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What shapes your approach to coaching?

Believe in and support personal growth

I have been deeply impressed by and drawn to Carl Rogers’ humanistic, meta-theoretical person-centered approach to helping people. I find it powerful to regard each person as having a positive, inherent tendency to seek personal development and growth when they are in a safe, supportive social environment. I strive to cultivate and consistently maintain an empathic way of being with others, a way that is relational and honors this tendency toward growth.

Satisfy basic psychological needs

This ties in directly to Richard M. Ryan and Edward L. Deci’s Self-Determination Theory of human motivation, which focuses on three basic psychological human needs of autonomy, competence and relatedness that are most readily experienced in a supportive social environment. When a person experiences safe social support and has these needs satisfied, they will more likely feel vitality and the internal motivation to pursue personal development and growth. When they do not feel safe and supported, they will more likely feel discouragement and experience harm to their wellbeing. I am aware that how I support the satisfaction of these psychological needs in the coaching relationship has an impact on how well my clients can pursue their other goals outside of our relationship.

My focus on need-support includes communication skills for helping my clients feel like they’ve received an empathic connection with me. Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication approach (also known as Compassionate Communication) fosters an acute awareness of human needs and provides a simple and powerful method of communicating with others, especially in difficult relational situations, to recognize and satisfy the needs of each person in the interaction.

Create a safe space for healing and growth

I have been heavily influenced by Dr. Daniel Siegel’s work in Interpersonal Neurobiology, and by Stephen Porges’ related Polyvagal Theory, both which offer deep insight into how the nervous systems of two people interact and impact their growth and wellbeing. The centerpiece of this is creating a physiologically safe relational environment for coaching (and indeed, for all relationships); within this atmosphere of physiological safety, the client can more comfortably explore those more challenging areas of the self to find previously undiscovered opportunities for positive change and growth. These theories emphasize the profound impact the relationship has on the physiological and neural level, thus facilitating the psychological and social changes a person may seek. In fact, my masters research was focused on this topic.

Relationship is primary

These lead me to an emphatically relational approach to coaching that can contribute as much to the process of your development as techniques or methods we might use to structure our conversations. In short, even if the relationship has ups and downs along the way (which most meaningful ones do), it is the safety and care that is persistently cultivated and communicated in the coach-client relationship that makes the most profound outcomes possible.

Customize to your personal needs

There are many specific techniques out there that are focused on achieving specific kinds of outcomes for clients. A coach can specialize in one or a few of these, and indeed, many deserve a great deal of time to become proficient in them. However, my professional and life experience guide me to be first person-centered, and non-directive: to let you guide what, when, and how we approach topics of desired change, whether those focus on conditions outside or inside of you. I expect to adapt what I do to the always unique and often complex array of needs a client presents, which may require a flexible and patient response. Like a carpenter’s kit, to construct whatever is needed (one of my former trades) I have a range of tools and methods on hand to help you in different ways as needed, rather than specializing in only a certain kind of method and outcome.

And, positive psychology is the general ethic or focus of my coaching, which I have described here.

Maintain a larger complex-systems perspective

Lastly, I have a profound respect for the complexity of life and the world we live in. I maintain a systems view of helping people – seeing each individual embedded in a complex body (with the mind), in a complex network of close and distant relationships with others, functioning within cultural and physical systems that have an enormous influence on our experience and behavior, much of that happening below conscious awareness. Improvements in your wellbeing may involve any part of these larger systems and therefore, in our interactions I form and, as we go along, continually update a ‘map’ of how you are positioned within these systems, and as needed, I am ready to call attention to some part of that map that might be worth exploring together.

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