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Coach Helps Women with Life Transitions

Sterling business owner Lynn Hammonds had just opened a new business, moved to McLean and was going through a divorce when she discovered Deborah "Deb" DePorter, a professional coach for women in transition.

"I felt overwhelmed by a lot of things. I felt kind of stuck," said Hammonds, who opened Silver Lining Scrapbook Supply in April 2001. Shortly thereafter, she met DePorter at a Business Networking International meeting after the Potomac Falls resident gave a presentation about her home-based business, Change Associates, LLC.

"I had so much going on that I couldn't sort through a lot of it. I was having trouble prioritizing," Hammonds said. "She brought to my awareness the things that were important to deal with in my life. ... In every situation, there is a choice, and sometimes you have to look at it from another perspective. It's all about realizing you're never stuck and you always have a choice."

DePorter started the coaching business after undergoing her own life transitions. In the late 1980s through the early 1990s, she had worked as an image consultant until she decided on a career change. She earned a computer information systems degree from Strayer University in 1999. During the first six months of working in the field, "I went home every day, and I cried," she said. "I realized, oops, that wasn't right either."

IN LATE 1999, DePorter attended an Association of International Consultants conference, where she discovered coaching. "From that point, I was hooked," she said. She realized she had a choice and instead of living day-by-day, she could live with a "sense of purpose and passion," she said.

"It's about the passionate side, what makes you content and happy and motivates you. I hear that over and over again, 'I want to make a difference,'" DePorter said.

DePorter attended the Coaches Training Institute for six months in late 2001 and early 2002 and was certified as a professional coach earlier this year.

As part of her certification, DePorter had to find five paying clients and with that, her niche. For her, it was transitions, moving from a place of safety and security to the unknown since she underwent four career transitions, seven different jobs, one lay-off, an early marriage, a divorce and a second marriage. "I have the empathy and knowledge to work in that area," she said.

DePorter helps clients look at their present and future situations, unlike a therapist who helps clients work through their pasts or something that causes a problem in their daily lives. DePorter sets up a three to four-hour consultation session to build the foundation of the coaching relationship, which, if established, can continue weekly or less frequently in personal meetings and phone conversations.

ONE OF THE FIRST things DePorter shows her clients is the Wheel of Life to help them identify what is not balanced in their lives, such as careers, relationships and personal growth. She helps the clients focus on no more than three areas that are not working for them.

"One of the biggest premises with coaching is it's the clients' premises. It becomes their agenda," DePorter said. "I'm there to listen and guide and ask them powerful questions to rethink and explore."

Sally Toth, a certified coach since August 2001, hired DePorter as her coach last year when she was considering moving and leaving her boyfriend, who now is her fiancé.

"She let me be the guide. She was always open and danced where the conversation would go," Toth said. "She helped me find a picture in my mind of how every little thing we did every week was helping me gain steps toward what I wanted. Her strength with me is process coaching, being in the moment wherever your client is."

DePorter helps clients identify what she calls their gremlins, or negative self-talk, so they can understand what may be blocking their progress. She encourages them to look at their situation from different perspectives, so they do not get "caught in one perspective," she said.

"I love the idea of helping people really make a change in their lives," said DePorter, who has her own coach. "It's rewarding to see [my clients] shine, to see the joy on their faces and that they're actually living their lives in choice. ... That's what makes me want to wake up every day."

DEPORTER'S CLIENTS are generally women ages 35 to 75 who are professionals and educated, but not necessarily by having a college degree. She works with her clients for six months to one year and maintains five to eight clients at one time. She also is a senior technical project manager at America Online, Inc. in Dulles. Her husband Bob DePorter is a self-employed carpenter. They have two children and two grandchildren.