelor of arts degree from Wake Forest University and her master of arts in professional counseling from Liberty University. She is a board certified master Christian life coach in High Point, North Carolina specializing in the areas of stress management, relationship, marriage, and health/wellness. She is a member of the AACC and the ICCA. She has written several books, including Change Unveiled: Hope for Positive Choices, Inspiration Unveiled: Hope for the Seasons of Life, and Recipes Unveiled: Hope for Healthy Eating.
She can be reached at, Hope Unveiled Life Coaching (Facebook), hopeunveiled (Instagram), @hopeunveiled; @Shirene_G. (Twitter), and Hope Unveiled Life Coaching (YouTube).

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Word of the Week: TOUGH

Donna Gibbs, Ph.D.


Life sometimes throws some tough blows, doesn’t it? Have you experienced a challenging season? Are you in the midst of a struggle right now? An all-out war? A crisis? Life this side of eternity is just hard sometimes. And, during those times, we often feel anything but tough. We feel broken. Weak. Defeated.

How do we cope when life gets tough? That question is second only to the question, “Why?” Here are a few thoughts that may direct you through the foggiest of times. They are simply areas of remembrance:

  1. Remember that life is hard for everyone at times. You are not unique. There is nothing different about you. Others really do understand what it is like to struggle (the enemy will lead you to believe that you are alone in this, and that no one else could possibly ever understand).
  2. Remember that this is just a season. According to Ecclesiastes 3, there are appointed times for various seasons of life. Some of these seasons are refreshing, wonderful, joyous times. Other times are tough times. Disastrous. Incredibly sad times. Tough times are a normal aspect of living the human existence. Even permanent changes do not have to lead to permanent struggles. Struggles are temporary – label them as such.
  3. Remember what you already know. When life gets tough, and there is a vast unknown ahead, everything feels chaotic and we can easily become completely overwhelmed. We must allow ourselves to be grounded by what we DO know, versus overwhelmed by what we DON’T know. Take a deep breath, and ask yourself, “Even now, in the midst of my pain, Who do I know…that I know…that I know….that God is?” Then ground yourself in simple, reliable truth until the fog begins to clear.
  4. Remember other times in your life in which you faced a storm, and you survived. Think back to how you coped. What did you do that made that tough time in your life even worse? What did you do that built resilience and allowed you to make it through that discouraging season? What did you ultimately learn through that trial that you desperately need to remember today, in this current season?
  5. Remember that God grows us through the tough stuff. Look with expectation for the strength and resilience that is being forced upon you as you survive your trial. Though you may not thank God for your struggle, be sure to thank Him for the strength to survive, and the growing experience you are encountering.

If you are in a tough spot today, I pray your season will soon come to a close, and that you will gain from this tough time all of the beautiful things that God can bring from it!

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-7


Originally posted on Clear Word Counseling Blog:—TOUGH

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