Emotional health in coaching

This morning was a first for me as I hosted a twitter chat in the #ICWbites series around current issues in coaching.

This week is also Mental Health Awareness week and I managed to combine the two with my chosen subject “Emotional Health in Coaching.”

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I live and work with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder and much of my coaching and facilitation takes place in this area so I was keen to hear what other coaches thought.

The chats have been designed to be very rapid and today was no exception. Our first question was around the comfort level of a coach when emotional health appears as a factor in coaching.

The general sense was that it’s likely to be a factor in many engagements and that the coach needs to reflect on their own level of confidence and competence in this area. A particularly interesting point mentioned the need for a coach to be OK sitting with a client’s distress rather than rushing in to “fix” the person, holding the space.

The next question led to a very interesting discussion. I asked whether coaching could be described as a therapeutic relationship. Opinion was divided and there was obvious discomfort around any blurring of lines between therapy and coaching.

Broadly many thought that therapy was backward focused with coaching looking more towards a future. It remains a thorny issue but the dialogue here certainly helped add to my understanding.

The third question focused on the risks / possibilities of coaching around emotional health. This question seemed to get a little lost in the conversation surrounding the therapeutic relationship.

Some conclusions were that the coach needed to make sure they were willing to reschedule if they weren’t in the right space themselves and obviously the same for the client. There would seem to be an issue around permission for the client to decline which highlights the need for good contracting.

The final question was around ethics and safeguarding. Participants were quick to mention the ethical codes of the professional bodies, but through conversation it was noted that these may not be enough.

There was an important point that the ethics remain the same for any client but the upshot was that more could / should be done.

Overall it was a fascinating experience and I really gained a lot from the 40 minutes. You can view a Storify of the debate. I think there is a deeper conversation to be had on this subject and I’d be interested in hearing from people.

About the author

Jon Bartlett is a coach and facilitator. You can contact him via jon@projectlibero.com or on Twitter @Projectlibero.


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