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Boundary Setting for the Student Coach

18th July 2023

by Jo Permaul

I wanted to share some thoughts about an issue that lies at the heart of our practice and comes up often in an SSD workshop: finding harmony between boundaries and empathy. As coaches, we understand the power of empathy in building connections and supporting our clients. At the same time, setting and maintaining healthy boundaries is crucial for our own well-being and effectiveness.  Think things like, can I fit in my own wellness schedule around my calendar or maybe even is this a topic that I feel I can handle exploring?

Balancing boundaries and empathy is an art, one that requires self-reflection and ongoing growth. It’s about recognizing that boundaries are not barriers but rather guides that allow us to create a safe and respectful space for our clients. By setting clear boundaries, we establish a foundation of trust and professionalism while still being able to offer compassionate support.

However, finding this balance can be a journey of self-discovery. It requires us to tune into our own needs and limitations, while also holding space for our clients’ experiences. It’s about being empathetic without absorbing others’ emotions, and caring deeply while maintaining a healthy sense of detachment.

Remember, finding harmony between boundaries and empathy is an ongoing process

Here are 10 tips to help student coaches navigate boundary setting while maintaining empathy for their clients:


1. Prioritize Self-Care: Remember, you can’t pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first, so you can show up fully for your clients.

2. Be Clear and Transparent: Set clear expectations from the beginning. Communicate your coaching style, availability, and limitations to establish healthy boundaries.

3. Listen with Empathy: Practice active listening and validate your clients’ experiences without taking on their emotions as your own. Show empathy while maintaining emotional distance.

4. Reflect on Your Triggers: Be aware of your own triggers and reactions during coaching sessions. This self-awareness will help you set appropriate boundaries and respond in a compassionate manner.

5. Foster Open Communication: Encourage your clients to express their needs and boundaries. Create a safe space where they feel comfortable discussing their expectations.

6. Learn to Say No: It’s okay to say no when a request goes beyond your scope of expertise or availability. Offer alternative resources or refer clients to appropriate professionals if needed.

7. Set Session Time Limits: Establish and honour the agreed-upon duration of coaching sessions. This allows both you and your client to manage time effectively and maintain healthy boundaries.

8. Respect Confidentiality: Safeguard your clients’ privacy by maintaining strict confidentiality. Ensure they feel safe sharing their personal stories and sensitive information.

9. Seek Supervision and Support: Connect with experienced coaches or mentors who can provide guidance and support as you navigate boundary setting. Their insights can be invaluable.

10. Continuously Reflect and Adapt: Regularly assess your coaching approach and boundaries. Reflect on what’s working and what needs adjustment. Adapt your strategies to meet the evolving needs of your clients.

Remember, student coaches, setting boundaries is not about being rigid or distant; it’s about creating a nurturing space for growth while respecting your own well-being. With empathy and clear boundaries, you can foster a coaching environment where clients feel supported and empowered.

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