Simply put, coaching is a collaborative partnership. Like any good partnership, its purpose is met when both parties invest something—something valuable, something quantifiable and something altogether unique.
In coaching, the CLIENT typically provides three things the coach doesn’t possess and cannot manifest unilaterally: 1) ownership of the client’s own choices; 2) awareness of the client’s own experiences; and 3) expertise about the client’s own life.
In coaching, the COACH provides three things the client doesn’t possess and cannot manifest independently: 1) an outside, observational perspective; 2) professional “support role” training; and 3) techniques designed to help clients help themselves.
Every coach defines this a little bit differently. Here’s the way I look at it: As my client, you enter our relationship ready to work (it isn’t easy), ready to play (we will laugh, I promise!) and ready to make some very real progress toward your goals. As your coach, I enter our relationship prepared to support you (you are not alone), prepared to champion you (we’ve both trained for this!) and prepared to help you recognize your progress—especially at your most critical, decision-making junctures.
Coaching and therapy are “separate-but-equal” fields of personal and professional work. The clearest distinction is also the most simple: Coaches are not trained or licensed to diagnose mental health disorders. Here’s another: Therapy is often characterized by a deep journey into your past, seeking to discover what “game changing” circumstances led you to your present reality. By contrast, coaching generally begins with your present reality. It clarifies where you stand today, considers where you want to go, then strategizes your best path to get there. Some clients benefit from working concurrently and collaboratively with a coach and therapist, for different reasons and with different goals and strategies.
Most of my advanced-level training was designed primarily by (and primarily for) licensed therapists; due to this gift, my work is profoundly trauma-informed and therapeutically influenced. Many clients find my style to be “therapeutic” in nature—and because I coach exclusively within the mental health field, I consider myself to be a mental health professional. That said, I am decidedly NOT a licensed clinical therapist; all clients (and prospective clients) acknowledge this important fact EVERY time they schedule a session via my website. With emphatic focus on the value of informed consent, maintaining this clarity is of utmost importance; I warmly invite my colleagues and clients to honor the spirit and substance of this meaningful distinction.
Twelve Step fellowships (non-professional recovery groups that support addicted individuals and their loved ones) encourage new members to get a sponsor—a fellow member who has “been there, done that and lived to tell about it.” Sponsors guide sponsees through the Twelve Steps, suggesting how they solved similar problems through their experiences, all within the framework of a traditional Twelve Step recovery community. Sponsorship is a non-professional, non-regulated and non-monetary relationship; it’s anchored by the sponsor’s personal experience, and it doesn’t require professional qualifications. By contrast, coaching is a professional, regulated and paid relationship; it may integrate the coach’s personal experience, but it’s anchored by the coach’s formal training, skillset and methodology.
Not in my book! Believe it or not, coaching is often considered “successful” when the experience comes to an end. Because each client is unique, there is no generic timetable for the coaching process. Many coaches ask for a 90 day commitment from clients, then review the situation progressively beyond that. Here’s how I see it: I consider it my ethical responsibility to help my clients recognize their own personal progress. I teach my clients to measure their process with tangible milestones—including the milestone that indicates that our coaching relationship has fulfilled its intended purpose.
Coaching is a remarkably flexible profession. Some coaches prefer to work in traditional offices, seeing clients face-to-face. Others coach exclusively by telephone, video chat, email and text. Some coaches are public speakers, teach workshops or facilitate groups. Some coaches offer daily support, on-call services and emergency sessions. This “flexibility factor” is practical and beneficial, both for the client and for the coach. Yet with all these variables, one thing is of paramount importance: that YOU, the client, feel comfortable, safe and personally supported. You deserve to grow in ways that accommodate your preferences, learning style and schedule. As you consider hiring me as your coach, I encourage you to speak up for what suits you best. Ask for what you need. I’ll provide it if I can, or refer you to someone who might be a better fit.
Coaching can be fun and exciting and inspiring. Coaching WORKS—but like any meaningful endeavor, it requires big work to get big results.
My clients don’t hire me to water down the truth, to express empty enthusiasm, or to offer pretty platitudes. As a coach, I’m trained to support my clients in their stated goals; as a trauma-informed coach, I’ll commit to do that with care and tenderness, building upon bedrock values like autonomy, agency and empowerment. Here’s what that looks like
- I will ask you to make commitments—to yourself and to me—to practice new skills and habits between sessions. I will only ever ask for commitments we both agree you can handle. Let this be one relationship where accountability meets gentleness and authenticity.
- I will always be honest with you. (In my experience, most human beings have been lied to enough for one lifetime.) At times, this may involve saying things you’d prefer not to hear. In moments like these, I will do my best to balance directness with sensitivity. I invite you to be equally honest with me. Let this be one relationship where honesty is a two-way street.
- I will ask you to try new things. This will come into play when “old ways” of doing things are no longer working. I will ask you to be brave and creative and open-minded. I may invite you to the edge of your comfort zone, but I will do so with consideration and respect. Let this be one relationship where you can experiment, taking new risks and exploring new paradigms.
- When you’re going through something painful, we’ll proceed gently, not aggressively. We’ll create time and space to facilitate your healing, at your pace. We’ll also practice techniques that get you to a stronger, less fragile place.
At its essence, coaching is all about YOU. It’s about your needs, your convictions, your priorities and your process. As your coach, I’m committed to “hold space” for you as my client, space that honors your progress, facilitating your journey in whichever direction you want to go. (Click here for an excellent article on “holding space” by one of my favorite trainers and mentors, Heather Plett.)
As your coach, here are eleven ways I promise to meet you where you’re at:
- I will listen to you—not to judge you, but to understand you. I believe you deserve to be heard.
- I will validate you. Your experiences are legitimate, and your feelings deserve to be meaningfully addressed.
- I will emphasize the importance of self-care: It’s a full-time job that only you can do.
- I will help you clarify your own internal convictions—yours, not anybody else’s.
- I will motivate, champion and compel you. That means, I’ll hold you to your own highest standards.
- I will encourage you to establish an effective and accessible support network, one that meets your needs, first and foremost.
- I will ask you “the tough questions.” I will invite you to practice gut-level honesty with yourself.
- I will expose you to a broad spectrum of tools and resources, prompting you to discover which suit you best.
- I will invite you to be yourself. I believe that sometimes, we all NEED to “just be.”
- I will remind you, as often as necessary, that you can get your own life back.
- I will believe the Eleven Reasons for Talking Back to Trauma on your behalf—until you can experience them fully for yourself.
Hopefully by now, I’ve answered your questions about coaching (in general) and my own practice (specifically). I hope you’re excited to move forward with the process. To formalize our new client/coach relationship, I’ll ask you to do three things, right off the bat:
- Click here to schedule your 30-minute FREE New Client Consultation. If you prefer, you can use this same link to schedule a longer paid session instead (50, 80, 110 or 170 minutes) applying the coupon code 30FREE to discount that paid session proportionately.
- Click here to read in full my current Business Policies document. You will be asked to acknowledge and agree to these policies when scheduling every session.
- Click here to read and answer my New Client Connection Questions. This process will take approximately one hour; please consider that time YOUR initial investment in our coaching journey! This form is NOT required before your first coaching session, but the sooner you submit it the more focused and productive our first sessions will be.
And, that’s a wrap! If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me at 310-415-3614 (call or text) or firstname.lastname@example.org.