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When Help Fails
When Clients are Hurt Martyn Carruthers

Online Life Coaching & Mentorship

If you are a coach, a counselor or a therapist, you have many responsibilities to your clients. Clarify your responsibilities, and check whether a client actually wants what you offer. Otherwise your work can disappoint or even damage your clients.

When Help Fails

Some common reasons why your efforts to coach or counsel people may fail:

  1. Lack of choice: Do you offer clear choices that you can fulfill?
  2. Lack of clarity: Do you know your own goals for coaching others?
  3. Lack of flexibility: Are you dogmatic or can you move between models?
  4. Lack of leadership: Do you lead clients towards dependence or independence?
  5. Lack of congruence: Are you congruent with your clients and your clients' goals?

1. Your Clarity

  • Insist that all information is the client's alone
  • Help your client challenge, change and/or veto your ideas
  • Make coaching contracts with the people who receive your coaching
  • The client chooses goals - and the client decides if your coaching is helpful
  • Make different service contracts with employers, parents or HR professionals
  • Clients should pay for coaching themselves or at least know who pays how much
  • Do not report to your client's boss, wife or anybody that the client doesn't endorse

If you are confused about who your clients really are, or about what the purpose of your coaching really is - be prepared for failure. If your real client is a third person or an organization, you are not coaching, you are appraising performance, facilitating communication, defining roles or setting objectives. These are all legitimate consulting efforts, but they are not coaching.

2. Your Congruence

Only coach people in ways that are congruent with your values.

  1. Make offers that you can fulfill
  2. Find out what each person congruently wants
  3. Discover what a person can change to achieve a goal
  4. Decide whether you can fully support each client's goals
  5. Clarify with your clients whether or not you support their goals

If you persuade someone to follow your decision - this is not coaching, but manipulation. If you coach someone to become a better criminal - you may be an accessory to a crime.

If you coach people, careless of whether your clients succeed or fail, you are unlikely to enjoy coaching.

If you accept a client, but you serve the needs and follow the direction of a third party, you are not only unethical, you are setting up your client and yourself for failure.

3. Your Dogma

Are you a solution looking for a problem? Or are you ready to help clients define and get what they want? Dogmatic adherence to a single model leads to failure. Our systemic coaching involves a great deal of listening, exploration, and trust building. If you offer a one dimensional model or approach, you may feel good about yourself, but you would fail as a coach.

Good coaching includes empathy, non-judgmental exploration, diagnostic skills and flexibility. Beware of trainers who want to sell you a single process. An effective coach is an outstanding listener; more interested in the client's hopes, dreams and aspirations - than in a model or process.

Be wary of athletic models. Athletic coaching is different to life coaching or executive coaching. Athletic coaches are content experts - they know the sport and the skills necessary for optimal performance. Athletic coaches are often part of a system - they are paid by the system and they are fired if they don't rack up enough wins.

Beware of military or warrior metaphors. If you talk about killing competition, destroying resources or defending territory, you are unlikely to take responsibility for your clients - you may use their information in ways that hurt your clients.

Good coaches need not be content experts - they are process experts. They may not be experts in a specific disease, family, product or service, instead they help people develop skills to change or cope with their life challenges.

Effective coaching is defined by the client, not the coach. Effective coaching is a helping relationship, and requires mutuality, openness and focus on the client as a unique individual.

4. Dependency & Codependency

An important part of our systemic work is to empower and then withdraw. Our coaching is not "a long term relationship that provides a steady income!" A professional coach should not stay in a helping relationship for the money. Dependency can hurt you and your clients.

Ensure that you and your clients agree about when and how coaching will end, and resist any temptation to prolong coaching. It is important and empowering for your clients to fly solo!

Coaching is more effective when it is limited in time and to agreed objectives. Set these goals and limits early - and stick to them. It is not good for you or your client to create a long-term dependency. If you overstay your welcome, get yourself fired!

A termination plan is an essential part of a coaching contract. Coaches who coach clients for multiple years often reduce their effectiveness and credibility. They can create codependency.

It is fine to withdraw and monitor progress, but a coaching goal is to empower the client towards congruent goals, and then end the relationship.

Our systemic coaching is a powerful developmental tool. It can also be used in shallow, manipulative and harmful ways. Coaches who want to ensure their effectiveness and clients who want to be wise consumers of coaching expertise can avoid these traps.

We offer fast and effective solutions

Entanglements . Codependent Therapists and Coaches

Systemic Coach Training

Do you want online coaching or training? We can train you to help people to resolve a wide range of emotional and relationship challenges. We can prepare you to coach people to manage emotional issues and solve relationship problems.

Online Life Coaching, Counseling & Mentorship

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Have You Suffered Enough?

 Where are you now? Understand your emotions, fixations and enmeshments
What do you hope for? Know your goals and stop sabotaging yourself
Do you feel resourceful? Learn to develop your inner resources
Do emotions block you? Relationship problems and mentor damage
Do your beliefs limit you? Change limiting beliefs and end dependence
Do you feel connected? Resolve identity issues to recover lost resources
Is your partner happy? Build healthy partnership (or separate peacefully)
Are your children healthy? Happy parents better manage family problems
Do you want team success? Team leaders and their teams develop together
Do you have complex goals? Specialty coaching, counseling & therapy

Plagiarism is theft. Copyright Martyn Carruthers 1996-2018  All rights reserved. Soulwork Systemic Coaching was primarily developed by Martyn Carruthers to help people solve emotional problems and relationship conflicts to achieve their goals. These concepts and strategies are for general knowledge only. Consult a physician about medical conditions and before changing medical treatment. Don't steal intellectual property ... get permission to post, publish or teach Martyn's work - email