The dark side of coaching. I have long been reluctant to call myself a coach, facilitator or anything that people I meet, can respond with, “Oh I am a coach too”, or, “I do what you do”. You may ask why? I think you will discover the answer as you read on! More recently I have taken to introducing myself as an Interior Designer, I work to help people redesign the inside of their mind, body and spirit.
Having had a long journey to becoming a coach, I suspect my destiny was set early, as my father was a psychoanalyst. I grew up with the knowledge and understanding that psychological wellbeing is an integral part of a healthy life.
What I have discovered is that there is a dark side of coaching, as there can be in all professions. However, as this is a new and growing profession it is likely to get worse. It saddens me that people believe they can meddle in the lives of others without engaging fully in their own personal development.
More and more people describe themselves as coaches and seek work helping people to live their life in ways that are fulfilling and joyful. Unfortunately this also means that there is more and more opportunity for people to project their own internalised model of the world onto others.
The dark side of coaching … In recent years I have formed the opinion that organisations who offer training for coaches are actually multi level marketing businesses, where each level of training inevitably leads to the next level and so on and on. Don’t get me wrong I believe that training and development is vitally important, but more tools and techniques without development, is in my opinion only half of the jigsaw …
I have come to coaching, through my training as a counsellor and therapist and consequently have a different understanding about what coaching is all about. From my perspective, high levels of self awareness and personal development should be mandatory.
I also believe that supervision is vital for all practitioners, many organisations who employ coaches now insist that coaches have adequate supervision. However, within the coaching profession, supervision is not mandatory, so who really knows what is going on behind closed doors.
I have had numerous clients over the years who have been to a coach and frankly they have been told what to do and what they are doing wrong.
Of course this is bad practise and a minimal number of coaches behave like this, but as the market is swamped with coaches, this could become a real problem.
My concerns with some coach training is the lack of personal development that student coaches are offered. Instead they learn how to expose peoples’ deepest fears and concerns, sometimes leaving them feeling vulnerable and confused.
The marketing around many coaching courses holds out the promise that students will have no difficulty becoming a professional coach and earning money for their services, this naturally leads to people having high expectations but being ill prepared to deal with people or how to set themselves up in a new career. The unrealistic expectation that they will earn a large income, is a dream very often left unrealised.
The capacity and skill in being able to make and to hold strong professional boundaries, is one of the cornerstones of coaching which is under acknowledged. In the event that coaches have vague, unclear and even wobbly boundaries, they will be unable to hold a professional, safe space for their client. They may become overly emotionally involved, and unable to hold and maintain a clear space. Sometimes blaming the client for not achieving the goals they set.
Listening is an art and a skill that takes time to learn, most people may think they are good listeners. If, however, while the client is talking they are trying to formulate the next snazzy question to ask in order to look good, they are not really listening and may very well be taking their client down a dead end. Purely because they have not listened and put aside their own internal dialogue or ego.
If a coach lacks self-awareness how can they know when they are projecting their own values, thoughts and feelings onto others, rather than genuinely finding out what the client is really about and what they want?
This lack of awareness, may lead to a coach building in dependency, I am not saying this is done consciously, it is lack of self-awareness that creates this, the coach becomes dependent on the client.
Many coaches are uncomfortable with helping clients deal with their emotions, because they may not be at all comfortable with their own emotions. Therefore, keeping things at a very logical level. My philosophy is that I need to work with the whole person, mind, body and spirit. Note that when I say body, I don’t do body work per se, but emotions are held in the body, and are a vital part of being human.
If a coach is unable to accept and feel comfortable about their own emotions, how can they help others?
The majority of coaches are very professional and take the work they do seriously, however as there are no regulations and no benchmarking there needs to be a way for people to choose a coach wisely.
I do not mean, that only people who have a coaching accreditation are to be trusted, for many coaches do not go this route. I believe that experience, varied training and being in supervision, is what creates a well-balanced coach who can manage all that comes their way.
As I say to my clients on the first meeting, there is probably nothing you can tell me that I have not heard before.
To me the dark side of coaching is mainly about the lack of personal development and awareness, that each coach undertakes in order to create a safe and balanced coaching practise. CPD which is about book learning, is not the same as being part of a course that really enables the coach to reveal themselves and develop their emotional intelligence and self-awareness. As well as a deep understanding of what happens when two people meet at a deep level.