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Mental Health and Coaching: Horse and Carriage? Or No-Go Zone?

Anita Rolls | 21/03/2018

Ok, so I hear you: it doesn’t quite rhyme in the way the Frank Sinatra song about love and marriage does. However, it struck me that this metaphor is far closer to the truth than the traditional view held by many coaches: that “mental health” is a no-go zone.

Take, for example, this description of what mental health covers and what positive mental health allows people to do provided by the US Department of Health (www.mentalhealth.gov):

“Mental health ... affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.

Positive mental health allows people to:

  • Realize their full potential
  • Cope with the stresses of life
  • Work productively
  • Make meaningful contributions to their communities”

 

Now replace the words “mental health” with “coaching” and you get:

“Coaching ... affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices

Coaching allows people to:

  • Realize their full potential
    Cope with the stresses of life
  • Work productively
  • Make meaningful contributions to their communities”

 

So maybe the real question, given the clear overlap, is why do so many coaches treat mental health issues as a no-go area?

In my view there are 3 key reasons:

  1. Misunderstanding from their Coach Training

On coach training programmes, the boundaries between coaching and other interventions including counselling and therapy are (rightly) emphasised. Yet this does not mean that the same issue cannot be tackled from a coaching or counselling/ therapy perspective in different yet complementary ways.

  1. Fear of getting out of their depth

This is a valid concern, as many (most) coaches are not psychologically trained and there is no requirement to have undergone their own therapy (although many coaches do see this as part of their own personal development).

  1. Lack of Skill on how to intervene

This covers a range of topics from diagnostic (how to recognise the signs of mental health), how to keep interventions clearly in the coaching domain yet how to work psychologically around some of the underlying issues.

 

What this suggests is a need for further coach-specific training to give coaches the confidence and skill to enter the no-go zone and truly work with the whole person of the client in a way which positively engenders their mental health and flourishing.

The need for this type of coaching has never been greater in our organisations than today where issues related to mental health have reached epidemic proportions.

So.... coaching and mental health: love and marriage, or no-go zone? I know which one I favour.

 


AoEC offers in partnership with the FRC a three part online programme for those that wish to incorporate health and wellbeing into their coaching practice.

Executive Coaching and Health: Coaching Skills for Wellness, Recovery & Performance

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