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The Short Version: Elana Hunter is a mental health counselor and dating coach who wants to help people kickstart their romantic lives. Her practice, KickStartLove, focuses on teaching clients how to overcome their frustrations with dating and break down barriers to finding love. Along with the clinical workers and dating coaches on her KickStartLove team, Elana offers one-on-one, personalized coaching online to help both men and women improve their romantic lives and find the partner they deserve.
My friends often laugh when I show them my online dating profile because it’s so eclectic. I’m a writer, yoga teacher, and energy worker. I play the ukulele, sing, organize community service projects, and travel full time. My profile is so diverse, they often wonder what type of guy I attract.
Some artistic types hone in on the writing, singing, and art-loving aspects of my profile. They’re looking for a woman who’s just as into art as they are. The studious types note that I’m an author and freelance writer, and the spiritual guys love that I teach yoga. The fun-loving types often want to talk about how I swam with wild pigs in the Bahamas, lived on a sailboat, and often spend my weekends surfing.
All of those traits are part of me, and I love meeting different kinds of guys, especially as I travel. Some show me the best surf spots; others take me to art museums. One might buy me a vegan dinner at a tucked-away romantic restaurant, while another could take me to a sold-out concert. But it’s still difficult to find a guy with whom I can share all of my interests.
Dating coach and certified mental health counselor Elana Hunter took that broad-based approach to define her traits a step further when she began dating again. She had been in a serious relationship in New York City when a family emergency necessitated her moving back to Cleveland. Her relationship didn’t survive the move, and she suddenly found herself single and struggling to meet people. So, she tapped into her undergraduate teachings in experimental psychology and created a handful of different online dating profiles for herself.
“I put up a bunch of different profiles, under different personas, and they were all true. They were all me, but they were different parts of my personality,” she said. “And they would attract different types of partners, which I found fascinating. I would go on dates with people and see who was the best fit.”
When her friends asked her to create profiles for them as well, a career in coaching — and her practice, KickStartLove — was born.
Elana began by helping her friends navigate the online dating world, but her practice quickly expanded to friends of friends and beyond. She brought on other qualified dating coaches and clinical mental health workers, and she started reaching out to potential clients who were frustrated with their love lives.
“I come from a research-based background, so I’m very interested in the behavioral science of attraction,” she said. “My master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling allows me to look at people holistically, understand their religion and culture, their expectations, and, perhaps, what they were taught about relationships and sex. That has a bearing on what they perceive as their value in a relationship. My style is warm and caring but also goal-driven.”
She helps clients work on how they present themselves online and gives them more insight into the types of people they attract. Elana also teaches them to search within to find out if they are overvaluing — or devaluing — certain matches based on preconceived notions.
One of Elana’s fellow dating coaches, Edward Hill, is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who often works with men who have had plenty of professional success but struggle with their emotions. He helps them overcome those challenges, so they are ready to connect with others.
Elana and her team see clients ranging in age from 19 to their 70s.
“Anyone who’s been in the dating world knows that rejection is part of what we go through. We connect with those who aren’t right until we finally find the right one,” she said. “We see people in their 20s who have been focused on education and building their careers, and now they want to apply the same level of intentionality to their personal lives. We also see people in their 70s who are widowed or divorced and ready to find a new companion.”
““Our practice is LGBTQ affirming, and culturally competent.” — Elana Hunter, Founder of KickStartLove
Most of KickStartLove’s clientele are men and women in their 20s to 40s. Elana’s team also welcomes people who don’t fit into the gender normative roles that so many dating sites have set up.
“We welcome people who have varying levels of desire for commitment. Although most of our clients are seeking lifelong partnerships, that’s not always the case. You don’t have to be looking to get married; you could be someone who says, ‘Hey, I just want to date more. I want to get to know myself better and find out if I even want a relationship or if I would be happier on my own. We help people gain that self-awareness,” she said.
While KickStartLove has an office on the west side of Cleveland, the team works with many clients remotely — through coaching online or over the phone.
Coaching goals are individualized, and most clients schedule sessions every week until they reach their goals. Others may check in every other week — or once a month — with plenty of homework assignments to complete in between sessions.
“Maybe they have to introduce themselves to three people at an event, then, the next time we meet, we’ll process it and see how it went. We talk about the signals you sent and other aspects of the conversation,” Elana said.
The most common issue Elana encounters is the frustration clients feel when they keep attracting the wrong kind of people into their lives.
“Many times, people wait to see a coach until they feel frustrated with the entire dating process. So, often, I work with clients who keep getting involved in relationships with the wrong kind of person,” she said. “At first, they’re excited and attracted. But then they feel trapped in that relationship, the other person doesn’t get along with their family or friends, or they don’t share the same goals for the future.”
Elana and her team help those daters do a better job screening potential mates, achieve a higher level of self-awareness, and recognize their needs — whether in the present or the long term.”
Elana loves receiving feedback from her clients, and they frequently share stories of being in a happy marriage or just having a child.
She often answers questions through the Ask Elana column she writes on her website to help readers overcome common problems — like navigating a breakup.
“One woman was really in the throes of depression after a breakup. She wanted to get married and be a mom, but she was struggling to meet someone. But she wasn’t open because she was hung up on an ex. Through coaching and encouragement, she was willing to go out,” she said.
The woman connected with someone she had met years before but wasn’t open to dating because of her issues. They reconnected and found harmonious compatibility.
“They started hanging out and dating, and ended up getting married, and they continue to stay in touch with me. They just had their second child together and seem to be doing well,” Elana said.
And she continues to run her KickStartLove practice with the goal of helping her clients find the type of love they desire.