Wednesday, August 15

Q&A with Rhona Berens

UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television alumna Rhona Berens now works as a life coach. As a student, Berens earned a master's and doctorate degree from UCLA.

UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television alumna Rhona Berens now works as a life coach. As a student, Berens earned a master's and doctorate degree from UCLA. Jennifer Ta / Daily Bruin

When it comes to having a job that fulfills one’s dreams and interests, UCLA alumna and life coach Rhona Berens is one of the fortunate few who are able to wake up each day and love the career they have. Berens spent years focusing on film and media, eventually earning both her master’s and doctorate degrees at UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television. Now she runs two life coaching businesses ““ [email protected] and Forté Dreams Coaching. Berens sat down with the Daily Bruin’s Jennifer Ta to talk about her career and how her experience at UCLA impacted her long-term goals.

Daily Bruin: How did you come to be a life coach after studying at the School of Theater, Film and Television, being a professor of film, and then being a business consultant?

Rhona Berens: I have always been someone with a lot of different interests and different skills. While I love teaching as a professor, I felt like I wanted to explore more of my skills and more of my interests. I”˜d been reading about life coaching on and off for about 10 years; I’d been intrigued by life coaching and human psychology in general. (In 2008) I wanted a career change and realized that what I love most in my life is working with people. My greatest joy as a professor was being a mentor to students, and in my business life I loved helping people build their careers and navigate conflict and issues in their lives.

DB: What process did you have to go through in order to become a life coach?

RB: I studied at two schools: The Coaches Training Institute, a premier individual coaching school, and the Center for Right Relationship, the leader in Organization and Relationship Systems Coaching. It took me a year to become a certified individual coach, and now I am completing a program in relationship coaching, which has taken six months.

DB: How did studying at the School of Theater, Film and Television prepare you as a life coach?

RB: I don’t think it was a straight line from doing work in TFT to being a life coach. If there was continuity between TFT and life coaching, it was more about storytelling. I believe that we all, to some degree, storify our lives. defines “storify” as “to form or tell stories of; to narrate or describe in a story,” and I believe that we all storify our experiences we have in our lives ““ in part based on the stories others tell about us. To some degree, we often limit what we believe we are capable of and who we believe we are as a result of our own (and others’) stories about ourselves. At TFT, I learned the tools of storytelling, like how to write a screenplay, how to tell a story, how to create drama and conflict, how to build a fictional character profile; all of those elements are also present, to some degree, in how we tell our life stories.

DB: Can you explain a bit more about how you use the idea of storifying and apply it to your work as a life coach?

RB: One of the things I ask my clients when they start working with me is, what kinds of stories do they make up for themselves or what kinds of roles do they play in life? Think about high school yearbooks and how people get categorized: this is the jokester or homecoming king or queen, the valedictorian. We play certain kinds of roles in certain parts of our lives, like our roles in families: the youngest child, mommy’s favorite, the troublemaker, the good boy or the good girl. We can lose sight of what really works for us, our best or higher selves, or what fits us or what part of ourselves we want to express more fully. Coaching focuses on helping people make changes in their lives. … It’s important to understand the kinds of stories we’ve been telling ourselves, so we can imagine new roles, new ways of life, new ways of being. So the concepts of storytelling I gained from TFT are very relevant to my work as a coach.

DB: Who goes to see a life coach?

RB: People work with coaches for a variety of reasons. Some people speak with coaches because they are feeling stuck in their jobs or careers and they have decisions to make but don’t know what decision to make. Some want more fulfillment in their day-to-day lives but are not sure how to really get that. People often do it to increase a sense of fulfillment in their lives, to tap into internal resources to better help them make productive and empowering choices, and to help them stay in the present and experience their lives in a day-to-day way instead of dwelling on the past or future; after all, the entirety of our lives happens in the day-to-day, in the present.

DB: What clients do you serve?

RB: I have two companies: Forté Dreams Coaching and [email protected] At Forté Dreams, I work with individual clients and couples. I specialize in three areas: creatives ““ artists like writers, painters, actors, photographers, musicians, etc. and people who … have strong creative interests and want to find ways to pursue those interests. Then, I have clients who are parents, who want to be parents, as well as expecting couples. I also work with “life explorers,” those who are spiritual in the most general way, trying to find the meaning of life, or of their lives, and asking themselves, what do they want to do next and what does the future hold, etc.

DB: Seeing how you went from a different career after a few years, do you think you will be moving on from life coaching in the future or is this a permanent vocation for you?

RB: Life coaching will be forming the basis of my professional life going forward. It gives me the tools and techniques for helping people navigate challenges and make changes in their lives. I also have retained my love for teaching, which I still get to use as a life coach because I teach workshops and facilitate meetings. So my history in TFT and being a professor is something that I held onto in this career. I love coaching in a way that when I became a coach … I felt like I was coming home. It felt like a calling, which felt different from a career.

DB: It seems that with being a life coach, you are able to combine all of your careers into one.

RB: It does seem that way doesn’t it? Connecting with people, mentoring people, being an entrepreneur, understanding the way story, fiction and the roles we play impact our lives; … it seems they all found a home for me in coaching.

E-mail Ta at [email protected]

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