This is me.

This is me. I’ve decided to close out 2021 holistically. It was time to update the business photos to represent me as I am. No more hiding my tattoos and forcing corporate smiles to appear more approachable. This is me – a low key, curious, observant, assertive, introvert who overcame childhood trauma and leveraged my fire through post-traumatic growth to be better, do better, and create better. A passionate learner who geeks out about all things psychology related, deep, meaningful growth-focused dialogue, and making evidence-based coaching services more accessible to marginalized populations. I’m Dr. Leah B. Mazzola:
☆ a Hispanic/Indigenous American who grew up one of seven kids in poverty,
☆ experienced all 10 assessed Adverse Childhood Experiences,
☆ spent my teens involved in delinquency and heavy substance abuse,
☆ worked at least 2 jobs at all times since 14,
☆ dropped out of high school my junior year,
☆ decided to create a new path for myself at 17,
☆ secured my first corporate job at 18,
☆ used an iron will, willingness to learn from those who had what I wanted to gain the professional skills necessary to thrive at work,
☆ bought my first house at 21,
☆ earned my GED at 24,
☆ paused to consider how beautiful life was on the other side of positive transformation, so became a first-generation college student at 25 to study why I was able to make it out and transform my life when so many others hadn’t,
☆ worked 70+ hours weekly for the next nine years as I juggled full-time corporate work, full-time school, full-time family life, and began life coaching focused side hustles that have become my full-time life’s work,
☆ met the love of my life at 27 in between and co-raised four securely attached, thriving, children effectively breaking the cycle of poverty, abuse, and criminality for my kids.
☆ Earned my PhD in Psychology at 34 and walked the stage with a lump in my throat as I considered representing every young brown girl managing risk and trauma outside of their control, still feeling like every day won’t end and struggling to imagine better for themselves. This could be them too. We have no idea what we’re capable of until we decide to focus our energy on building the good within and for ourselves to make positive, meaningful contributions to our world.
☆ Hit burnout hard at 35 and put hard boundaries around my work life to attend to recovery. Spent the last five years holding those boundaries working on healing. Working through the trauma that led me to hyper independence, hypervigilance, workaholism, and over-achieving as the expression of being stuck in the cycle of fighting with every cell to create and sustain security and safety for myself and my family – when truly, I’ve/we’ve been safe and secure all of my adult life.
☆ This is me. Learning to love my newfound freedom. The slower pace. The life we’re building and nurturing outside of work. The positive emotions, connections, and experiences that now have room for being. The settled, relaxed nature that was so unfamiliar it was uncomfortable and provoked anxiety for quite some time. I had to come to realize this is what relaxing feels like and resist the urge to add more as my system adapted to doing less. This is what right feels like. Space for the full spectrum of human experience. Space for boredom, curiosity, fun, leisure, joy, exploration AND focus, engagement, productivity, determination, effectiveness, and efficiency. We have arousal and relaxation responses for a reason. They both need space for being.
☆ This life is rich with resilience, wisdom, love, compassion, and purpose. So grateful to know this flourishing. So grateful to get to support my clients, trainees, and mentees as they attend to their own self-awareness, changes, and growth necessary to overcome, thrive, and live well. Life is good.

What’s the difference between coaching and therapy?

What is coaching?

Coaching is a non-directive, person-centered, strength-based, collaborative support service to help functional clients achieve meaningful goals. Coaching provides the structural support clients need to maximize their personal and professional potential. Coaching emphasizes autonomy, choice, and trust.

Clients come to coaching with an interest in self-improvement or measurable progress. Through coaching, clients find insight and direction to identify practical means to reach their goals. The coach guides and supports the client’s planned, intentional, and purposeful action toward achievement.

Coaching clients are ready, willing, and able to do the work inherent in the coaching process. They are committed to achieving the outcomes they seek.

What is evidence-based coaching?

I offer behavioral science expertise developed through doctoral-level research and study. My training and coaching interventions are supported by coaching-specific and coaching-relevant research from the psychology and neuroscience literature.

Coaching vs. Therapy

Coaches and therapists share a common goal – to enhance well-being and outcomes for those they serve. Some therapists are also coaches. Some coaches are also therapists. Deciding which is the best fit for the client depends on their current state of functioning and their needs and goals. Keep in mind, the same client may work with a therapist and a coach to address different needs and goals - if the client's clinical issue is well-managed. The therapist may work with the client to address the clinical issue, such as depression, while the coach works with the client around goals that matter to ongoing progress, such as finding clarity around career direction, or building job or academic skills. Here’s an overview of the primary differences:

Functioning on the Wellness Continuum

A therapist friend of mine, Jason Hughes, used the best explanation I've found to distinguish a therapy patient from a coaching client. Think of wellness on a continuum with the mid-point as 0 representing normal functioning. Negative numbers are to the left of 0 and represent dysfunction. Positive numbers are to the right of 0 and represent thriving. Therapy addresses dysfunction with the goal of bringing clients back to normal functioning (0). Coaching takes functional clients from 0 into positive numbers to thriving. Therapy tends to be a better fit for those experiencing moderate to severe levels of distress or dysfunction because therapists have the clinical training, qualifications, and government sanctions to diagnose and treat issues that would otherwise interfere with the client's progress. Coaches who have completed an accredited professional coach training and certification program (credentialed coaches) may also serve as an early intervention support for those who are experiencing low levels of distress or dysfunction.

Credentialed coaches are qualified to help functional clients take a proactive role in their lives, to begin setting and working toward goals to learn to thrive by doing, because we all hit setbacks in life. If we accept just okay (normal functioning) we remain consistently at-risk of falling into dysfunction and dependence. If we remain proactive, working toward thriving (positive numbers) and hit setbacks we’re still better than okay. We’re also better equipped to bounce back and continue the forward momentum.

Client's Needs


  • The patient is struggling with dysfunction related to psychological issues, concerns, or symptoms that interfere with daily tasks.
  • The patient needs help coping, alleviating pain, or distress related to trauma, disorders, or illness.
  • The patient wants to work through the problems and get back to normalcy
  • The patient is looking for a mental health professional to help them overcome and live well again.


  • The client is functional and does fine with daily tasks.
  • The client is considered psychologically normal and copes well enough.
  • The client wants to be better, grow, or set and achieve higher goals.
  • The client wants to improve performance, relationships, or life satisfaction.
  • The client is looking for a success partner to help facilitate the next level of growth, advancement, or change.

We promote thriving together

Therapists often refer clients to coaches as a next level of support. Therapists help clients get back to normalcy and begin moving onto thriving. Coaches can pick up the work from there to support clients as they continue to set and achieve meaningful goals and build skills for ongoing success.

Philosophy and Approach

My Philosophy

I merge principles from psychology and evidence-based coaching to train and support clients as they optimize their personal, academic, and professional lives. My work is grounded in contextual behavioral science and choice theory. My coaching approach is pragmatic.

To summarize those ideas, our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors are instruments that serve a purpose and contribute to our outcomes. We can create positive outcomes from the inside out through self-insight, practical strategies, and consistent, meaningful, targeted action. I coach to promote clients’ rationality, agency, and attention to knowledge and skills development relevant to their goals.

Why a training approach?

Unfortunately, behavioral science is not required curriculum within public or higher education, so in demand soft skills are lagging in the workforce and society. Soft skills include social and emotional intelligence, self-management, adaptability, collaboration, etc. Training programs in the workplace are most often focused on hard skills development, which leaves novice employees to find ways to develop the soft skills they’re often lacking through trial and error. That trial and error often includes documented disciplinary actions that become an impediment to promotability or income. We can address this skills gap on the front end by

1) educating adolescents and emerging adults in foundational behavioral science principles,
2) training them to apply that knowledge to build soft skills to enhance their performance, interactions, and outcomes, and
3) coaching them toward achieving higher level goals that matter to them while integrating these principles and skills.

My Audience

I serve clients in organizations, academic settings, and private practice as a learning and development consultant, coach, and trainer.

Most of my clients seek support in the following areas:

  • Life, college, or career direction that fits
  • Improving motivation, performance, and engagement in school or work
  • Stress management related to school or work
  • Prioritizing self-care and work/life balance
  • Positive behavior change
  • Enhancing approaches to parenting and family dynamics
  • Developing
    • confidence and effectiveness
    • evidence-based decision making skills
    • conflict management and negotiation skills
    • social and communication skills
    • emotional intelligence, competency, and critical thinking skills
    • leadership skills

Life Coaching for High Risk Youth

Desistance and Positive Reform Coaching for Young People Transitioning Away From Problem Behavior – Encompasses Life, Academic, & Career Coaching

I developed the DPR Coaching program through formal research to understand how young people involved in delinquency transitioned from offender to non-offender and successful pro-social adulthood. It is designed to support clients as they work through each of the domains found to be essential to success. This program is ideal for teens or young adults transitioning away from delinquency toward positive reform, or those reintegrating from juvenile justice systems.

Coaching plans are tailored to the client’s needs and goals and guided by the following objectives

1. To introduce participants to the Shift coaching model and train them to apply associated life skills –

  • Self-determined motivation and commitment to change
  • Sense of agency and power to choose and act toward desired goals
  • Self-regulation and self-development
  • Identifying and pursuing structural supports (e.g. education, jobs, positive social relationships, etc.)
  • Altering social capital toward relationships conducive to positive change goals and away from those that may threaten efforts toward positive change
  • Immersing and adapting to the chosen structural supports
  • Identifying and leveraging meaning and purpose beyond self and beyond desistance

2. To understand how to be successful on the road toward positive change.
3. To learn to leverage personal strengths and traits conducive to positive change goals and refrain from using those that may threaten positive change goals.
4. To identify life direction and set and pursue goals in line with that direction.
5. To develop the skills necessary to enhance chances of success.

What is the difference between Career Coaching and Life Coaching?

A career coach can help you design a career plan to reach your goals and enhance your well-being at work. From discovering different career paths to making choices that fit your desired trajectory. Many people believe that career coaches are only meant for executive level leaders, but this isn’t true. Career coaches are a great fit for workers who are unsure about what they want to do next, those lacking motivation or engagement, or even recent graduates who need guidance on finding a path that fits for them.

While a career coach will help you achieve job-related goals, a life coach will focus on your personal goals. Life coaches help their clients determine which changes they want to make in their lives, and then help formulate the steps clients need to take to reach these personal goals. Life coaching often involves becoming very aware of how your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors contribute to your satisfaction or dissatisfaction, although life coaches are not therapists.

Career coaching is a more narrowed focus on your work-life for a shorter period of time, and life coaching is a broader focus on your overall quality of life typically for a longer period of time. Either coaching client’s goals or plans may change as they reach different levels of awareness and intention in their lives. Since I offer both services, most of my career coaching work with clients takes a more integrative approach to enhance overall well-being in the process of addressing work-related goals.

Let’s look at what exactly an academic life coach does.

As an academic life coach, I work with my students outside of their school setting. I help them reduce toxic stress and increase their effectiveness and confidence in their approaches to learning. All my coaching clients are eased through a variety of topics to enhance their academic effectiveness. Those topics usually include motivation, commitment, capacity, strategy, time management, prioritization, goal setting, striving, and achievement. They’ll learn to intentionally move themselves through higher levels of academic self-regulation by conditioning constructive habits for achievement and well-being in the process.

Like a tutor, academic life coaches work with a student throughout the semester. Unlike a tutor, who focuses on teaching a single content area, an academic life coach focuses on learning habits across all content areas, focusing on habits, study routines and learning strategies to help the student troubleshoot and enhance their own learning. Often the strategies we put in place are useful across ALL subjects and life domains, well beyond the specific subject(s) the student thinks they need support in.