Welcome Testimonials FAQs

feedback form & email


I want to help you move past whatever mental blocks are stopping you from achieving your goals, including not knowing what you want yet!

Let's talk about your career, social anxieties, mood and motivations, why you can't get yourself to floss: anything that's stopping you from hitting your goals. I do a lot of problem-exploring and problem-solving.

The first session to try it out is always free; later sessions are $35 / 1-hour (Skype) session.

If the sessions don't work out, let me know and I'll refund you! And if money is an issue, email me and we'll likely figure something out.


"I found my time with Vael to be focused and effective in a way that I haven't been able to produce when I'm just introspecting by myself. Super glad I booked with Vael :)" - Kathryn Schmiedicke

"As a usually quite guarded person, I felt quite safe speaking candidly and openly with Vael about my weird psychological hang-ups!" - Elliott Jin

"Vael has coined a few really handy concepts for me: "social-tiredness", "project your worst self". More generally Vael's a pretty epic external system for reflecting/workorking through some of your stuck-ness." - Nik B.

"Vael is great. Vael's a great listener, great at understanding and getting to the heart of an issue, supportive, kind and helpful." - Liav K.

"Vael has a Socratic style of debugging, where you end up solving the problem yourself based on Vael's clarifying questions." - Daniel Blank

"Vael is really easy to talk to, and has a great encouraging, nonjudgemental and positive disposition and way of listening, which I think is one of the most important things in a mentor/coach. I felt like Vael 'got it' in a very short space of time. Vael was good at listening and gave me the chance to explain my situation and thoughts, but also then got straight to the point by asking the right questions, and I came away with a new perspective and thinking more about possibility and dealing with barriers or challenges along the way towards a goal/idea rather than being put off too easily by fear or uncertainty etc. Really felt more optimistic after speaking with Vael." - Alice

"I’ve come away with the idea that I have fewer problems than I thought I had, and that they’re less interconnected than I thought.” - Carla

"Vael's warm soul made it easy to talk openly about what I was dealing with both personally and professionally. I came for the debugging and stayed for the fun." - Benjamin Pense

"Vael is very open and attentive, and has quite a talent to ask the right questions at the right time. And while the session did indeed leave me with more questions that answers, it certainly brought me one or two steps closer to my goals." - Markus


How does this work?

The format is that we'll set up at 1-hour Skype / Google hangouts call, during which we'll talk about whatever's going on in your life. Usually we'll brainstorm a specific issue we want to talk about in the beginning of the session, unless you already have a topic in mind. The prompt I often use is: "Is there anything that's stopping you from doing what you want right now?"

Topics range from

    • "I want to quit my job but don't know what I want to do"
    • "I notice I'm not getting any of my side projects done"
    • "Social interaction scares me!"
    • "I don't like sex and I'm worried"
    • "I'm not flossing but I want to floss!" :P

Anything's fair game, though if I feel I'm out of my depth I will refer you to a licensed therpist, since I am not one of those.

I'm also happy to just talk with you, if that's what you want to do with our session. I'll often try to steer the conversation to be goal-directed, so we can make progress on something, but if the thing that's going to help you make progress is for me to listen and hear you, then I want us to do that. I strive to make space for whatever's going on.

My approach

If you've heard of Effective Altruism, my approach is quite similar to the other coaches in this sphere, and if you've heard of CFAR, then I can help you with any of those techniques. If you haven't heard of such things, please ignore the above!

I want to do what feels best to you, and the metric I'm intrinsically following is something like: "what does this person want to do? Are there things in the way? Make it so that they can do more things they want to do." This means that I spend a lot of time feeling out what you're thinking and feeling around a specific issue. I often use intellectual explanations of the problem as pointers to emotional stuck points— this means that I spend time both working at the more intellectual level of "what's the problem setup and the moving parts in this situation" and the emotional level of "what are the feelings that are influencing the logic here"? I find that a lot of the time, having people explain all of the reasoning around a situation can move towards resolution. I aim to provide a space for you to be heard, and strongly encourage compassion and listening to various wants from different parts of you. Sometimes just listening seems like the most helpful thing for me to do, and most times I'll be searching for solutions with you, both in changing things in your environment, and changing things in yourself. In solution-searching, I'm focused on whatever works— if it's not going to work for you, it's not a solution. My general philosophy is that if you feel better about issues, you'll feel more free to take actions, so I want to help you move things in your mind and environment so that you'll have that freedom.

The actual techniques I'm using are the output from my own introspective process and my experience of what works for others, and it's based on content from CFAR, Landmark, talk therapy, and a lot of internal experimentation. Mainly I listen and guide with questions, and all you need to do is pay attention to what's going on internally :).

How does payment work?

Venmo @Vael-Gates or Paypal ( $35 / one hour session.

Except for the first one, which is free! I encourage people to attend the first one and then not return— I like seeing new faces.

I can't find a spot in your schedule

Email me and we'll likely be able to work something out.

I can't afford your rate

Email me and we'll likely be able to work something out!

Could you change how you're interacting with me in some way?

Here is my feedback form for anonymous or non-anonymous comments on coaching! When I'm the client in therapy, I often find that I have thoughts after a session finishes, or that it's easier to express changes I'd like in writing. If you leave a note, I will read your comment and adjust to it! I find that comments like this have been helpful in me changing specific behaviors that make different people more comfortable, and I want to do that for you if you let me know what's up. If you leave your name, then we can discuss anything you mention in the next session if that's something you'd like to do— and of course feel free to bring up anything you want to say during the session! I'm surprisingly receptive to even "negative" comments— I don't tend to take these things personally, and I'd much rather know than not (really. I know people say that, but I mean it because of the not-taking-personally thing.)

What's life coaching?

Life coaching is this intriguing phenomenon wherein non-licensed people decide to earn their livings helping other people work through issues. The entire industry is unregulated, it's quite popular, and I find it crazy that it works at all. But life coaches do seem to provide value to people, and I like that coaches can do something that both helps and earns money. The other prominent option for people inclined to coaching is to become licensed therapists, which usually requires 4-6 years of training (I interviewed someone about this path recently), who are qualified to handle many more issues than a life coach. (Life coaches usually don't work with severe depression, for example.)

... Why is your online presence confusing?

I'm a PhD student! That's my main line of work. In my research I think a lot about minds and social interactions. In my free time I also (surprise) tend to think a lot about minds and social interactions, with a special focus on introspection.

Contact information

Feel free to email me with anything else! My Skype: vaelgates, Google Hangouts:, though this information will also be available in the sign-up email.

Ready to schedule a free session?