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Program Claims to Create a Road Map to Success

By KATINA TENGESDAL, Staff Writer ktengesdal@ndweb.com
(Article appeared in the Minot Daily News on January 16, 2006)

Dr. Elizabeth Eckert, a graduate in developmental psychology, began a wellness coaching program while she lived and worked in Detroit. She designed the wellness coaching program to help individuals untangle stress and reach their goals, giving people empowerment and a healthier life.

The program has had great results for individuals in many walks of life, and has helped them resolve everything from family conflicts to creative projects, weight loss to home organization.

As Eckert worked in massage therapy, she noticed that tense muscles were often a result of stress and a chaotic life.

"I would work with people as a body worker, and I had experience with pain patients," Eckert said. "I realized they were treating me like an aspirin. The pain was a result of their life not being in order. Something starts in the mind and then moves to the body. I try to help people get their lives organized at the level where it starts."
Eckert's program helps individuals make plans to complete projects that have been bothering them and causing stress.

"My feeling is that anything that bugs us is worth doing. If it is bugging you, it is affecting your health," Eckert said

The program addresses procrastination issues, planning, and prioritizing. In the end, individuals develop more self-efficacy - once they complete one project, the capacity to influence the rest of their lives increases. Individuals in the program receive one on one coaching from Eckert and group coaching by phone and e-mail.

"There is value in group coaching," she said. "You can bond with other people who are going through the same thing. I felt that in many cases, individual coaching held them back, because they didn't have that community. People get into the mindset, 'Woe is me, my problem is the worst', but in a group, somebody else might have the same problem."

Changing lives

Individuals in the program who have completed their projects experience a better handle on life.

George Lowther of Minot needed help getting his family life together, and the coaching program helped him do just that.

"I was dealing with many family issues and some personal issues. I didn't feel I could get a handle on it," he said. "Then Elizabeth came to our Grandparent Support group at the YWCA. I've been their (his grandkids') father figure for many years. It was getting to be a strain and there were conflicts between work and family issues."

"I had to look and find out who I was and what I could do with my life," he said. "It's like a college-level course when you work with her (Eckert). She teaches how to handle life in practical ways. She doesn't do the work for you. I had to study, do research, and do practical work at home.

"My first project was a brain-buster," he said. "It started to make sense as I worked with her. Now I can see on paper the direction the family is going."

After observing his family, Lowther discovered where they needed to improve. He took a step back, and planned for where they wanted to be in three months.

"The plan set measurable outcomes, (with) the adults cooperating, a way to work out our differences, the children doing chores with little prompting and learning to take responsibility at home and improvements in my grandson's behavior - he has ADHD," Lowther said.

Planning towards those goals was key to getting everything together. Lowther, his wife and his daughter worked different hours and schedules were hectic. The family now holds Sunday night meetings to discuss plans for the week ahead. Each family member has a calendar, they plan ahead for babysitters, and they make notes on their calendars as changes come up.

"There is a timeline, of what to do and when. It's not like a to-do list. I used to have one, and I would check things off whenever I had time. It was no fun, it was all chores. This has turned our life into an exciting adventure, instead of just one chore and one more challenge you have to fight," Lowther said.

"It was an epiphany, a revelation, a turning point in my life. I finally saw a way out of the chaos that I was in," he said. "I felt empowered. I went from negative to positive. And day by day, as things started happening, things started getting exciting. I've got something to look forward to each day."

Taking control

The plan helped develop a clear leadership role for Lowther, and eased the burden of family stress.

"She (Eckert) helped me get established as the leader of the family," he said. "The family calmed down, and felt we had a handle on things. We had order instead of chaos. I saw a lot of worried faces in my family, and now I see smiles. We've become alive again. It's like a rebirth."

Lowther plans to start work on another project with the tools that he has learned.

"My next challenge is to conquer the cholesterol battle. It's not a real big battle, it's at the stage where it can be corrected with diet and exercise. One thing leads to another. I figured out who I was, then I dealt with a chaotic family, and now I'm dealing with my health," Lowther said.

Lowther plans to climb a mountain in California with his son, after he has reached his fitness goals. He plans to do that this fall.

"She (Eckert) has the tools to help change your life in a logical manner. I've been to several counselors, and I've never seen anything like this, it's so practical and useful," Lowther said.

"I never considered myself a visionary. I admired people who know where they're going and how to get there. Now I can envision where I want to go," he said.

Participants

Penny Berger, of Troy, Mich., was finally able to sew again after many years of experiencing a tightness in her chest whenever she thought about sewing or when she talked about it with other people. Berger said she'd been an excellent seamstress in the '70s.

"It was a long period of time - 20 years wanting to get back into sewing," she said. "I was having difficulty doing that. Every time I approached a sewing project, I felt tightness in my chest and I wasn't able to do it physically."

"Over the years I'd been trying to figure out that question of why I could not sew," she said. "One reason could have been the fear of not being able to do it perfectly."

The program helped Berger overcome her fear, and she has completed her project. She just finished sewing four items.
"I was much relieved. I'm really elated that I can get back to sewing and designing, and creating my own work," Berger said.

Pamela Schiffer, who lives in a Detroit suburb, began the program with her first project being getting her house in order.

"I didn't think I could get anything else in order until I got my living space in order, until I didn't have turmoil at the daily living level," Schiffer said.

"It's not just making lists, and being overwhelmed with things to do," she said. "I had to stop thinking I could do it the same old way I always did, and not getting anything done. It sounds so simple, but to actually do it is a different story. The more I was able to start doing it, the more falls into place."

Throughout the program, Schiffer felt that Eckert's non-judgmental attitude helped her achieve success.

"Even in failure, one learns a great deal from her. I think she really understands the psychology in people, in terms of figuring out reasons why we don't accomplish what we want to accomplish," Schiffer said.

For more information on Eckert's Wellness Coaching program, log on at www.wordcures.com or call her at 701-839-4755.


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