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Chapter 6: The heart-centered approach to coaching transpersonal coaching.

As previously stated, the style of coaching we are advocating tends to be humanistic, developmental, systemic, non-directive, and therapeutic. These describe a means toward an end, and the end result must always be achievement of the client's goals.

In this chapter we explore the following:

1. Applying a developmental approach to coaching

2. Applying Psychodynamic Approaches to Coaching

3. Applying Gestalt Approaches to Coaching

4. Applying positive psychology to coaching

5. Applying transpersonal psychology to coaching

Applying a developmental approach to coaching

Developmental theorists (Erik Erikson, Jane Loevinger) believe that we move to new stages of development irrespective of our success at mastering the cognitive/affective challenges of the current stage. When we move to another stage, yet have not mastered the challenges of the stage from which we just moved, then we carry the burdens of this previous stage to the new stage, making it more difficult to meet the new challenges associated with the new stage.

      We know through the work of Loevinger, Torbert and others that at
   any one point in time, an individual is about 50% anchored in their
   current dominant stage, about 25% lagging in the previous stage
   there are moving beyond, and about 25% focused in anticipation on
   the stage they are moving toward.

      Effective coaching recognizes the coach's facilitation is aimed at
   accelerating the client's advancement to their next stage. To do so
   masterfully requires a coach to assist the client to assess their
   lagging edge and use remedial means to nurture it to "catch up",
   and their leading edge in order to identify the direction that will
   lead them to greater productivity and fulfillment. And hypnosis is
   valuable in both of these functions. People often find that they
   are more willing and able to nondefensively recognize their lagging
   edges in the altered state than in their left-brain everyday state.
   Likewise, people often discover through the altered state a more
   open and less self-limiting vision of future possibilities.

Applying psychodynamic approaches to coaching

Typically, a coach is hired to assist an individual or group to meet tangible goals: increase productivity, increase teamwork or decrease interpersonal conflict. Most of the coach's interventions are just as tangible and practical as the stated goal. The coachee may need to learn something (e.g., diplomacy or how to better organize his time), or he may need to refine an underdeveloped skill (e.g., delegating effectively or appropriate self-care). But sometimes in the course of working through such practical agenda items, it becomes clear that invisible forces are at work that must be discovered and dealt with, perhaps underlying anxiety about self-worth or fear of failure, a deep mistrust of the opposite gender or a fear of success.

One way of conceptualizing this, and presenting it to a coachee, is what Ekman (273) refers to as "importing a script" from the past into the current situation. That is, an earlier significant event (e.g., being rejected by a significant female or being socially punished for a personal success) is seen as similar to the current situation such that reactions to the earlier event (e.g., rage or fear) may occur in the current situation. The individual being coached may not see any connection between early life events and current day problematic behavior, and sometimes the coach may need to educate his client about the pervasive but invisible influence that early experience has on today's life choices.

Westin (274) summarized the research evidence that has accumulated for five key postulates of psychodynamic theory and the legacy of Sigmund Freud. Those propositions can be summarized as follows:

1. Much of human mental life, including thoughts, emotions, and motives, are unconscious and can produce behavior in people that is inexplicable to them.

2. Conscious and unconscious thoughts and feelings operate simultaneously and can be in conflict with each other in ways that require compromised resolutions.

3. Stable patterns of personality and social behavior are formed in childhood and can significantly impact the types and effectiveness of social relationships in adult life.

4. Stable internal mental representations of the human self are formed gradually in childhood and adolescence and guide both social relationships and how individuals may become psychologically symptomatic.

5. Personality development involves learning how to regulate emotions, thoughts, and social relationships and moves from an immature, dependent state in childhood to a mature and independent state in adulthood.

In light of the previous discussion of the difference between coaching and psychotherapy, how do we discern what is appropriate territory in the client's inner world within the context of coaching?

Kilberg (275) suggests a number of situations in which unconscious material may well prove useful to consider, and therefore employing a psychodynamic approach in coaching may be called for. In general, he advises it when the coach sees patterns of dysfunctional behavior in individuals, groups, or whole organizations on which more conventional change methodologies fail to have any truly constructive effect. Also, he identifies fifteen situations that indicate the appropriate use of a psychodynamic approach, which we summarize below:

1. when strong emotional states are encountered in clients or when they face major transitions in their personal or organizational lives.

2. when performance problems for individual executives, their groups, or their organizations have contributing circumstances that are out of the awareness of the people involved.

3. when nuclear families and families of origin of executives create major areas of unrevealed tension and conflict.

4. when the client may be sufficiently curious and psychologically well-developed that he or she has a natural ability and willingness to explore these dimensions of human experience.

He also has a clear warning for the coach who makes the choice to incorporate this deeper level of working with the coachee. "Diagnostic acumen and professional judgment are central to determining whether the shadow realm of psychodynamics should be entered." (276) There may be times when the therapist-turned-coach may feel more at home with the psychodynamic realm, with family of origin issues, intrapsychic conflict, defenses, and transference issues in the coaching relationship, than with the tangible task of improving the coachee's productivity. The overriding question to stay focused on is, "How can I best serve my client's greatest needs within the parameters of our initial contract agreement?"

There are clearly times when referral to a therapist is in order. If a coach finds herself working far more on client reactions to early trauma events, relationship issues outside of work, defensive and emotional reactions unrelated to the goals of the coaching agreement, or unconscious conflicts that seem only tangentially related to the confines of the coaching agreement, then the activity has probably slid into therapy. A referral would be in order, or a serious change in coaching strategy.

Applying Gestalt approaches to coaching

Coaching is generally oriented to identifying the client's goals to pursue, and working with the resistance patterns that interfere with his ability to realize those goals. The Gestalt approach to coaching conceptualizes resistance as an adaptive and positive force that serves a protective function for the client; resistance must not be "overcome", but rather brought into awareness and worked through in a way that enables the client to recognize its constructive function and to re-channel its energy as a support in the current situation. We apply the same process as with "shadows" when we encounter resistance in the context of psychotherapy.

With the same spirit of openness to experimenting, Gestalt coaching offers a safe arena where clients can take personal risks exploring their vulnerability and strong emotions, knowing that failure is a valuable pathway to learning and growth. This approach exemplifies the Gestalt Paradoxical Theory of Change: change does not occur by trying to be what one isn't, but by fully embracing who one is. (277)

      The Paradoxical Theory of Change is the overarching Gestalt
   theoretic perspective for the coaching encounter. A fundamental
   intervention in Gestalt coaching is to sharply focus attention on
   what already exists for the client in the present, with the
   paradoxical result of initiating a profound experiential shift
   towards something new. This perspective acknowledges that the
   client is in fact his or her own "expert," and that the coach's
   strongest function is to provide a supportive presence, to be a
   collaborative partner, and to serve as the witness to the client's
   work and learning. (278)

Attending to one's own sensations, emotions, and thoughts (including interpretations and judgments) is a good practice for staying present in the moment. When we truly experience what usually goes unnoticed, new perspectives begin to arise.

The Gestalt Cycle of Experience was first developed at the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland, and our discussion of it flows from Dorothy Siminovitch's work. Awareness of the this cycle provides the coach skilled in a Gestalt approach with a way of identifying more precisely where processes become "stuck," i.e., where the client's resistance has stepped in attempting to create safety. The Cycle of Experience also helps the coach to create interventions that will heighten clients' awareness of their behavioral pattern, helping clients to recognize for themselves the habitual locations and patterns of their becoming stuck. Where in the process of problem solving does the client tend to become anxious, to struggle with setting new boundaries, to withdraw, or to extend their activation when it is time to rest?

The Cycle of Experience is a vehicle for examining both internal and external reality, and emphasizes the need to come full circle in order to fully integrate experience. A person (or group) approaches a new experience from a state of rest sensing multiple processes occurring internally and externally:

* A sensation claims the attention

* Awareness develops inducing anxiety/excitement, mobilizing energy for action

* Action leads to contact with a new boundary, creating the conditions for change

* Successful contact is followed by withdrawal and assimilation

* Closure re-structures experience and a return to a state of rest

Another valuable Gestalt technique that a coach may choose to employ is role reversal. The coach might suggest that the client take the place of whoever is problematic in his reaching his goal. If the client feels insecure with a supervisor, for example, the coach could ask him to "become" that supervisor and talk directly to the client. It will bring to the surface what the client's fears and assumptions are, regardless of whether they are projections onto the supervisor or accurate observations of the other's perspective. Role reversal is also a good exercise for stretching the client's willingness to loosen her attachment to identifying with the persona she is comfortable with.

Applying positive psychology to coaching

A basic principle from the field of positive psychology is appreciative inquiry, which advocates focusing first on what works in an individual, group or organization. (279,280,281) Only after identifying the areas that are working well, the strengths and successes, would the coach begin to explore the problems and what is not working adequately. Clients feel energized by the elaboration of what is going well in their work and in their life. This allows them to feel more hopeful about the future and less defensive about changes that are required.

We have already discussed the usefulness of the VIA Signature Strengths Inventory (282) in assisting individuals to clarify their personal virtues and character strengths. Using it may be an excellent way to begin a coaching engagement and to focus awareness on the client's strengths when he/she is likely preoccupied with deficiencies.

The state of mind that seems to be most conducive to being productive and feeling happy tends to concentrate and engage one's attention in goal-oriented activities of a particular nature. "Flow" is the term Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi (283) coined to name this state which is described as:

1. feeling like effortless action;

2. involving goals that demand specific responses and where clear, relevant feedback is available;

3. involving activities that require high levels of skill and concentration;

4. generating a "paradox of control," meaning the feeling of being nearly out of control--yet feeling exhilarated at the completion of the task because one was able to maintain control over one's movements or the environment; and

5. losing self-consciousness--while untroubled by worry about what others may think.

Sandra Foster and Paul Lloyd, each a psychologist and coach, recommend using the Experience Sampling Method (ESM) to help clients gain an awareness of how they spend their time. (284) Time management is a fertile area for coaching intervention. The ESM is a self-report method that prompts the respondent in random real time to notice what activity she is engaging in and to categorize her feeling about it. The individual asks herself these questions: (1) At this moment, what are you doing and with whom (or are you alone)? (2) How satisfied are you right now? Rate your answer on a scale from 0 to 10 where 0 is "not at all satisfied--I'm bored" to 10, which means "I am completely satisfied with what I am doing." (3) How much skill is required for this activity? (4) Describe your level of motivation as you engage in this activity. (5) How challenged do you feel by this activity? Rate your answer on a scale from 0, "This activity presents no challenge whatsoever. I could do it on autopilot," to 10, "This activity presents an extremely demanding challenge for me." And (6) How much are you concentrating on what you are doing at this moment? The answer is rated from 0, "I am completely distracted and paying no attention at all," to 10, "I am completely absorbed and engaged in what I am doing and cannot think about anything else." They have found that activities tend to fall into three categories:

1. Productive Activities--for example, working to earn a living, studying, talking over a problem with others at work, daydreaming about projects while at work, volunteering, and commuting;

2. Leisure--falling into two types: passive and active. Passive leisure is defined as watching TV or videos, hanging out, resting, or being idle (surfing the Net, online chat that has become routine). Active leisure is expressed in hobbies, playing sports, playing music, attending live theater or music concerts (more mental engagement than watching on TV or videos), socializing, and cooking.

3. Maintenance activities--grooming, shopping, cleaning, waiting in line, and "mindless" food preparation (to be contrasted with cooking with a high level of engagement).

This exercise can result in powerful insights for an individual who wants to maximize their productivity and/or the experience of flow in their life. This is especially true when time management or procrastination are identified in the initial contract agreement as behavior patterns to address in the coaching engagement.

Applying transpersonal psychology to coaching

By transpersonal psychology we mean integrative/ holistic psychology, a psychology of transformation and transcendence beyond ego. Maslow's "transcending self-actualization" foresaw the development of the exploration of the transpersonal realm within psychology, advancing beyond humanistic psychology. Lajoie and Shapiro (285) identified a number of major themes in the field of transpersonal psychology: states of consciousness, higher or ultimate potential, beyond the ego or personal self, transcendence, and the spiritual. Levin (286) suggests that the major characteristics of the transpersonal discipline comprise the search for goals and the meaning of life, the strengthening of inner personal resources, and the belief in transcendental abilities for self-growth.

These themes are all legitimately addressed in a coaching environment in which the client finds it useful to explore, and which has explicitly identified them in the initial agreement. Transpersonal coaching allows a domain spacious enough to incorporate spirituality, community and collective experiences of humankind, influences on beliefs and behavior that reside deep in one's unconscious, the meaningfulness of life, and our energetic interactions with the natural world.

While many might assume that the task of the coach is to reduce, remove or resolve the client's experience of conflict, great creativity is found when one tolerates the "tension of the opposites" (Carl Jung's term). The transpersonal approach in coaching emphasizes the value of the questions even more than the value of the answers, because asking the right questions is so vitally important to getting the best answers.


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Author:Hartman, David; Zimberoff, Diane
Publication:Journal of Heart Centered Therapies
Geographic Code:1U9CA
Date:Sep 22, 2014
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