The Center for Disease Control’s long-term health study on Adverse Childhood Experiences made it clear that beneath most of our deep problems and issues are wounds and traumas from the past.
Coaches are taught to focus on the present and the future, leaving the past to licensed psychotherapists and psychologists. The message is clear: Coaches don’t do therapy.
This puts us in a difficult position. What stops our clients from moving forward are inner blocks, limiting beliefs, and resistance – all of which formed in the past. To optimize our clients’ future, we must have legitimate, evidence-based coaching tools for helping them reprogram past patterns.
Without psychological education and practical tools to deal with our clients’ “normal” psychological wounds and traumas, we are left helpless. Our clients make great plans for moving forward, but as soon as they do, they push up against old programs and strategies developed in childhood. This creates tension, uncomfortable feelings, negative thoughts, and loss of motivation.
If we can’t help them clear that path, they will get frustrated and seek out another practitioner who can help them do so.
When this occurs, coaches are left with a limited range of helpful options: evoke, question, align, cheerlead, and guide self-reflection. These outside-in approaches can work if the client is highly self-motivated. However, most of our clients don’t have a strong enough will to push through the difficulties. They don’t understand why they’re stuck. They can feel something holding them back, derailing them from taking steps forward. They don’t have the tools to do it themselves.
Our clients aren’t looking for more information, they’re looking for transformation – “a thorough or dramatic change in form or appearance.” This is the ultimate goal of masterful coaching. With the right tools in our hands, we can facilitate release from the bondage that keeps them stuck.
A coaching approach bypasses their psychological history and focuses on the fundamental infrastructure of the psyche: beliefs. Others call them schemas, mental models, paradigms, or emotional memories. They shape and color our perceptions, motivations, decisions, and actions, and they can be accessed directly with specific coaching interventions.
My client, Judith M., had been highly successful in her corporate career. She was able to get anything done and moved easily up through management. Having left the corporate world to become an executive coach, she couldn’t take the steps she knew were required. She was frustrated and angry, confused by her lack of success. Other coaches had offered her countermeasures to propel her forward, but they all failed.
Using the Clear Beliefs Method, I helped her identify earlier similar experiences of being unable to move forward. She described a childhood filled with fear of her alcoholic father’s rage. She learned to follow the rules, do what she was told, and avoid expressing herself. That kept her safe, and it was a very successful strategy at home, and in the corporate world. But as an entrepreneur, she needed an internal locus of control and the willingness to speak up. This violated her early programming to stay quiet, compliant, and invisible.
In only three sessions, we completely deleted her old patterns and strategies. She was then free to express herself with her full authenticity and power. Her coaching practiced blossomed.
These were therapeutic coaching interventions, not psychotherapy. Miriam Webster defines therapeutic as, “of, or relating to treatment of disease or disorders by remedial agents or methods.” I used a methodology to deal with the disorder of her old adaptive strategy. Since I am not a licensed clinician, I am not a therapist. I am a therapeutic coach.
I call on the coaching industry to open its arms to the many powerful methods we have found to coach all aspects of our client – from the inner to the outer, and from the past to the future. Our profession is designed to facilitate significant change in our clients’ lives. Let us clear our own limiting beliefs about what coaching is, in order to create a brighter future for our profession.
About the author
Lion Goodman, PCC is the founder of the Clear Beliefs Institute, and the creator of the Clear Beliefs Method of Trauma-Informed Therapeutic Coaching. More than 600 coaches have graduated from The Clear Beliefs Coach Training (www.ClearBeliefs.com), accredited by both ICF and Association for Coaching for CCEs. Prior to 20 years of coaching, he was an executive search consultant. He is the author of Creating On Purpose and How to Clear Your Clients’ Limiting Beliefs.
He can be reached via email: email@example.com, or by phone or text: 1.415.686.5805