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Natural Awakenings Fairfield County & Housatonic Valley CT

Small Steps to Understanding the Coaching Relationship

Dec 28, 2013 07:39PM ● By Amanda Ann Godwin

In a culture that seems to become more “Do It Yourself” all the time, being well coached can make a world of difference.  Whether the coaching in question is focused on health, leadership, small business or anything else, the following will help give context to this rapidly growing profession.


The International Coach Federation (ICF), the umbrella organization working to standardize the young profession, defines coaching in this way: “Coaching is partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”


In coaching, the agenda is devised and set by the client, not the coach. That agenda often morphs and changes throughout the coaching process. After a client articulates the key goal(s), a skillful coach will consider orientation and values and challenge the client to make small changes over time that will support the realization of the vision as well as explore a larger life vision or mission statement. The ICF asks that a skillful coach listen actively to what is said and unsaid, ask powerful questions, mirror back what is heard, and offer direct articulate feedback, as well as alternative perspectives.


Coaching is distinct and unique from psychotherapy, though they’re often confused. While traditional therapy is interested in past experience and back story to understand the present situation, coaching assumes a client is creative, resourceful and whole in the present, according to Habit Change-A Whole Life Co., a leading coach training organization based near Philadelphia, PA.  Helping clients identify their own beliefs, emotions, values and perceptions leads to designing actions for the client to implement between sessions. This “change work” when the client is on their own is where most of the hard work of coaching takes place. It often influences the next session’s agenda and urges the client toward the goal.


Coaching ethics require clear agreements regarding confidentiality. Sometimes coaching involve a “sponsor,” a third party (often an employer) who is arranging and/or paying for the sessions. In this situation confidentiality guidelines are agreed upon up front.  Here it is decided what stays between coach and client and to what degree the sponsor is due a “report” from the coach or the client. Coaching includes a contract with clear agreements about fees, session length (typically 30-60 minutes,) and frequency (between 1-4 times a month), as well as confidentiality and assessment times.  It is common for coaches to request advance payment by the month. Coaching is rarely covered by insurance, but more frequently is sponsored by employers in the workplace.


First session questions often deal with a client’s priorities, motivating factors, how they like to be held accountable and how they deal with failure. Good questions to ask a prospective coach during a first session or introductory consultation might include how the coach functions and what they do - and don’t do in their role. Ask anything that is important to you because finding a coach who is a good match for you is critical to the success of the work. A good coach can describe the desired structure and relationship with articulate ease.


The real beauty of coaching lies in its repertoire of unique tools.  A well-versed coach follows hunches generated by intuition, asks powerful—and often difficult to hear—questions and then is willing to sit in (sometimes very uncomfortable) silence, allowing the client time to uncover her own truths. 


Coach training programs, usually delivered in private or university settings, may take anywhere from 6 to 24 months. ICF testing for credentialing
involves oral and written exams, insuring solid understanding of the profession’s core competencies. 


If you decide to pursue coaching, finding someone who is a good match for you is essential.  Many coaches are gracious about referring to someone who might be a better match.  Coaching is intimate work, revealing in the process a lot of an individual and what is dear to them. Ask for what you want as exactly as you are able. Commit to exploring the change you are longing for. May you be blessed with the empowerment that engaging your goals and dreams can bring!


After 30 years of intuitive counseling, Amanda Ann Godwin has completed her coach training and residency and is preparing to sit for her ICF exams.  Her young practice is thriving in Carrboro, NC where she makes her home with her husband, Steve.

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