I’d have thrown my #$@&%*! textbook across the room if I had been holding it in my hands. Instead, I was reading an e-book in the Kindle app on my computer.
No throwing the computer across the room, Laura.
I am attending The Institute for Life Coach Training where I am taking the 30-hour Board Certified Coach Training. This is a class for people with degrees, licenses and Board Certifications in the field of professional psychotherapy.
I’m an active learner. I cannot memorize stuff. It has to make sense to me. I have to digest it, really learn the material in order to develop my knowledge. And so I was struggling to integrate what I was reading with what I already know from all those years of psychology training and those additional years of licensed practice as a Marriage and Family Therapist.
I have been a bit embarrassed to learn how much I did not know about life coaching. Life coaching is definitely not psychotherapy or counseling!
I struggled and read. I looked up references. I went to websites. And finally, I got it. I am shifting my way of looking at the world from a mental health therapist/counselor point of view into a life coach perspective. And that’s important. Critical even. Because I must change the way I look at the people who ask for my services.
Every profession has their own body of knowledge composed of required knowledge, skills, competencies and ethics. Mental health counseling has one set; life coaching has another. Life coaching calls the competencies core competencies.
Most professions have a unified way of looking at the world and the work they do. Therapy has one set; life coaching has another. There are also differences between teaching, consulting, mentoring and life coaching. But I’m mostly concerned with the differences between psychotherapy/counseling and life coaching as I’m working to shift my thinking and focus from mental health to life coaching.
I think the most important quality for me is coaching’s emphasis on egalitarian relationships. Coaching is a partnership. While I was trained as a therapist in non-power relationships, coaching is a true partnership between two people who hold equal power in the relationship.
In therapy, people in pain come to an authority figure to alleviate their pain. They qualify for an official diagnosis and they can use their medical insurance. This is the medical model of mental health and dis-ease.
Regardless of how diligently I worked to empower my clients, my position as a therapist was one of authority and superior knowledge. I was expected to help a sick person get well.
Not so in life coaching.
Issues involving the use of power and dominance are critically important in the coaching relationship. No one is dominant in the coaching relationship. A coach approach to clients involves an equal balance of power. Coaching makes certain that the client holds their own power while the coach holds their own. It’s a true partnership of equals.
As a life coach, I am not expected to be wise or to dispense wisdom from on high. Instead, I must listen carefully to my client as she or he is the authority on their life. I will only become the authority on life coaching.
Life coaching takes a reverent view of the client as their own unique font of knowledge. People have their own answers inside them. They might just need a bit of assistance hearing themselves.
That’s where a coach learning to ask powerful questions enters the picture. The answers are already inside the client. The skill I needed to grasp was asking questions. I reviewed lists of coaching type questions and despaired knowing I literally cannot memorize.
Finally, lightbulb time. I recognized that I have the skill of listening very well to the things people say and don’t say. I think in metaphors and colorful language. As I read coaching case after coaching case, I eventually got it. I can use my very own skills of listening and metaphor to reformulate my insights. I can change my insights into questions. I can use the sum total of everything I learned as a mental health counselor and turn it into something better. I think it’s better.
I felt such relief to understand that I already have a body of knowledge. I simply needed a new way of looking at the world of my work. With that change, I can move forward into learning more about this profession of life coaching.
Back to my original topic. Board certification for a life coach is important because anyone can say they are a life coach. There is no licensing requirement, yet there is an identified body of knowledge that distinguishes a life coach from other professions. This body of knowledge includes a way of looking at the world, competencies and ethics. If a person who says they are a life coach does not have the required training, they might not be able to help you find the answers inside yourself that you are seeking. If they do not commit to the ethics, they might harm you.
This is why I am going to school. To my knowledge, there are two credentialing organizations for life coaches: International Coach Federation and the Center for Credentialing and Education. The certifications are Associate Certified Coach (ACC), Professional Certified Coach (PCC), Master Certified Coach (MCC), and Board Certified Coach (BCC) credentials.
I’m working toward the Board Certified Coach (BCC) credential because it is offered specifically for therapists who transition into life coaching. And now I can say I feel like I’ve begun my transformation.
If you’d like more information or would like to make an appointment.
Telephone: (615) 464-3791
©2016 by Laura Coleman, Ph.D. All rights reserved.
Starting School in My Golden Years. Article One in a series. The remainder of the articles in this series are listed on my blog under the heading Life Coach Training.
-Written by Laura Bradford Coleman, Ph.D.
I Started School This Week. I’m attending The Institute for Life Coach Training’s 30-hour Board Certified Coach Training to earn the Board Certified Coach Credential (BCC) credential from the National Board for Certified Counselors. I qualify for this 30-hour course instead of the 60-hour or 130-hour program due to my National Certified Counselor credential. While it’s on retired status, my credential is still considered active and valid.
I want to take their Relationship Coaching Specialist program. I was licensed in California as a Marriage and Family Therapist and would very much like to transfer my skills from therapy to coaching.
I also worked with children, having studied with a world class child therapist. I wonder how much of my knowledge, abilities, and techniques from child therapy can transfer into child coaching.
My first class was on Thursday on the telephone. How convenient! Just put on my earphones, sit on my couch and go to school. It’s a little bit more difficult than that for me. I’m a visual learner with an almost perfect total recall of anything I pay attention to.
In college, I never took notes. All I had to do was pay attention to the professor’s mouth and think seriously about his or her words to digest the class. I did have to read the textbooks and think about what I read. But I didn’t have to sweat it or struggle. Just focus.
But listening without seeing is another story. I forced myself to pay attention and mentally visualize her [our instructor] speaking. Then I worked to think about what she said. It helped that we had handouts in the learning packet. I inputted those in my Kindle app where I could look at them while she spoke.
Our instructor mentioned Andragogy or adult learning theory. It’s funny how different words from different fields of study might just mean the same thing. I thought immediately of what I knew as active learning. It’s not exactly the same thing because children and adults are not exactly the same. But in my mind, what this means for me is that I must involve my very self in this learning. Since this is important to me, if I don’t get it from the class or the class materials, I must find other things to do and read and study.
In my psychology master’s and Ph.D. programs, we were required to write a minimum of a ten-page paper for every course demonstrating the theory involved in the topic, how we integrated that theory into our own thinking, and how it would look in actual practice. It was a special university with unusual faculty. I value that experience greatly.
My professors allowed me to present my knowledge in a variety of creatively written ways. Some of my course papers were short stories. As long as I bookended each story with the theory on the front end and the personal integration on that back end, creative expression was accepted. I cried years later when my university went bankrupt and shut their doors.
I know I learn well by doing something with what is being taught. Yesterday, I re-read the material and thought about everything presented. I bought a book by the founder of the school and read one chapter, Therapist as Life Coach: An Introduction for Counselors and Other Helping Professionals. I explored the school’s website and listened to a recording of a talk. I read an old newsletter.
Thinking, thinking and thinking about life coaching and me. Now I see that I can recreate for myself the dynamics of my education. I can make it as rich for myself as I want it to be. And I can keep a journal of my experiences, sharing it with my friends.
If you’d like more information or want to make an appointment:
Telephone: (615) 464-3791
Years ago, I was stalked at work by a very intelligent sociopath. She was on the same team as me. What she did was go to each person who worked with us and told them a clever lie about me. Each lie was different and created to appeal to the prejudices of that person.
This was gaslighting. Gaslighting involves a mental and emotional attack on your ability to see yourself and the people around you accurately. You stop being able to assess what is actually true or false. You don’t know who you can trust and who is dangerous to your well-being. You feel off balance and wounded inside you. Worse, you cannot tell where to go or what to do to help yourself.
It can be a direct attack where your adversary is speaking directly to you telling you lies about you, others in your life, or your existence itself. They can do things and create situations for you that keep you off balance. Or gaslighting can involve an indirect assault involving gossip and creating rumors about you out of whole cloth.
What I write might work a little bit if you live with them. But really, it will only help you get away from them with a lot of effort on your part. The reason is that as you work on yourself, they will only increase their efforts to harm you emotionally.
Somehow the gossip gets back to you and you hear it in little ongoing pieces. Drip, drip, drip of a poison in your world. I think your gaslighter makes sure you know what is happening. It feels like a runaway train is coming down the track at you. And you think you cannot escape it.
On that job, people began to say awful things to me. Whisper about me in groups. If I walked past a group of people, everyone stopped talking. Others would yell at me. It was a mob of hate.
Needless to say, going to work every single day was a nightmare. I began to doubt myself and question my ability to do my job. I began to critique myself in relationship to other people. I’d ask myself what I was doing to cause these people to actively hate me. Until I learned, by accident, what was happening.
I tried every conceivable different type of reaction to put out the fires of rage at me at work. I was nice and reasonable. I was firm. I tried aggression and confrontation. The more I tried to stop how they were treating me, the crazier I looked. So, my behavior fed her machinations. I gave this woman all my personal power. For a while.
- In gaslighting, you cannot stop the other person.
This is the hard fact about abuse. It’s actually a hard fact about life. You really and truly cannot control other people. Unless you are willing to end up in prison for murder, what bad people do is out of your hands. This truth used to make me furious. Then one day, I realized I could take my power back from abusive people.
- How you act in response to abuse tells the world who you are.
When someone gaslights you, it hurts like mad. And because you hurt, you react. You show your insides to the world. You reveal the hurt. If the gaslighter is very good at it, your hurt insides will look crazy.
Everyone has a bit of crazy inside them. I mean everyone. We’re human with histories made up of good and bad. Hit us hard enough in our hurt places, and we bleed crazy. They get their desired result which is to make you look irrational and out of control. Usually in public view.
No matter how awful, outrageous and ugly the other person acts, how you respond takes the attention off of them and puts it right smack dab on you. As wrong as the other person is, what you do shows people who you are. Unfortunately, the worse they have hurt you, the more you will look like the person they are telling the world that you are.
If you cannot control, stop or change what the other person is doing, what the hell can you do? Here is the answer. You gain control over your own actions. It is a slow and painful process, but it works every single time.
- Deliberately turn your attention away from the chaos.
The desire to stop those involved in what is happening often feels like a compulsion. A compulsion in my own voice. You need something to drown out your own voice and the compulsion to look at what he is doing or saying. In my own life, I imagine it’s similar to what I had to do when I quit smoking. One day at a time. Ignoring the smell of smoke when others continued to smoke. Altering my habits and eliminating those places where there was a lot of smoking. And I simply didn’t buy a new pack of cigarettes or go into a store that sold them.
I see this image in my mind of turning my back on the actions of that person.
Forcing my body and attention to go elsewhere. Shut up. Close your mouth. Put down your pen. Stop looking at them or their friends on the Internet. Give your gaslighter no new information about you to work with. At first, this is very difficult. It requires self-discipline and effort.
I use personal affirmations and self-talk.
Here is an example of an affirmation for this: I fully and freely release you. I completely loose you and let you go. So far as I am concerned you have served your purpose in my life and I no longer need you. All things are over between us. it is done. It is finished forever. I am free.
And I say that over and over and over in my mind. It helps me not give in to the impulse to go back and look, talk about it to others, ask questions and so on.
I also use massive self-care.
When someone gaslights me, they are trying to steal my joy. Instead, I walk in the opposite direction toward the things and people in my life who feed me. This is called self-care.
If you dance, find a dance class. If you paint, pick up your brush. Call people you know who love you AND do not talk about the gaslighting. Talk instead about things that make your heart sing. If you write, write upbeat stuff. Every writer has lists of projects. Pick one that makes you happy. Go places that feed your spirit. Places that don’t involve the one who is gaslighting you. Do the things you usually love even if you are absolutely not in the mood.
Look at pretty things. Listen to music you love that does not remind you of them, but instead of happier times. Read upbeat books and novels with happy endings, preferably not romance novels if this person was a lover. Smells are good too. I bought a comforting scented shower gel to add to my good feelings.
Lastly, there are tasks you can perform in your life that bring you a sense of order. Small cleaning or sorting tasks can be very calming. You pick something small that needs to be organized, like your sock drawer. Or some small area of your home that needs cleaning like one window. And do that. These kinds of tasks take your mind off what’s bothering you and give you a sense or order in your life.
Gaslighters, like all abusers, don’t let go easily. They will continue to send out lures to draw you back in.
When you see the new temptation, name it as soon as possible. Everyone gets tricked once in a while. Once you know, stop responding. Go back to the beginning. Turn your back on the new trickery. Step up your self-care. Increase the things you do to feed yourself so you can continue their invisibility. This is hard to do.
- Dignity wins. It kicks ass.
When you keep your behavior in check, you send out several messages to the world and the gaslighter. One, they are insignificant and do not matter. Two, you are not at all the person they say you are.
This makes them angry and the often escalate their actions. If you hold on to your dignity, they make themselves look bad. Then their actions tell the world who they are.
Dedicated to my friend, you know who you are.
I monitor posts for trolling.
If you would like to work on practical strategies to handle gaslighting or eliminate abuse from your experience, please contact me to make an appointment.
Telephone: (615) 464-3791
©2016 by Laura Coleman, Ph.D. All rights reserved.