By Breanne Cook
I knew I wanted to be a coach. When I started looking for a course, it was very confusing; I had no idea what course would result in appropriate accreditation and credibility. I wanted a course that was specific to the area I was passionate about and which suited my skills and experience. I’d had the opportunity through work to engage in leadership coaching – but I knew that wasn’t really me. Investing in a coaching course is a considerable commitment in terms of time and money, so I wanted to ensure that the course I enrolled in was of good quality and led to a coaching organisation membership.
My background is in social work and mental health education and it was easy to navigate what kind, of course, would suit my experience but I didn’t know where to find it. I stumbled upon Wellness Professionals at Work after many lengthy Google searches. I remember feeling excited at the courses that were offered and I had a feeling that this could be the one. I was nervous about investing the next two years of my life, so I contacted WP@W to ask questions to help me make my decision. The kind of questions I had before I signed up were:
- What kind of support is offered to ensure I succeed (as long as I played my part and was committed of course)!
- How is the course accredited and with who?
- How is the course marked? How will I know I am doing well and will pass?
- What kind of feedback will I get?
- What is the commitment required?
- What if I struggle with finding case studies?
I sent this list of questions to the Director and received a response clarifying all the details I needed. The response was quick and reassuring. I would recommend getting in touch if you have any fears or questions.
My biggest worry was the case studies, which is the last part of the course. I was worried that I wouldn’t ever get anyone to do the coaching with me to reach my hours. I didn’t want to embark on the course worrying about a future aspect of it. I wanted to have all questions answered so I could concentrate fully on the work. I was assured that support is given through the network of students to find case studies if you are struggling.
I enrolled on the integrated Resilience and Wellness Diploma, which has 18 modules and is to be completed within two years. There are three parts to the course; modules and assignments, supervised skills sessions (which run concurrently) and then the case studies.
The courses are very much self-led. You need to be motivated, you won’t be chased continuously about completing work or attending sessions. With this in mind, I wanted to start off on the right footing and be prepared and organised. The first thing I did was to ensure I was aware of the number of modules there were and how many hours I needed for the supervised skills session and the case studies, and then I created a draft timeline. Ideally, I wanted to finish the course sooner than two years. I was aiming for around 18 months. Although I wanted to do it quicker, I felt that it was essential to savour the information and take the proper time to go through the materials and the recommended reading materials to make sure I got the most from the course.
I found it useful to schedule a deadline for myself. I wanted to complete a module every three weeks, so once I had scheduled those in my timeline, I then matched up the skills session dates with those deadlines to ensure I wasn’t behind or ahead in one or the other. I felt that this was a pretty good strategy and kept me on track pretty well.
On the Subject of the recommended extra learning in the course materials – I would very much advise you to do those because they are excellent and cement the learning.
At the end of each module is a 1000-word assignment; what I like about the assignment is that you mostly have a choice of two or three to choose from. I think being able to have a choice is a really motivating thing because you can get quite excited to work on something that you’re more passionate about or more drawn to, but there’s also a great opportunity to come out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself with a different topic. I loved the topics that the assignments asked me to cover. I felt that to get the most out of it; you need to be honest, exploratory and reflective. Sometimes, the assignments require a vulnerability that initially felt terrifying, but as you learn more about the organisation and the tutors, you learn quickly that you are in a safe space and that your assignments are met with respect and openness, which makes you feel much more comfortable.
The assignments come back to you quickly and are scattered with helpful comments. For example, they can validate your thinking, give you extra information or pose a question that can help you to do additional thinking and reflection.
Supervised Skills Sessions
I was so very, very nervous about attending my first skills session. I had a vague notion of what to expect but didn’t know the structure and what to expect. There’s usually a maximum of nine people on the day (online). At the start of the session, there is a group teaching session which explores an area of coaching. Afterwards, the day is structured with three 40-minute practice sessions; working in 3’s you rotate between being the client, coach and observer with time for feedback. These sessions aren’t necessarily easy, but they are valuable, and you learn so much from them. My biggest advice when it comes to these sessions is not to be afraid of them – everyone in the sessions is at different stages of their course, and everyone is welcoming and encouraging when you are new. You are expected and allowed to make mistakes – the point these days is to learn. I really enjoyed the sessions. They are tiring days but worthwhile. And you make new friends each session. The feedback you receive is always important and is always kind and compassionate.
Again, I was nervous about the final part of the course. I had no idea where I was going to get people to sign up to be coached by me. But I could find people, and WP@W have a group for students where you can request if anyone would like coaching or want to be coached. I also took up coaching with a fellow student and it was a great experience. It helped so much in terms of carving a new direction for me. I knew I needed to change something, but I wasn’t sure what and throughout that coaching, I gained so much clarity and an action plan.
The case studies were, for me, quite hard but I think this was down to how I approached and structured them. My best advice here is to look after yourself and listen to your body. I took on most of the clients making up the majority of hours all at once and on top of a full-time job, so I was working many hours a week. if I were to do it again, I would pace myself and spread them out. After each coaching session, you need to write up a skills assessment for yourself and send it to your supervisor – then you receive written feedback. Going through these forms each time after a session is valuable to learn from and reflect on and know where you’re doing well and perhaps where you need some guidance.
There is group supervision available, but support is not limited to group supervision. I found the support flexible and excellent. The coaching in the supervision superbly embodies coaching in action – you have to participate wholly and do the work – but what you get from that is so beneficial. I think that the modelling experience of the coach’s who run the programmes is one of the strengths of the courses and an amazing resource.
My experience of the course was so positive; you get a sense that you are not alone with anything and you come away feeling confident to use the skills you’ve learned.