Tips, Traps & Pitfalls for Helping Professionals
We see some terrible things,
and some of those things are even more terrible because
they are normal.
Common Coaching & Counseling Problems
Some people have dreams that appear exaggerated -
for example, people who hope to become extremely successful with
minimal or no effort. Do you support unrealistic dreams knowing that
they are unlikely to be unfulfilled - or do you try to find acceptable,
achievable goals that allow real progress?
While we coach exceptional people to
get exceptional results, most people seem to unconsciously block
or sabotage themselves. Motivating people to follow irrational dreams
is not coaching with integrity - and affects our ability to
build trust and cooperation.
I prefer to offer interim goals or steps that,
when reached, lead on to the next steps. And many of these
interim steps are to manage self-sabotage - to change emotional habits,
immature beliefs and to solve relationship problems.
Coaching & Counseling Friends
Some people may assume that their acquaintance or relationship
with you implies that you should freely provide your coaching, therapy
or counseling skills for them. After all - don't you help people solve
relationship, cognitive, success and emotional problems?
And isn't that what friends do?
If you want to lose friends and not influence people -
accept friends as free clients. Unless you carefully set up and maintain a professional space -
your friends may cease to be your friends - and not become your clients.
I'm not talking about casual conversation
- I'm talking about you dedicating your time, knowledge and skills on
your friend's life during intense, focused private work. I'm talking about
helping them wash their dirty underwear. I'm talking about open-heart surgery.
Healthy people will later feel obligated towards you, and dislike
feeling in your debt. To avoid that feeling of debt (often called guilt)
they may look for a way to repay you - or they may unconsciously sabotage your
free change-work. We find that (except in the beginning of your coaching career
when free might be the right price) offering a free service is often a lose-lose
Also, when working with friends, you may uncover some
emotional or financial conflicts of interest. Someone may ask you for
coaching on how to expand into your specialties ... in your home area.
(It happens!) If you are successful - then you could feel stupid. And if you are not successful ... you probably won't like that
You can set up an emotionally clean space for
professional coaching friends or family - which is not easy; or you
can refer friends and family to other helping professionals. Or you
can risk losing your friends and alienating your family.
Martyn, against your advice, I coached my
younger brother on his
marriage at his request. He ended up dumping his emotions on me ...
he blames me for his divorce and says he does not want to see me again!
Similarly, avoid befriending clients. Be friendly, but leave a
potential deep friendship until after you have finished your work.
Avoid decreasing your objectivity and increasing the risk of transference.
Avoid building conflict, stress and codependence.
Enjoy gratitude while it is still
warm - people often forget after a day or two.
Are you Ready? Who is Ready for You?
Let's assume that you know your ideal clients - their lifestyles,
incomes and goals.
Do you have any unproductive habits?
- Why do you ant to coach these people?
Do you have any unconscious objections?
- How can you best approach these people?
- What will you gain from helping these people?
- How might these people perceive your coaching?
- What beliefs or opinions may influence their attitudes?
- What skills can you develop
to better serve these people?
- Can you discuss their difficult thoughts and feelings with them?
- What attitudes, beliefs or biases might interfere with
helping these people?
Coaching & Counseling Family Members
If you want to alienate family members, just push your
coaching or counseling at them! Not only are you unlikely to
enjoy success, your family may react against you, unless they perceive
you as having very high authority and dripping with
pearls of wisdom. Is this likely? Really? I doubt it.
And would that be a role you want? The higher your pedestal -
the further you can fall. If you try to work with your family because
they really need it - what are the likely consequences of success ... and
failure? It's probably
much better to refer your family members to appropriate colleagues (perhaps with a
reciprocal arrangement that you offer to work with your colleagues' family).
Coaching family members in specific behavioral tasks such as cooking or car
repair is generally safe and usually welcomed, if you are acknowledged as expert or at least as competent. But
coaching family members to clean up their emotional baggage ... prefer to
refer, prefer to refer.
Mentoring and coaching children (with a parent present!)
can be wonderful. We primarily coach children within interactive,
isomorphic metaphors. But when you open up strong emotions - you
open up enmeshments, entanglements and unconscious bonds - and you may get lost.
As a rule, I will not coach my own family
members and I will not coach children unless a parent is in the room and I
have already worked with the parents first. Don't learn this the hard way.
Who coaches the people who coach the people?
Excuses, excuses, excuses
Whether you specialize in systemic coaching, couple counseling,
therapy or organizational coaching ... or even spiritual mentorship
... you invest a huge amount of your time, your energy and your money
to learn and practice these skills, to develop yourself as a coach, and
to build your practice.
After a few thousand hours of individual, couple
and family coaching, you will likely become very good at it - and also on
hearing excuses. Some clients won't do homework and some clients will
not be punctual. Some clients won't show for appointments, some may
perpetually forget to pay you and one or two may try to cheat you.
This will likely continue until you change your attitude.
I Missed my Appointment
The date on the calendar was closer than I thought
I'm sorry but I started to feel better
You didn't empower me enough
I discovered a fear of success
You're not seeing the big picture
I didn't tell you I wasn't coming in case you felt bad
How many times have you refused or postponed
motivated clients to meet someone who does not show for an appointment?
Or, maybe 15 minutes before, or maybe 15 minutes after, the appointed time,
that person calls and say, "I'm sorry I can't come, because ...
- "... my relative / friend / pet was sick"
- "... the bus / tram / train / taxi was late"
- "... my car was not working / not available"
- "... there was an accident / construction on the road"
Some of the stories may be true. Yet of those
clients who did it to me once, over half did it twice. Of those
whom you let do it twice, 90% will do it three times - or until you
You can type on your appointment cards and confirmation emails,
"Change appointments at least 24 hours in advance or you will be charged
for the session." And follow through. You
might say "I cannot charge them for something they did
not get". Or, after one or two problems, charge them in advance (I have
never had a no-show from a client who paid in advance!).
With my online service, many people pay after their session, and
that's OK - but a missed payment means no more coaching until they pay
their debt. Some people won't pay ... and I won't work with them.
Otherwise, during the next session,
irritation and suspicion may interfere with your effectiveness. And they will likely
do it again. And again. People pay you for your time - not for their own bad
Laughter helps many people accept reality as
‘It’s them letters you get to put after your
name,’ he whispered. ‘They are very expensive letters! It might not cost much
money to become a witch, but when you want them letters, oh, don’t you need that
money!’ Terry Pratchett on credentials
You’ve taken a step. Now there’s
a next step.
Every step is a next step if it’s a step in the right direction.
Online Coaching, Counseling & Soulwork Therapy
I thought you were just
another therapist - but you were not just. Not even. Not only.
Plagiarism is theft. Copyright © Martyn Carruthers 2000-2017 All rights reserved.