Your coaching with some clients gets ‘stuck’. The client is making little progress. You keep returning to the same issues, all of them seeming superficial. The coaching feels draining or pointless. You blame yourself – or perhaps you blame the client. What’s going on?
The answer could be that you are working with the client’s ‘survival self’, the self that is apparently protecting the client after an earlier trauma, probably in childhood. Yes, we know that the word trauma is enough to alarm many coaches. Isn’t that the territory best left to therapists?
The answer is yes and no. It assumes that we don’t meet the impact of trauma in the coaching room, yet we often do, even if it is well disguised.
One of the problems in talking about trauma is the word itself. Trauma and traumatised are used to mean so many different things that it can be confusing and off-putting. It can raise questions such as ‘What are we dealing with?’ ‘Can I cope with it?’; and ‘What does it mean for coaching?’
Understanding the dynamics of trauma enables us to respond appropriately and fully within the framework of coaching, without becoming therapists or counsellors. Many people, successful or not, carry the internal scars of trauma. Some carry a considerable trauma burden and others less so. While much of the trauma memory is in the unconscious, the impact shows up behaviour and in the relationships to work, ourselves and with others. We will show you how to recognise this and how to respond safely in the coaching context. We will also explore the boundary between coaching and therapy.
Here is Guardian Journalist Deborah Orr writing about the impact on her:
“People tell me I’m ‘intimidating’. I’ve been told that for all my adult life. I’ve accepted it without understanding it, sometimes explaining what a shy child I was, how endlessly susceptible to bullying, in every context I ever found myself it. I’ve always been too scared really to question how it could be that other people saw me so differently to how I really felt (I even intimidated myself). I told myself it was just because I was someone from a working-class background in a middle-class milieu. Anything to protect me from my secret shame – that I found everything intimidating. I find it hard to show that I’m hurting… Anything rather than acknowledge my debilitating fear, of the world and the people in it”.