I graduated from Wellness Professionals at Work in 2017, completing the diploma in wellness coaching skills. This was my first foray into coaching, an experience that has formed the foundation of my future work. I now work in private practice supporting mental wellbeing, most notably chronic stress and anxiety. This area of mental health has been my focus following my own burnout 17 years ago, an experience that changed my life forever. It stopped me in my tracks effecting my physical, mental and emotional health, prompting a lengthy period of recovery, learning and self-discovery. A personal healing journey and eventual career change, offering a holistic and integrated solution to mental health.
Mental health services are being re-evaluated in the light of tight resource, modern day need and improved outcomes. This has included the integration of health and wellbeing coaching inside the NHS, promoting values of personal choice and self-management. Whilst this is a non-directive role, coaching can also play an important part inside clinical practice.
The aspirations and hopes for future mental health services are firmly set on applying the principles of recovery and finding effective and acceptable ways of enabling people who use mental health services to be in control of their own lives. Future Vision Coalition (2009) A Future Vision for Mental Health.
Here are my 5 keys reasons why wellness coaching can serve as a valuable pillar to mental health support:
Empowerment as prescription
Wellness coaching promotes self-efficacy and self-understanding. It facilitates behaviour change, self-reflection and empowers your client to take charge of their health.
‘Doing things to people instead of with them can be profoundly disempowering. It encourages patients to believe that professionals have all the answers and that they themselves lack relevant knowledge and skills, and hence have no legitimate role to play in decisions about their healthcare.’ (Coulter 2011 p.2)
Suffering from a mental health condition can feel like it is happening to you and coaching can enable the courage and confidence to support decision making and long term recovery. In addition, the coaching client knows so much more about their health history, life stage, lifestyle choices and environment. Over the course of 1-1 sessions the client can reach deeper levels of self-awareness, feeling better positioned to set goals and discuss routes to recovery and condition management. It is at this stage, inside your scope of practice any clinical treatment plans could also be implemented.
Wellness coaching could be considered part of the emerging practice of recovery coaching inside mental health care. The collaborative recovery model engenders choice, personalisation and self-determination.
Coaching in mental health complements other professional interventions by its focus on awareness, responsibility, performance and self-belief … Doubt, fear and unhelpful thinking are addressed as they arise, as obstacles to the person’s goals and only in such a way that the person develops a strategy that they are confident will lead to the achievement of the goals set. As people achieve their goals their sense of personal effectiveness, self-esteem and autonomy grow and they choose to build on their success by setting further meaningful goals. (Boyle, D (2003) Coaching For Recovery. A Key Mental Health Skill. Pavilion Publishing.)
Coaching as complimentary intervention in mental health can have a long term positive effect on recovery. In addition, it can aid the effectiveness of other services.
Whole person healing
Wellness by definition encompasses all aspects of health. The physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and environmental factors that either support or diminish our wellbeing. Working in a client centred way, outside of any diagnostic model facilitates whole person healing. It widens the lens to include all those contributory factors to our wellness. This includes key aspects of being human that are often overlooked such as soul nourishment or environmental issues that are throwing us off balance. All aspects of life that influence mental health are brought to the session by the client. The conversation then brings in awareness and reflection with resultant goal setting for positive change.
Sign posting and collaboration
When it comes to mental health there is never a one size fits all. Often, through traditional medical models the patient will be offered a few tried and tested therapies. This does not necessarily work for everybody. Our history, preferences and receptivity to solutions is very different and it is through self-enquiry that we come to understand what works for us. Wellness coaching offers the opportunity to explore alternatives together. Collaborative solutions that stem from personal expertise in addition to pointing the client toward useful resources. Whilst coaching is non directive, the process of sign posting supports the client in exploring possible tools or additions to their support network.
CBC is time-limited, goal-directed and focused on the here and now (historical material, if used, is examined to provide valuable lessons to help guide current behaviour and decision-making). Though the primary aim of coaching is to help individuals develop action plans for change, it also encourages them ‘to increase self-awareness of thinking, moods and emotions’ (Becket, 2000).
Cognitive behaviour coaching is such a useful tool for thinking about thinking. This process of meta cognition supports the client towards recognising their cognitive distortions and unhelpful thought patterns. This process creates space to challenge unhelpful beliefs, identify triggers and reframe perspectives to support mental wellbeing.