In a folder on her computer desktop, Julie Benson keeps what she calls “attagirl” emails—messages of affirmation from colleagues, clients and co-workers throughout the years. You can learn a lot about yourself, Benson says, by what other people say.
And time and again, friends and colleagues call Benson an encourager, saying she has a way of looking on the bright side.
These affirmations and messages are what sparked the idea for enCouragedU, Benson’s career counseling, business owner and Biblical life coaching practice. Every day, she gives her clients the courage to become the people God has called them to be, whether that’s a young woman in college seeking out her calling, a seasoned salesperson trying to communicate effectively with his boss or a business owner who needs to discover what tasks they need to hire someone else to do or systems they need to build to work smarter.
“I’m not an electrician,” Benson said. “I’m not a plumber or accountant. I don’t have a role where you know what I’m going to do based on the title I give you!”
After working for 10 years as a financial recruiter early in her career and almost 10 years as a care director at a church, Benson has vast experience in understanding her clients. Even in her work helping companies get the talent they needed, she was connecting dots and solving problems her clients didn’t even know they had.
In 2010, Benson earned her Master of Arts in clinical mental health counseling from Cornerstone Theological Seminary. Through her internship and eventual job at Ada Bible Church, she was able to gain the experience and resources she needed to relaunch her private practice as enCouragedU—named for her skill as an encourager and for the courage it takes for her clients to step into the next chapter of their lives.
When a client comes into Benson’s office, she’ll sit down with them and explore together what they need. Are they struggling with work-related anxiety? Are they having problems connecting with co-workers? Or do they simply need better decision-making skills?
She knows what it’s like to have her life and career change drastically. When her own life was turned upside down as she went through a divorce, God called her into earning her degree and then entering counseling ministry. Life is hard, and Benson realized people need mentorship and guidance in a world that is growing ever more chaotic.
“I often wondered why God brought me to CTS,” Benson said, “but time and again, people told me, ‘Julie, this is your wheelhouse. We could never do what you do.’”
Sitting in her office in Forest Hills, Benson talks excitedly about various approaches and techniques utilized in her coaching. She’s painted the front portion of her office—which she calls the “think tank”—with dry-erase finish so she can write on the walls when talking to visual thinkers or teams of people. If a client is feeling indecisive, Benson will spin a toy top and tell them they need to make a decision before the toy begins to wobble. Benson understands that everyone learns, processes and finds solutions differently. And everyone occasionally needs a helping hand.
“I look at universal issues from a 10,000-foot view,” Benson said. “As my clients talk, I’m making connections and ‘filing’ everything where it belongs.”
As a Christian counselor and certified advanced soul care and biblical life coach, Benson can also explore spiritual aspects with her clients. What does the Bible say about their identity? What does God say about feeling anxious, frustrated or unable to communicate clearly?
“The more somebody understands and believes who they are and what their gifting is,” Benson said, “the more impactful and empowered they’re going to be. It is my role to make sure they have the courage and understanding of who they are for the betterment of themselves and others.”
But Benson doesn’t just mentor her clients. She finds herself learning from them as well. After a long career in numbers, she’s enjoying people. Numbers never lie. People sometimes do, and often to ourselves.
“There’s a lot of fluidity to working with people,” Benson said with a smile. “I need to see everyone as Christ sees them. This work has taught me to be less critical and judgmental. It’s allowed me to be more understanding of somebody’s whole picture.”