Coaching and the Almost Thriving Client

Coaching and the ‘Almost Thriving’ Client

By Glenda Irwin

That moment when you realize you are in the company of ‘the almost thriving’ individual.

As a Mindfulness Based Therapist (using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) and a Life Coach, I constantly see the cross over between my approaches.

Therein I am presented with a question: Is this client best served by my therapy approach or that of my life coaching skills?

The primary consideration is this simple question.

“Who is the expert in the room?”

In therapy the client may present layers of issues that need a skilled approach. This helps to reveal important and complex details, not always with regards to mental health problems although, as a therapist, it’s presumed I will attend to such should they arise.  This makes therapy very hierarchical and loaded towards the professional being the firm guiding hand.

A motto by which I gauge the best approach, is to ascertain if a client is capable of this wisdom, outlined by (USA Psycho-Therapist and Master Coach) Lynn Grodzki.

Where the role of therapy is removing symptoms and improving functioning, the purpose thereafter of coaching is three-fold, to help people:

  1. Set and reach better goals
  2. Do more than they would have done on their own
  3. Improve focus to produce results more quickly

Unlike therapists, coaches are not interested in being thought of as ‘experts’ or ‘diagnosticians.’  Coaching is less about ‘what the coach knows’ (via some academic education, career expertise or historical reflections).  Great coaching is core competencies such as skills and training used whilst revealing what the client already knows.  The coaching client is on an edge, just as the therapy client can be thought of as being.  The difference is that a coaching client is at the cutting edge of excelling, where my therapy clients walk a line back to stability.

Here are a few of the questions I run through my first session as an analysis of ‘where to from here’: therapy model or life coaching?

  1. Do you want sessions that focus on the present and the future, or more on the past?
  2. Do you want assistance that is more listening and letting you express, or a model where I express my thoughts and opinions?
  3. Do you feel there is someone or something that needs to change before you can see forward motion for yourself?
  4. What would you call ‘Success’ from our time together?

With the answers that imply proactive responses I will proceed with a Life Coaching style.  It’s the ‘almost tangible’ quality of a coaching client’s ‘drivers’ that ignites my passion for Life Coaching.  They often want a short duration of workload.  They are open to my being ‘cheerleader’ and ‘listener’.  They like homework and sometimes even demand it…

And as if to further endear me to my work as a Life Coach, there is that affirming appraisal of Life Coaching by Daniel Goldman, author of Emotional Intelligence, defining the style of Life Coaching as:

“consistently positive, constructive, motivational, inspiring and effective.”

I hold another place in the arena of growth and well-being.  My public group process work is as the senior facilitator, supervisor and author of courses for NZ/Australia’s most subscribed mindfulness courses, Mindfulness Works.  There is a strong vein of similarity between this work and that of Life Coaching.

Life Coaches are facilitators.  In a rich coaching engagement we two, Coach and Client, explore what the client already has within their grasp.  As Coach we’re required to skillfully hold a space in which the client navigates their own pathway towards clarity and action.

As the client adds (self) awareness a kind of  ‘Betty Crocker, Sure to Rise’ component takes place in our mix of ingredients:  here I am, the oven set at the right temperature, the coaching client is both the baker and the contents of the baking tin.  My extensive use of mindfulness practices affords the client the self-awareness in this recipe.  50 grams presence, 50 grams awareness equals 100 grams of clarity.  The cake is the willingness to act.

To give all this even more value there is the alignment that Life Coaching has to the gains of positive neuroplasticity. Positive neuroplasticity is the science of brain change where self-actualization is acknowledged as both experientially rewarding and chemically enhancing for the brain.  In pointing out that the client has held all their own answers and been able to find their own way to action there is a ‘double bubble’ of great outcomes.

This disclaimer informs readers that the views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to the author’s employer, organization, committee or other group or individual.

Glenda Irwin

Glenda Irwin is an ACT Therapist and Senior Mindfulness Coach and Teacher and Life Coach.  She has a practice in East Auckland and facilitates public workshops nationwide.

Glenda is a Supervisor to others offering mindfulness to clients and public groups. 

You can contact Glenda at