When we’re experiencing stress, anxiety, or depression, we’re all going to need a different route out and into mental well-being. Equally, how you achieve and maintain your mental health will be unique to you. As a Life Coach who specialises in mental health, my clients often fall into one of two categories:
- They’ve experienced stress, anxiety, or depression in the past and are keen to avoid being challenged by it in the future. With the potential that they have begun to experience some of the symptoms again, which led to them seeking support.
- They are currently experiencing stress, anxiety, or depression and are keen to put a plan of action in place to get them through this episode. By the nature of the fact they are seeking support from a life coach, they are already through the worst.
Regardless of a client’s specific challenge and the unique way they are experiencing it, the following are seven benefits of speaking with a coach, specifically me. I do not specify me to be arrogant but because I can only account for the way I work and what I offer as part of my coaching. Coaching is not a regulated industry with set criteria on how coaching should be delivered; therefore a myriad of style and approaches exist. As with many industries, there are some incredibly high-quality, results-oriented and ethical coaches but there are some poor coaches too, due primarily to the entry level being low, if not none existent. If you are looking to partner with a coach to overcome a mental health challenge or build your mental well-being; consider these seven points as an opportunity to identify which are essential to you as part of your search.
Being truly listened to when you speak.
One of the primary roles of a coach is to listen to you, giving you the time and space to explore your challenges and begin to identify there causes and solutions. Clients will often remark feeling a difference after their first session, and this is much in part to having been listened to in a way they may never have experienced before.
Primarily, human communication works on a 50/50 split, where the listener is connecting the speaker’s words to a personal impact on themselves, and then preparing their response — often missing words or communication outside of this such as tone of voice or body language. In coaching, the split is 80/20 in favour of the client and where the coach is not seeking to make a connection between the client’s words and what the coach thinks but is listening to everything entirely objectively. They are proactively seeking to understand how the client’s problems are a problem for them. The coach will also look beyond the words said, taking in the tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language questioning any discrepancies between these and what you say.
Share your relationship with stress, anxiety, or depression.
I often refer to this as your ‘secret relationship’; this doesn’t mean no one knows, although this is the case for some of my clients, it may also refer to no other person knowing your challenges in their entirety. While we may share with a partner, family member, or friend that we’re experiencing problems, and they will have seen some of the symptoms, rarely does someone else have the full picture. Maybe we fear someone knowing exactly how we think because we scare ourselves sometimes, or perhaps we’ve begun to keep some of our symptoms hidden.
As someone who has experienced depression, at my lowest I was unable to attend work, but I didn’t want my partner knowing how bad I was; therefore, I’d leave for work every morning and walk to the supermarket until I knew they’d gone to work, at which point I would return home. Sharing all the details of how you’re experiencing your challenges can be liberating and supports you to identify how you will overcome these in the future.
Someone who has been where you are and made it out.
(Fellow coaches, take a breath before you start attacking me!) Readers, coaches can help anyone with anything, it’s an application of tools and techniques to deal with a goal or problem, as long as you understand the goal or problem, the coach does not need to. When I started my career as a Life Coach, I refused to specialise in mental health. Firstly, I did not want to sell on my story, and secondly, I did not want to have to take on health care professionals who might be sceptical about the benefits of coaching as a mental health intervention. After one year I discovered the majority of my clients had stress, anxiety, and depression. I had an opportunity to be open about my mental health and support others by sharing my story.
Regardless of whether or not a coach needs to have experienced the challenge they are helping a person to overcome or the goal they are supporting a person to achieve; clients like to work with someone who they believe genuinely understands their situation because they have been there.
Understands the challenge of being successful.
Unique to specific coaches and sitting outside the standard skills required of a coach, it is something which my clients specifically find beneficial and follows on from my previous point. Often successful people can feel like they have risen above those who surround them, be that family, friends, colleagues. These are not narcissists, and a sense of guilt and shame often comes with admitting that their support network doesn’t understand their challenges. With a warm heart, I often term my clients ‘Successfully Depressed’, and understand that being successful and having a mental health challenge creates its own set of unique challenges. Success may have been the goal set to overcome depression, only to discover you’ve achieved your goals and are still depressed. Equally, depression has the potential to rob a person of their success, whether this is through reducing their ability to work during a depressive episode or fearing a loss of status where their mental health challenges become known.
While considerable work is being done to remove the stigma of anxiety and depression, many still see it as a weakness and one they would prefer not to be experienced by the people running their organisations or with whom they are doing business. Working with a coach who understands your relationship with success can be pivotal to creating an impact in your life, career and business.
No judgement, no guilt.
It is liberating to be able to be at your most vulnerable, sharing exactly how you think and feel, and be met by acceptance. Urged to let go of any sense of guilt or shame you may hold for these thoughts and feelings. One client shared, “Chris made me feel at ease immediately, and he really is the least judgemental person, which leaves you free to be completely honest.” This honesty supports a person to begin to share precisely what needs to shared not just for the coaching process but them as an individual. Hearing their challenges or goals said aloud and declared to another individual, or at a more profound level, declared to the Universe – this supports a person to believe these challenges are real and therefore action is necessary.
I trained as an NLP Master Coach, and part of our training includes a series of rules we work by and two of these that are most prevalent when listening without judgement are:
Respect the person and not the problem
Everyone is doing the best they can with the resources available
A person is not their problem, and they can overcome their problem, I have unlimited belief in the potential of others. Understanding a person is doing the best they can with the resources they have available, resources being their current beliefs, behaviours, etc., means a person is not judged by any others standards. No comparisons are made by which a person could be judged.
Out of overwhelm and back in control.
The point at which a person seeks support is often when it gets so bad they feel like they can no longer do it themselves. Trust me, the majority of people I work with will have made every attempt to resolve their challenges without external support, and their book collection is evidence of this. They’ve read self-help books, watched TED Talks and YouTube clips, and listened to all the latest podcasts; all of this leads them in one direction, being overwhelmed. Where they started with a list of challenges or goals, they now not only have these but a further list of tips, tools, techniques, and templates which they need to implement to achieve balance and success.
Being supported to identify everything you’re working on and towards, and putting it all in one place helps you to begin a process of determining what is essential, what can be let go of and what needs to be prioritised; with a small set of central goals guiding this process. I work with the majority of my clients over 3-months, and this helps to set a pace on the tasks they need to complete over this period, coming to understand we’ll get to some deliverables later in the process and that’s OK. Like my granny used to say, ‘nothing’s spoiling’. Client’s discover they have felt busy for quite some time but without necessarily feeling like they are getting anywhere. Self-exploration identifies they’ve been reacting to life’s events rather than being proactive. Being proactive forces you to stop and decide what is and isn’t important in the bigger picture, ultimately giving you control.
Accountable for achieving your goals.
We cheat ourselves, there I said it, the secret is out! When it comes to goals we are much better at dreaming about them than setting them, where we set them, we are better at that than working towards them, and where we work towards them, we succeed at that more than we ultimately achieve the result. With us dropping out at different stations on the journey, rarely do we accomplish the goal. Let’s assume you’ve worked with a coach to identify and define your goals, therefore, ensuring they align with your purpose and bigger aims in life.
Work is then required, and a coach is there to keep you on track and accountable. They’ll help you course correct along the way if you start straying from your path. When I work with clients, and we’ve reached the point of setting goals, I will ask their permission to cry ‘Bullshit’ if I think a reason they’re giving for not delivering results is not valid and is an excuse. Good coaching should always be a balance between support and challenge. Too much support and you risk having lots of ‘nice’ conversations but not getting anywhere. Too much challenge and you can soon become overwhelmed and quit. In essence, a coach will not let you cheat yourself, at least not without you knowing it.
No two coaches are made the same so take time to identify what is going to be important for you from the coaching process and precisely the type of person you want to work with, and then shop around. Have discovery calls with multiple coaches and base your decision on as much information as possible, including the results they have had with other clients. A great coach supports you, challenges you, and puts you centre stage.