Monthly Archives: June 2015

Coaching v counselling 

Thanks to all who inspired me during the @LnDConnect #LDInsight chat on 5th June. If you missed it here’s the storify

It was definitely stimulating to hear different perspectives on the question ‘Coaching v counselling: what’s the difference? And does it matter?’. Admittedly it’s a big question for 140 characters. There were so many answers, and interesting discussions. Yet each inevitably leading to more questions.

A good follow up read was shared by Tony Jackson (@JacksonT0ny), you can find it here.

And after my head was left jam packed full trying to find a satisfactory answer – it’s time to emtpy it. 

So on request. Here’s where I’m at…

There are a range of psychosocial approaches currently employed in a therapeutic health setting to treat addiction, and low intensity mental health problems. These include Brief Solution Focused (BSF) approaches, Motivational Interviewing (MI) and Cognitive Behavioural (CB) approaches. Rather than a methodological structured approach, I believe such treatment is most effective when these approaches are used combinedly and responsively to the individual. Even though that doesn’t make for happy linear data or specific enough measurable outcomes; which are needed for funding and evidence of achieving organisational results. People, with their emotional relational social behavioural lives are not linear. To expect such is to work from a behavioural model and dehumanise, when a humanistic approach is needed. (And the whole reason we have a treatment system for substance misuse …or is it?).

And this links to coaching philosophies, which are often employed to meet a behavioural  demand. E.g. This is how we behave here, we do this, we don’t do that, we show these emotions, not those. Coaching can be used for remedial, goal focused interventions to improve performance. The socially accepted term of coaching implies investment in, and care for people and their entirety. Yet how easily this can mask another method of control and order.

Through comparing and contrasting (from a position of doing, experiencing, as well as reading) the skill set and specific approaches employed within the above psychosocial methods are visible across accepted coaching approaches, in this unregulated and undefined industry including Kline’s Time to Think model, de Hann’s Relational Coaching, Ericksonian roots to NLP, Positive Psychology, and emotional intelligence coaching. In addition MI, CB and BSF are also recognised approaches, that Torbert’s systemic alchemistic coach would strive to offer as a combinative approach. Coaching responsively and intuitively to the individual’s presentation, meanings and needs. Inclusive of social and organisation context.

Coaching without the influence of psychosocial theory would lack depth and richness. Failing to go beyond the presenting behaviours (what’s being said rather than what’s not being said) to understand the intrinsic human nature and functioning of individuals would keep coaching in a behavioural world.

If we are encouraging employees to be engaged, to align with values and bring passion into their work then we need to recognise that this makes work emotional. This is a good thing. We are humans. Yet it becomes exploitative when we pay for ‘positive’ emotions to be visible and demonstrated, and demand an absence of ‘negative’ emotions, to reduce disruption and discomfort. As is often implied (sometimes explicitly) by organisational guiding principles. By demanding good not bad we fail to appreciate the full hue of people and their emotional work which includes anger and frustration. Trying to lead change, whether 1:1 coaching, groups, work-stream or the whole organisation, without first hearing and listening to what’s going well and what the problems are fuels premature movement and transition from extrinsic motivation. Rather the very intrinsic drivers than humanistic psychology is all about.

The ethics to which I subscribe (my qual is accredited by) clearly state that a coach should explicitly define the difference between coaching and other helping professions. Yet I’m (and those prominent in coaching literature) struggle to find this clearly differentiating definition. So should this definition be mine? Or should it be specific to the relational context of each person I coach with as an agreed emergent meaning from our interaction? A fluid but always known definition.

This leads me to contracting. Do I decide on this definition and explicit boundaries? I know the difference between coaching and other helping professions, and I know when and what I’m doing when I’m doing it. So contracting can include a descriptive explaination of this. Am to define what’s ‘off-limits’? How does that allow for a free thinking environment where someone is truly heard and accepted? Contracting is a negotiated agreement between coach and coachee, which can be reviewed as the learning relationship develops and new themes emerge. To ensure safety and continued agreement in purpose and direction. 

And I’m not going to call stop if emotions appear uninvited.

And I very much like this by Phil Willcox (@PhilWillcox)

And I trust my professional judgement in recognising when to refer on and how to talk about the stuff without talking about the stuff. 

How to open

How to close 

Then I’m back to…if emotional intelligence coaching is experienced as a session that improved well-being and thoughts about the self. And also resulted in the coachee performing better. Is that counselling or coaching? Who says it is? And who decides what matters? 


Runner Woman

There are people you know, but you don’t know. On your commute or regular route at a regular hour, on a regular day. We often see people going about their regularness and our worlds overlap for a brief second. We share the same space. If you’re on the tube you might even share the same breath.

About 20 years ago my Mum worked on Alfreton Road in Derby for B+K. She told me about a woman she knew, who every morning and every evening ran along the road to and from the city. Without fail. Everyday. For years. 

Then years later when I started working in Derby I got to know her too. Everyday (yes every single day without fail) whilst I was sat queuing in the traffic she’d run past. She captured me. At this point I knew she’d been doing this for 10+ years – I was looking at an athlete. 

Perhaps I enjoyed her sameness. Her regularness. Her reliability in my ever changing 20s. She was always there. 

I definitely admired her air of self-confidence. 

She never wore her Nikes and carried her work shoes in her bag, like I see many people doing in London. No, runner woman ran in her work shoes. Often in heels. Often a suit. A coat over the top in the winter, and her jacket frequently hanging down and off of her shoulders when it was warm. She never took it off and carried it. Just allowed it to slip down her shoulders, only just kept on by her bent elbows. She carried her hangbag and lunch box in her hand. Never a rucksack. She held them up as if she was trying not to spill something. And as she ran they moved from side to side as her forearms loosely did infront of her. The whole way she ran was less with the intention of fitness and more like she was running just a couple of metres to get on the bus. Or running after an important sheet of paper that just blew away in the wind. Less bent knees and more legs flailing. Her hair wild and big trailed behind her, permanently windswept as she ran. 

Yet always smiling. Every time I saw her. No haste. She looked casual. As if she’d just started running or was just stopping in her stride. An in between run. A medium run.

At first I used to watch with interest to try and figure out why she was running. What was her purpose. 

“And the waitress comes over and she says ‘watcha reading for?’….what, am, I, reading, for? Not ‘what am I reading’, but what am I reading for?” – Bill Hicks 

I never figured out where she came from, and I never figured out where she went to. But I would always try and catch her eye to share a smile. But Runner Woman never sought one. It mattered not what the world thought of her. She was being herself, doing her thing.

With an abcence of back story I resisted the temptation to create one. To develop Runner Woman’s legend and fill in the details of her most wonderful life (like we so easily do, Girl on the Train style). She doesn’t need me to round the edges and add the colour. She doesn’t need me to add glamour or fantasy. She just is. In all her regularness, and that’s when I realised her beauty. 

On my way to Derby I saw her today: summery top, usual dark skirt, work shoes with heels, lunch and handbag in her hand. Same hair, only with visible strands of silver glitter. Not going fast, not stopping, somewhere in between. That woman I know who runs.