For Bridgett Zehnder, finding her niche as a life coach came as an extension of the challenges she faced and overcame in her own life. “Like most of us that work in the Healing Arts field, we have developed our message from our mess,” she confides. Bridgett’s “mess” wound up looking like co-dependency, alcoholism, dysfunctional relationships, divorce, and loss— roadblocks which stemmed from childhood trauma and which were keeping her from leading a healthy life.
“Because of the strain this put on me emotionally, I developed debilitating pain through fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue,” she explains. “I did not find any relief from the traditional medical field, yet I fought hard to find a path of healing.” After joining a 12-step program, implementing significant dietary changes, picking up a meditation practice, and engaging with other holistic therapies, like hypnotherapy, Bridgett finally found her hope returning. It was ultimately these triumphs over suffering that would shape her as a life coach and offer a blueprint for her clients facing obstacles in their own careers and lives.
As such, recovery is a key component of Bridgett’s work, although it’s not limited to the addictions with which such a word is most commonly associated. “My niche is working with individuals who are struggling with recovery— not just recovery from drugs, alcohol, or other common addictions,” she says. “By ‘recovery,’ I’m speaking of recovery from life-altering conditions, such as loss, divorce, self-defeating behavior patterns, chronic pain, chronic illness, co-dependency, and victims of abuse.”
Helping guide her clients through the process of becoming survivors—and then “thrivers”—puts them on more solid footing to begin setting and achieving their own goals— a step Bridgett cherishes the opportunity to witness. “We don’t know what we don’t know, and we do the best we can with what we have,” Bridgett explains. “The amazing thing is that once we are ready to receive, the Universe shows up what (and who) we need to heal… I truly love when a person can finally understand that they are not alone in their struggles.”
An incredible example of this transformation at work is one of Bridgett’s clients—a young woman who was struggling with addiction to prescription pain medication following a sports injury. While she had once been a healthy athlete with an active lifestyle and solid family relationships, her life was now marred by physical and emotional illnesses that compounded and threatened her job and strained connections with her family.
“Her body had sustained such damage from her addiction. She struggled tremendously from shame and guilt,” reflects Bridgett. Yet, with coaching from Bridgett in conjunction with aid from the woman’s medical providers and the support of her twelve-step program, she was able to make a comeback. “Through her hard work and my support, she became a healthy young woman. She’s back to playing soccer, she’s healed her family relationship, and she’s in a happy, healthy, romantic relationship.”
Bridgett credits a couple of her simplest life coaching tools with making the most profound impact in connecting with and supporting a client: her ears and her heart.
“What our clients most often need is to be heard. They need our ears to hear and our hearts to feel. They need empathy. I love when I meet with an individual who is struggling with something I’ve walked through, and I can help them walk through it. And yet, their experience is so unique… it gives me something I need in my own personal journey.”
Having faced her own difficult road to recovery, Bridgett says her love for her work stems from helping her clients find their own “ah-ha!” moments. The power and synergy of coaching allows “mind chatter” to be turned into constructive thoughts, goals, and ultimately, achievements. These moments of inspiration act asthe foundation for positive change in the lives of clients and the people around them.
“The most inspiring thing [in life coaching] is that moment when they realize their potential and feel empowered,” she says. “I’ve walked through the trenches of poor health— emotionally and physically. I found a way out, and I love when I see the lights go on in another individual.”