A sherpa helping the leader, rather than a guide cutting a path to decide the route.
The roles of Coach, Mentor & Therapeutic Mentoring:
It’s about sharing the load and traveling the road.
By Tim HJ Rogers
ICF Coach, Mentor & Mediator
*Coaching to find yourself
Not all coaching is simple three step plans to loose weight, manage anger, think more deeply or communicate more clearly. As much as coaching is about being client lead, sometimes the client is lost and does not know where they want to go.
I think sometimes coaching can be about finding the starting point as much as reaching the destination. Knowing where you are and understanding how you got there is “your story” and can be the best place from which to decide how to go forward.
*Coaching and Therapy
Issues of trauma, addiction, depression or anxiety, or other mental health suggest what you need is therapy, rather than coaching. Depression is more than simply feeling unhappy or fed up for a few days. If in the last 2 weeks you answer YES to the following, then you may be depressed, but if not they you may simply be sad, tired, run-down. It is a matter of judgement
1. Have you found little pleasure or interest in doing things?
2. Have you found yourself feeling down, depressed or hopeless?
3. Have you had trouble falling or staying asleep, or sleeping too much?
4. Have you been feeling tired or had little energy?
5. Have you had a poor appetite or been overeating?
6. Have you felt that you’re a failure or let yourself or your family down?
7. Have you had some trouble concentrating on things like reading the paper or watching TV?
8. Have you been moving or speaking slowly, or been very fidgety, so that other people could notice?
9. Have you thought that you’d be better off dead or hurting yourself in some way?
Coaches are not trained to respond professionally to this set of issues, and while some coaches have personal experience or specializations, on the whole coaches are instructed to refer out these clients to a trained psychologist.
However, supporting people with the every-day emotions of happiness, joy, sadness, anticipation and perhaps even grief is not something that requires a psychologist or psychotherapist these emotions are normal part of life and not an illness. These are the times you may confide in friends, family or a coach rather than consult your doctor.
*The grey zone and when to refer
Referring a Client to Therapy: (A Set of Guidelines is a white paper by ICF Senior Research Analyst Alicia M. Hullinger, Ph.D., and Director of Coaching Science Joel A. DiGirolamo) is designed to help professional coach practitioners understand when and how to refer a client to a mental health or other helping professional when the client’s needs are outside a coach’s competencies.
Understanding when to refer is important and generally when the issue is outside your competency and experience level; interferes with daily functioning; is a barrier to making progress in coaching; or is psychological in nature.
The Mental Health First Aid training developed by Mental Health First Aid Australia is available to the public worldwide and provides a useful five step plan
• Approach, assess, and assist with any crisis
• Listen and communicate nonjudgmentally
• Give support and information
• Encourage appropriate professional help
• Encourage other supports
*Therapeutic Mentoring within the boundary
Having established that there is a threshold rather than distinct border (sadness is not an illness but clinical depression is) then it is clear that there is room for coaches to support people going through a tough time.
Therapeutic Mentoring provides a safe and empowering framework for people to develop their sense of self and place in the world. Young people especially who suffer from developmental trauma or neglect often miss out on the crucial stage of attunement that happens between parent and child.
Therapeutic Mentoring can involve working with a trained psychologist, but it can also be having a reliable and trusted adult as someone to talk to, and be with. That “be with”, the process of ‘being’ is important. It is the opportunity to find oneself and have a sense of agency, control, and self is something vital to everyone.
We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring. Will be to arrive where we started. And know the place for the first time [T.S.Eliot]
I think the process of Therapeutic Mentoring is interesting because it seems to combine coaching and mentoring (defined below).
I believe it is important to be educated, trained, informed and up-to-date as a Coach, Therapeutic Mentor or Mentor. You need to understand and be able to navigate the path and not stumble and get lost in unfamiliar territory which is not good for either the coach or the client. There are real issues of ethics and responsibility that can arise.
There is also great value in being a caring, empathetic, supportive listener.
Psychologist Carl Rogers was an advocate of what he called Unconditional positive regard.
Unconditional positive regard means offering compassion to people even if they have done something wrong. Someone practicing unconditional positive regard would respond with compassion to a person in treatment who may have gambled away their savings, lied at work, or mistreated a friend.
According to Rogers, unconditional positive regard helps us reach our highest potential, also known as “self-actualization.” While psychologist Abraham Maslow believed few people are self-actualized, Rogers saw striving towards growth as part of the human condition.
Coaching is a process that aims to improve performance and focuses on the ‘here and now’ rather than on the distant past or future. Good coaches believe that the individual always has ideas and opportunities to resolve whatever is holding them back but understands that they may need help to define their goals, set their path, and achieve their success. Coaching is about listening, reflecting, asking questions and unlocking YOUR potential.
Mentoring is to support and encourage people to manage their own learning in order that they may maximise their potential, develop their skills, improve their performance and become the person they want to be.’ Mentoring is development driven, looking not just at the professional’s current job function but beyond, taking a more holistic approach to career development. Mentoring is non-evaluative, while coaching is based on measuring performance change. Due to the personal nature of mentoring, a mentor will more often than not draw on their personal experiences and expertise to help their mentee. This could be in the form of sharing a story that taught them a valuable lesson, or a challenge they overcame in their career.
As well as being an ICF Coach, IoD Mentor, Mediation Practitioner , NLP Practitioner and AMPG Change Practitioner I have also studied The Neuro Affective Relational Model (NARM) for Healing Complex Trauma, and Internal Family Systems (IFS) [an approach that identifies and addresses multiple sub-personalities or families within each person’s mental system] and much more.
I am curious and always learning and recognise the depth and breadth of the subject.
Whilst I am not a Psychologist or indeed expert in all aspects of coaching, I am a good navigator. Indeed I have been described as a thoughtful sherpa. I am agnostic and impartial to any approach but curious, so the partnership is more akin to a sherpa helping the mountain leader than a guide cutting a path through the jungle: I follow with thoughtful questions rather than lead with intent. It’s about sharing the load and travelling the road.
This is what one client has said
“Working with Tim, as my ‘Sherpa’ for the next pitch of this increasingly exciting mountain range, has been a brilliant decision. I tend to think I am quite difficult to coach, as I ‘know too much’ about coaching and leadership development – which often gets in the way of the process of turning that process back on myself. I find I am too intrigued at understanding the coach’s technique to engage with the process at surface level.
One of the great things about working with Tim has been his ease at taking the conversation to the meta-level, of why the present question is a useful one, and even meta to that of why I find it especially interesting, before diving back into the ground level of the discussion at face value. This ease with the layers of meaning, alongside a properly challenging presence to guide the conversation back to the agreed purpose has made the work much more enjoyable and sustainable.
Thank you Tim, looking forward to our next view from the mountain top.”
Tim HJ Rogers
Ex-Athlete, now Change Practitioner, ICF Coach, IoD Mentor, Mediation Practitioner
Helping people and organisations achieve their goals.
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