I said in this post that a good coach, counselor, or therapist will piss you off a bit.
Now I want to say this: the most transformative coaching, counseling, or therapy sessions are those that are co-created, with both parties taking responsibility for the experience and bringing something to the table.
No more therapist/counselor as “expert,” which is the old model grounded in the medical profession–nor with “client as expert” which is what the coaching profession often uses.
Rather–if I’m going into an experience with a client and I fully believe that they have their own wisdom and that they’re fully capable, while also believing that support sometimes requires someone else setting a container for an experience, then we both need to bring something to the table.
Transformation requires co-creation.
If it didn’t, then the “therapist/counselor as expert” model would mean that the therapist or counselor calls the shots. Or, in a coaching setting with “client as expert” as the center of the work, the client might get pissed when they’re prodded and–well, off to another coach, another transformational workshop, or to the bookstore for a new self-help book they will go.
Instead, we need to look at the model of support as being one that is co-created. We need to ask one other question besides “Is this coach being a good coach?”
We need to ask a question that probably makes people a bit uncomfortable:
“Are these clients being good clients?”
Good and Bad
I don’t literally mean “good,” as if there’s some standard for goodness, nor am I tapping into a right/wrong dynamic. I’m thinking more along the lines of “what’s helpful, or not” or “what’s really effective, or what’s ineffective.”
Effective Coaching involves listening and presence; holding space; not pathologizing the client’s experience; acknowledging the difficulty of an experience while simultaneously not colluding with a Story that this experience will forever limit the client’s life; supporting the client’s goals; the ability to take the long view; reframing of Stories and limiting patterns and beliefs; holding up an honest mirror for the client to see themselves fully; honoring integrity; being full of love, compassion, and care of the highest order. I’m sure there’s more, but that’s a start.
But what about being an effective client? This is far less discussed.
Effective “Clienting” involves openness to new perspectives; owning of one’s feelings; asking for what is needed from a coach, rather than running a transference pattern ) and setting the coach up as a parent who is to intuit the client’s needs; taking on challenges whole-heartedly; acknowledging their own wisdom; taking responsibility for their own choices, including the choices that are made to hold certain perspectives around the coaching process or the coach; being full of love, compassion, and care of the highest order; honoring integrity; being willing to reframe Stories or patterns; understand that the process will not be entirely comfortable. I’m sure there’s more, but that’s a start.
Where We Get Afraid
“But what about clients who put that kind of trust in a bad coach?” I can hear someone exclaiming.
This is a valid consideration–but I don’t think we can rest here, as coaches or as clients.
Yes–There are those situations; however, if you look at what I define as “Effective Clienting,” you’ll see that the client is continually taking responsibility for speaking into their needs.
The coach remains responsible for saying, “Here’s why I’m offering what I’m offering, in service to you.”
If the responsibility rests solely on either party, it doesn’t work. Sometimes, the most powerful experience a client might have is recognizing that a relationship isn’t working, and that it’s okay to let it go. The same can be said for a coach who is working with a client.
What This Can Look Like
But here’s why co-creation is so important: Sometimes, when clients are afraid, they’ll tell the coach that the best thing the coach can do is some form of backing down from really helping them shift.
- To avoid powerfully making their own decisions, they’ll tell the coach that they want “answers” or advice.
- To avoid feeling the fear, they’ll insist that the coach is asking questions that are “too hard.”
- To avoid taking action, they’ll insist that the coach needs to suggest something different.
Clients need to make those requests–it is important that they do. Coaches need to take in that feedback–and– be aware of the delicate dance that can take place when requests are made in the name of fear.
That’s what it looks like when both people are bringing something to the table.
Sometimes it’s this space where coach and client discover that they are not a match. The client might say, “I’m really clear that I need the coach to be different in order for me to get to where I want to go.” The coach might say, “I’m really clear that I’ve heard this client say they want to see XYZ shifts in their life, and these are the tools I have to help with that–that’s as far as I can go.”
Outing the Story
It’s often in this space that huge, massive transformations can happen, because this type of conversation ends up “outing” any places where the client wants to hide behind their Story.
As a client, if I have someone bringing up my stuff in order to help me transform it, and then I start giving them directions not to bring up my stuff, I’m working against myself.
An excellent counselor, coach, or therapist is going see that and say to me, with love and care, “I’m not going to back down from supporting you in transforming what you have said you want to transform.”
In that moment, as a client, I have to decide whether or not I’m sticking around.
Deep deep down, 99% of the time, I know that if I say, “See you later,” I’m missing the big opportunity that I’ve just been invited to take–and I’ll be kicking myself for it.
Impeccable coaching is about offering up the challenge. Impeccable clienting is about getting curious about what is on the other side of the challenge.
It is worth noting that I have had this experience with coaches, counselors, in workshops, and with my partner–I have, from a fearful place, insisted that I needed something that was (in hindsight) something that would have worked against what I wanted to shift.
Each time someone said to me in that context, “I love you–and–that’s only your experience if you say it is,” or “I love you–and–I won’t meet you where you’re asking me to meet you,” I have been nakedly shown how I have acted as the agent of my own suffering, and how I am trying to get that practitioner or workshop leader to collude with my Story so that I can avoid feeling the fear.
These are the moments when courage is called for: feeling the fear, diving in anyway, and transforming.
These are the moments when I have stepped forth most powerfully–because when my back is up against a wall, and I’m the one who has put it there, and I’m being offered love and support if I’ll only trust enough to take a step forward…
…well, I’m taking that step forward, practicing courage every shaky step of the way.