Monthly Archives: October, 2016

Visioning the Relationship You Want

A week or so ago, I spent considerable time looking over the different requirements for certification as a coach. One fact stuck in my brain. The Board Certified Coach credential explained that there are a narrow set of coaching skills a therapist needs to add to their repertoire. There is a vast difference in viewpoint, though.

This week I understood at depth that the difference comes from viewing a client as healthy, happy, strong, courageous and capable instead of a patient with a DSM psychiatric diagnosis. A client who has all their answers within them instead of a patient who needs my help to fix something broken.

I don’t know how I transitioned from a positive view of people into such a negative one. I’m glad to change back now. I know I needed to be seen and to see myself as whole, complete, capable of growth and accessing the good things in life. I needed to be believed in and to believe in myself. It’s important. A vital aspect of the foundation for growth.

This led me to begin mentally pulling my personal growth memories up from deep inside. Then relating them to what I am learning now. I learned a great deal about growth and change way before I entered graduate school.

When I was in my twenties I decided to enlarge my life. I wanted to be happy, have a stable sufficient income, friends, a satisfying career and a loving relationship. I moved a little over 2000 miles away from my family of origin. Looking back, I learned a lot of destructive beliefs about life from them. Particularly I took in an almost overwhelming amount of negative self-talk. This was in my way. A barrier, if you will.

Most of us have encountered negatives in our lives. It’s a part of growing up in the dog eat dog competitive world of childhood. Then there are the false beliefs some of us learned in our homes. Some 30% of all people included in a massive study by Natalie Sachs-Ericsson (2006) experienced some combination of childhood verbal abuse which led to vicious self-criticism or what I call negative self-talk.

In my twenties, I didn’t know much about changing my life. I mean, I desperately wanted more, but I had no idea how to do so. I had been in therapy since childhood, but never managed to make any headway through the extreme negativity I carried.

Then I met a woman who became my mentor and helped me find my way. Today I’d call her a life coach. I chose to work on dating and relationships first. She helped me formulate my own vision of possibilities. I didn’t have to dig out the negative beliefs. No. Instead, we envisioned what I deeply desired.

In the beginning, it was not very specific. Just a generic idea that the universe supports my growth and change. I could look outward at my life and see my very next activity in front of me.

Just so you know, this is not an easy process. Not like magic where I snap my fingers and my beliefs changed and then my life changed. Instead, it took determination and my consistent willingness to mentally return to the positive ideal every single time that negative voice surfaced. My mind might say, “it’s hopeless,” and I would have to counter that with the affirmation, “The universe supports my growth and change.”

I was and am a part of this process. I had to take risks. Of course, I did. In order to develop into the relationship I desired, I did have to go where people gathered. I’d just focus on the picture of what I envisioned; then, take whatever action came to mind next.

Then I examined whatever I experienced and attempted to wrest all the learning possible from it. See, if the universe is on my side, then life is giving me what I need to learn to grow into a life worth living.

Slowly we gravitated to the idea the there is the exact right relationship for me just waiting for me to grow into it. With a friendly universe, I could just deal with whatever developed in my path. And so I did.

This process took me 2 years of conversations, self-examination, activity, risks, and learning. This involved taking myself where other people gathered and self-examination, talking to other people and self-examination, dating and self-examination, and eventually getting married and self-examination.

So, as a life coach, I can blend what I learned in personal growth, what I learned in therapy school and what I am now learning in coaching school. It starts with a belief in a positive universe and a positive view of people. I can do this.

Contact me if you would like to make an appointment.

Contact me

If you’d like more information or want to make an appointment:


Telephone: (615) 464-3791

©2016 by Laura Coleman, Ph.D.  All rights reserved.


Sachs-Ericsson, N., Verona, E., Joiner, T., & Preacher, K. J. (2006). Parental verbal abuse and the mediating role of self-criticism in adult internalizing disorders. Journal of affective disorders, 93(1), 71-78.

Life Coaching Ethics

I’ve always been fanatical about professional ethics. Professional ethics define the boundaries about professional coaching. What is acceptable behavior and what is not. Ethics are important because without an internal, personal and professional set of ethics, anything goes. You can hurt people.

My passion about ethics comes from my history of being abused and growing up with rare chronic illnesses. Very early in my professional career, I made a commitment to treat people the way I wanted to be treated. I believe a reverence for others is definitely part of professional ethics for any profession that involves helping others.

Coaching can be confused with counseling, consulting, sports coaching, mentoring, and educating, so the definition of coaching is important. Following that, the actual ethics and standards are critical to great coaching.

I follow the ethical standards for the Board Certified Coach (BCC). This credential comes directly from the counseling profession. The Center for Credentialing and Education (CCE) is an affiliate of the National Board for Certified Counselors, the organization that certified me as a National Certified Counselor and a Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor. Their focus is on the counseling profession.

After analyzing the necessary skills a mental health professional would need to become a coach, CCE saw that there were many skills a counselor learned that crossed over into coaching. They identified the gap between what we know as counselors and what we needed to learn as coaches, then insisted we learn the coach-specific skills in that gap for certification. This means I don’t give up everything I learned and did as a therapist. I just need to clarify for myself which skills I give up and which ones I keep.

CCE-Global says “Coaching is a career in which professionals have specialized education, training, and experience to assess needs of clients, collaborate with clients on solutions, and offer strategies that assist individuals and organizations in reaching identified goals” (CCE-Global). Notice the word assist.

A partner is an ally, associate, colleague, confederate, or participant. According to, a partner is “a person who shares or is associated with another in some action or endeavor; sharer; associate.” When you assist another, you aid, facilitate, collaborate, and give them a helping hand. Assisting someone means you “give support or aid to; help” (

The 4 page document, BCC Code of Ethics, can be seen here.

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Intimate Relationships: What Just Happened?

This is part five of my series on relationship skills for people who have experienced abuse and/or trauma. You can find the rest of this series on my blog.

Flashbacks, misunderstandings, and your history

There was an Ann Lander’s newspaper column I used to hand out in my classes on this subject. Ann printed a dream someone sent her, then she asked her readers to respond with their explanations. Wow, what happened sure was fascinating!

Some people wrote her with painfully judgmental comments. Mean-spirited. I guess there was trolling even before the Internet. Other replies reeked of sexual innuendo. Some responses that were just off the wall!

None of them had any relationship to reality. Instead of interpreting a dream, people were telling the readers of that column about themselves. In their letters, thinking they were describing someone else, they told us how they thought and what their motives were. They unknowingly expressed their personal and deeply held emotional issues.

It’s a defense mechanism discussed by Anna Freud and is known as projection.

This happens all the time in relationships. It doesn’t matter if it’s a close and intimate encounter or a brief nothing brush of two people simply in the same physical or Internet space for a moment.

In the absence of information, people fill in the blanks with what is in their very own personal histories. I think this makes a lot of sense. We interpret our lives based upon what we know. In my thinking, this is a minor and subtle form of a flashback.

As a flashback, it seems easier to see and understand than the more vivid ones that are shown in television movies.

Flashbacks can take a variety of forms.

People who have experienced painful life events have both subtle and severe flashbacks. Those of us with histories of child abuse and horrid traumas re-live our traumas all the time. This is not a deliberate or willful action. It happens out of our conscious awareness. We don’t know that we are doing this.

I believe that this is your mind’s attempt to heal itself. Your being is attempting to expel an experience that is hurtful to you.

We think about what happened. We dream (nightmares) of what happened. We live our lives as if these terrible experiences are happening right now. Again, this can be subtle or very dramatic. Some people react to conversations in ways that are just a little bit off responding to meanings that were not intended. You might see your memories as a photograph in your mind. Then there are the physical reactions where you feel as though your trauma is currently happening this very moment.

Anything that even vaguely resembles your original painful life event(s) can trigger a flashback episode. A time of year, song on the radio, driving down a certain street, or someone’s tone of voice are all examples of the sort of thing that can trigger a flashback.

Flashbacks and Loving Relationships

Understanding flashbacks is vital to being able to see how they affect your loving relationships. The very acts of loving and being loved can and do trigger flashbacks. When you think about it, this makes a lot of sense. After all, if you were abused by your parents, guardians or family members, love is a trigger for you. If you were sexually assaulted, battered in relationship or betrayed by someone you love, again-love itself becomes a trigger for you.

Now you are out of the harmful situation. You are grown. It’s a year or more after the assault. Or you left the person who hurt you deeply.

You have met someone delightful and fallen in love. Wonderfully, they love you in return. This situation is enough to trigger both subtle and not so subtle flashback episodes.

It seems out of the blue, but now you feel abused and unsafe. You become absolutely convinced that your partner is abusive. They resemble your parents. Or your other family members. Or your out of family perpetrator. You are on edge and wait to be betrayed or assaulted. You react to a lot of what they say and are often angry or frightened.

At that moment, you really do not know if your partner is dangerous to you or not. You cannot tell whether or not they are abusive. You wonder if they hurt you on purpose. And you are utterly convinced they did. And pretty sure they enjoyed it!

Some people run away from all relationships because of this. Other people strike back, becoming too well defended. Then others just withdraw from all intimacy. No matter what you do you are in danger of ruining the vital nurturing intimacy you are building with the one you love.

No matter how you take care of yourself, you can ruin your relationship. That’s healthy if the relationship is dangerous or abusive. But it harms you if it’s not.

What do you do? How do you prevent your history from depriving you of a loving relationship? How do you find out the difference? Sort the dangerous from the safe?

What to Do?

I am going to give you a place to start here. Learning how to get relatively unstuck from your past is much more involved than I can write in one article. At this point, I just want you to know that your flashbacks can color how you look at and interpret the actions of your partner. That’s the beginning. To realize that you might be reacting from your past.

Thus, the first step is to take ownership of your feelings and reactions. You start the long process of learning when your reactions are from your past, and when they are from your present. This doesn’t mean blame. You are not at fault for this. Flashbacks stem from a natural process that happens to all people who have been traumatized.

This often seems too simple. And from one perspective, it is. From another perspective, taking ownership requires a great deal of effort.

Then there is the emotional pain. Learning to live in your own skin, feeling your own feelings and personal history is painful. This requires determination and a desire to live within loving relationships.

The second step is to get acquainted with what it feels like to be you in a flashback. For me, it feels as though I am slightly like a robot. Physically, my body feels heavy and my muscles are tight. Emotionally, I feel compulsive and like I absolutely must take action this very moment. I often feel very young because I’m living my past in my present.

To gain this knowledge I had to practice what is now called mindfulness. First I imagined I placed a little piece of myself on my shoulder and began to observe my behavior. For this purpose behavior included my thoughts, feelings and my actions.

I journaled. A lot. All the time. I kept pen and paper [this was before computers] near me at all times. And I wrote what I saw myself think, what I imagined my feelings were, and what I did. When examining my actions, I tried to be objective like a scientist or “Joe Friday” in Dragnet, an old television show: “Just the facts, Ma’am!”

The moment you recognize you are reacting from your past, you come back to the present. You are able to react to the present event. Over time, you become acquainted with yourself and your flashbacks. You can recognize potentially triggering conversations and interactions. You will be able to plan solutions to them. Knowing more about yourself in this way will allow you to talk about them with your partner(s). This is the beginning of taking charge of them.

Then, if you wish, you can process the painful feelings from your traumas. I journaled more because I had the idea that I wanted to clean the entire events out of my being. I allowed myself to cry. Often and much. Then, I would do a history of every time I felt similar feelings. I saw these series of events as if they were beads on a chain. What those beads did is show me my patterns of reacting to people and events.

Slowly I became in charge of my behavior. I wasn’t as controlled by the events and people of my past.

I count that as a win. I hope you win too.

Contact me

For more information or if you’d like to make an appointment.


Telephone: (615) 464-3791

©2016 by Laura Coleman, Ph.D.  All rights reserved.

Painting by Dante Gabriel Rossetti [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

What to Do About the Pain of Intimacy

This is part four of my series on relationship skills for people who have experienced abuse and/or trauma. You can find the rest of this series on my blog.

Intimacy Pain

Samantha and Paul loved each other but managed to argued constantly. They attended sessions regularly to learn new communication skills. They wanted to find new and constructive ways of relating to each other. Yet, in every session, they fought like cats and dogs, snarling and arguing about anything and everything. And nothing.

Each week we would talk and they would eventually get to a place where they were communicating. As soon as they hit that point of intimacy, either Paul or Samantha would bring up some old insignificant issue that would trigger an argument. They were off and running again.

This is common. People do that. They regularly defeat the intimacy they fiercely want. Sometimes this is the result of intimacy pain.


Intimacy is the connectedness of two people who are separate individuals. Intimacy between two people who love each other is a wondrous and exhilarating event. Intimacy is one way of being fully alive. When we connect with other people, we are completely ourselves in the present moment.

If I was physically in front of you, I’d hold my hands out with them parallel to one another. Close but not touching. That’s intimacy. Too far apart, that’s distance and no intimacy. Too far apart, there is nothing happening between the people involved. Too close together, and that’s known as being enmeshed. People become intertwined, entangled with each other and lose their identities.

The goal with intimacy is just close enough to make contact and connection but still hold on to your identity. When you reach that, conversations become satisfying and fulfilling. The relationship will grow. When you cannot, your relationships are stunted and unsatisfying.

At the same time, feeling alive in this way also means you are more fully in touch with yourself. You feel your feelings. You feel love, sometimes ecstasy. But you also feel all your other feelings too Unfortunately, you get the beauty with the unpleasant. The bliss and the agony.

Inner Pain

Some, maybe many people carry pain inside themselves. Possibly there was a destructive relationship early in life. Perhaps there was abuse. Some parents have addictions and create all manner of chaotic problems for their children. Then there is bullying. Other people experienced dramatic events that hurt them in their core. I can create a long list for us, but that’s not the purpose of this writing. Not all the horrid things that happen to people are abuse. Some are tragedies. Awful life events happen. Sometimes they happen when we are too young to make sense out of them.

People then grow up with a raw wound in the center of their being. Such that when you connect with another person, one feeling you feel is that hurt place in your core. In this case, intimacy hurts.

Remember when you were a kid and skinned your knee? This is one current metaphor for the pain we carry inside as a result of our personal histories. It exists. It is not our fault. The effect intimacy has upon the pain people carry is similar to the act of putting on your blue jeans over that recently skinned knee. As a kid, you wanted to go out and play anyway, so you got dressed again. And you put up with that icky pain the jeans created in your knee. That icky pain is similar to what I label `intimacy pain’.

Destructive Coping Strategies

Many people confuse these difficulties with abuse. They feel pain and think their partner is deliberately doing something to them. Maybe. Sometimes that does happen. But maybe not. Sometimes just being close to another person hurts and requires some growing. Other people confuse their reactions with flashbacks, a return of their history into the present. Instead, they are unmet needs you have in the present that resulted from your past. A flashback is a reliving of a prior trauma…it is not based in your current life.

Lana thought all her pain was her husband, Ernest, was the cause of all her problems. Every time they were together, she found herself hurting inside. Her solution was to become very abusive herself, attempting to control his every word and action. I was unable to convince her that he wasn’t doing ‘it’ to her. They eventually divorced. Lana tried to become enmeshed with her husband, insisting that he feel and think like she did. That was her solution to intimacy pain.

Samantha and Paul mentioned above created distance for themselves by fighting all the time. That was their solution to pain.

Some people just give up on relationships. They say, simply, It hurts too much! One unconscious coping strategy is to wall yourself off a little. You become difficult to connect with, and your partner often doesn’t understand what is going on with you. You, on the other hand, have no clue as to why he or she is hurt or angry with you!

There are countless creative defenses people use to avoid their own pain. Really, there are as many of these as there are people in the world. These are all avoidance techniques, and avoidance is rarely positive. People start arguments, become distant and unavailable, seek out unavailable partners, lie, cheat and have affairs, take drugs, become workaholics, gamble, focus on their homes, cars, looks, diets, and so on and so on and so on.


The answer to this dilemma is to name it and claim it. The issues of personal responsibility have become fighting words for some people, but this is important here. The pain you carry is your own and it can run your life or not. This is one area of your life, however much it hurts, that requires you to be responsible for your own pain. You cannot achieve intimacy if you don’t.

You are not at fault for this difficulty. But you are responsible for how you deal with it. If you assume that the pain you feel is yours and not the other person’s fault, you can examine it. It’s safe to do this. If you examine your own feelings, you can see the other person more clearly. Then if they are in actuality harming you, it will be much easier for you to see. And you won’t be like Lana, pushing her husband away or controlling all the events and people in her life. Nor will you be like Paul, arguing about anything and nothing.

Here are some things you can do for yourself. They all take time, self-discipline and effort. Look inside yourself and ask yourself questions. Use a journal and write them out or mentally self-examine. You will cry and that will be good for you. Healing cries dissolve the pain.

  • What am I doing?
  • Why am I doing this?
  • How is this related to my issues, as I know them?

If loving relationships are important to you, you will have to know that you carry some inner pain that does not belong to your partner. Then you can work on this pain so it doesn’t cause you to defeat the intimacy you seek.

Contact me

For more information or if you’d like to make an appointment.


Telephone: (615) 464-3791

©2016 by Laura Coleman, Ph.D.  All rights reserved.

Painting by Dante Gabriel Rossetti [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

What to Do When You Are Stuck in a Rut & Do Not Like It

Most people do the same things based on the same beliefs and habits. We repeat ourselves over and over again and wonder why we end up in the same place. Often we don’t understand what happened. Then we try again, thinking if we only try harder, we’ll succeed.

It’s not true. Trying harder with the same habits is exhausting. We find ourselves in the same situation again and again. Allowing our negative beliefs about ourselves and the world only keeps us stuck in the same position no matter how much energy we throw at it.

On the other hand, self-observation can give us clues to what we’ve done, how we’ve done it, why we’ve done it and what we can do to increase our success. Surprisingly, these kinds of changes are often small. Much smaller than the monumental effort you think you’ll have to take following old patterns and life scripts.

Negative beliefs are spirit killers. They operate on a kind of loop in the back of our brains, saying things we wouldn’t put up from our worst enemy. Everyone has them. They come from our past and are capable of destroying our future. We mentally tell ourselves that we will fail and that we just simply are failures. If you stop and listen, you can hear them whisper to you.

Habit patterns are patterns of behavior that we develop over our lifetime. It’s the way we do things. We don’t concentrate on them anymore. We just operate on autopilot. Some habit patterns are simple, like brushing our teeth. Others are more complex like shopping in a store. Still, others are challenging actions like trying to reach a goal. These all have one thing in common. How we go about them is based on a familiar way of thinking and behaving.

Just a brief word here. People have often told me the things I write are difficult to do. They tell me this before they try them. Just thinking about self-examination gives them the willies.

Even over the computer screen, I can hear their tone of voice.

“That’s too hard,” They exclaim.
“Oooh, you are so strong. I could never do that.”
“It’s just too painful to face,” some report.

They are stuck in an inertia that is bleeding them dry. Mired in mud from the past so strongly it feels hopeless. But it’s not. The opposite is true.

It’s too painful not to do our own work. Face our process. Make changes in our lives. Living in failure and degradation is much more painful than change. It’s exhausting to be unhappy and sit still wishing. Change is worth the effort and pain. Self-awareness is exhilarating.

I created a chart for self-assessment to help you alter that process. Make it more likely you’ll reach your goals. It’s here: What to Do if You Are Stuck in a Familiar Rut.

  • The first heading is Incident/Situation.

Think back as far as you can to the first time you tried to solve this problem/reach that goal/do this thing you want to do. Give it any name you wish. List oldest first.

  • Describe as clearly as possible what happened.

This is an important aspect of any self-examination. Most people put their feelings about things here. It’s not about feelings. Try to objectively describe what you saw, what people did, said, and so on. Kind of like from a very old television show: “Just the facts, Ma’am.” Said in a very flat, toneless voice.

  • What were your hopes and dreams?

This one should be similar throughout the rows. As you write them out for each situation, you may find you have more information. You’ll come up with more specifics. You will remember more.

  • Talk about expectations and wants. Compare and contrast

You were trying to reach a goal. You took specific actions. What did you think might happen? What did happen?

  • Look for common themes and differences between them.

Each circumstance is the same and it is also different. Getting specific about these similarities and differences can help you make sense of where you are stopping and defeating yourself.

  • What inner warnings did you feel/sense?

Sometimes we take actions we know we really shouldn’t take. Other times we don’t take actions we would be better of taking. Usually, somewhere deep inside us, we sense this. Most of the time, when we go to do something to better our lives, we sense the right and wrong of it.

  • When did you experience this?

Often, this occurs early on. It’s similar to the maybe I won’t take that trip feelings people who have avoided accidents report. Often people in a rut ignore that feeling.

  • How did your ignore your warnings?

We tell ourselves we’re wrong. Maybe we think we’re being big babies. Or just any kind of self-depreciating statements such as too sensitive, too judgmental, etc.

  • How does this circumstance benefit you?

This is the most difficult one, I think, to look at. We are stuck in a rut, there is some kind of emotional benefit to us. Benefits can be things like not having to take risks, feeling safe, and so on. Or maybe we think our friends or siblings won’t love us if we succeed. Many of us have some serious false beliefs about success of any kind. We just don’t know it.

For your summary, on a separate page, look at the beliefs you have that have emerged from your charting. Pick apart the habits you see. If you see a habit, you can alter it. Last month I brushed my teeth after I washed my face the way I’ve done my morning routine for 50 years. Today I brush my teeth first, looking to save water as it warms up. My husband explained our septic tank. Now I watch my water usage. That’s a habit change. It took consciousness, examining my actions, and deliberate motions to make such a change.

If we find and examine our beliefs and habits, we can choose to stay where we are or change any one of them. Learning about ourselves means we are no longer stuck. If we want to stay where we are, we can. And if we want to change we can do that too.

I vote for change.

Childe Hassam [No restrictions or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Contact me if you want coaching to get out of a rut:

If you’d like more information or want to make an appointment:


Telephone: (615) 464-3791

Painting by Childe Hassam [No restrictions or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Chart: What to Do if You Are Stuck in a Familiar Rut


This chart is explained here: What to Do When You Are Stuck in a Rut & Do Not Like It.

Contact me

If you’d like more information or want to make an appointment:


Telephone: (615) 464-3791


Your Dreams Are Calling You & Trauma Survivors Have Dreams Too.

This is week 4 of Life Coach Training. I am working toward my BCC Board Certified Coach credential.

I had many concerns about my endeavor. I worried that I would not like life coaching. That I’d feel it was second best. That I’d been a psychotherapist so long that I couldn’t get behind a new way of thinking. I worried that the people I used to see in my counseling practice couldn’t use life coaching. I was wrong on all counts.

As a therapist, I treated people with PTSD. People who had the horror of child abuse in their background. People who were raped. And people who experienced as many varieties of trauma as there are painful life experiences.

I really liked everyone I treated. I loved the work. Each time someone took charge of their growth and moved diligently forward, my heart sang.

Last week I had several important realizations. One, a lot of what I did as a therapist fit right in with life coaching. Sometimes what I’d think about working with patients took an interesting twist when I began to apply it to working with clients. Other times I realized I’d see something but needed to turn my actions upside down. The flip side of what I used to do.

Two, trauma survivors have dreams too. And three, trauma survivors can and do reach for the wishes deep in their hearts. Our first coaching practice case involved an adult survivor of child abuse. This person had gone to therapy some years before and now wanted to reach for their life’s goals. I celebrate that fact.

Coaching is a very positive endeavor. The skills involved in being a life coach include understanding other people as personally powerful. It’s a profession that honors others as healthy and capable. We assume the client is innately resourceful and has their own answers within them.

I always worked from a place of personal empowerment. This is an issue of power. I have never wanted to hold more power or status than my clients. Power is an important issue of mine. I don’t like feeling less than or more than. I want to be your equal. So, as a therapist, I worked very hard to keep that equality present. Life coaching starts from that premise.

I won’t have to work as diligently to keep a power balance in life coaching. The very core of life coaching is that the client is whole, healthy and the authority on their life. Many survivors of any kind of trauma think and/or feel as if their power has been taken from them. Life coaching is a practice that honors your power.

I’m now working to become, as they’ve repeatedly said in class, the authority on life coaching. And life coaching only. Not an authority on your life.

I’ve always believed that there is a beautiful light within each of us. That everyone is born with a mission that can contribute to the betterment of the world. I think that life happens. People hurt us. Put us down, criticize, and do what people do to compete in the world. Life hurts us. Sometimes we believe the negatives thrown at us and it separates us from that light that shines inside. Life coaching is a practice that can help you reconnect with your inner light.

I think that light nudges us with our deepest heart’s desires. Those dreams, hopes, and wishes everyone feels are right, proper and just. Most people dream a dream, have a wish, and hope for their future. But they let the negatives they have experienced in their lives to trample on their dreams. But really, your dreams are calling you. Life coaching can help you answer them.

I realized this week that it is reasonable for someone who has experienced a trauma to have a goal of reclaiming their life. Of owning their dreams. And of the desire to take charge and reach for their light. Of developing the life skills involved in moving past their trauma.

Life coaches ask questions to help you hear your dream. We ask powerful questions within a conversation as a partner to our client. Powerful open-ended questions that are designed to expand a client’s awareness of the solutions they carry within them.

We ask questions with every intention of listening fully. I’ve written about listening before. Listening is good. This week we talked a bit about curiosity. Being curious about what the client says in service of their personal mission. To help you hear yourself, see your dream and honor that dream.

In the process of honoring your dream, you will sometimes run into barriers. Occasionally old mental tapes and scripts can temporarily wear you down, seductively whispering failure thoughts. A life coach can help you find the skills and strategies to shut them down.

Maybe you’ll find that you are missing some skills necessary to achieving your dream. Life coaching can help you figure out what those are and how to develop them.

Once in a while, people find that the dream they think they want isn’t really their dream. It could have been giving to you by someone important in your life. Or it’s a life goal you think you should have. Life coaching can help you decide what your very own dream really is. And then encourage you to develop the strategies, skills, and plan to achieve it.

Now and then people fail. For a time, people forget that failure is a stepping stone on the path to success. That there are gems in the midst of failure. Lessons. Growth. New skills. Different outlook. A new and improved plan.

All of this and more is involved in life coaching. I’m excited about working toward my dream.

Contact me:

For more information and if you want to make an appointment.


Telephone: (615) 464-3791

©2016 by Laura Coleman, Ph.D.  All rights reserved.

Learning to Listen and Life Coaching is NOT Therapy

We learned about listening this week in the Coach Approach class at The Institute for Life Coach Training . I first started learning about listening in 1972 when I participated in a peer counseling program. We learned that listening and sincerely hearing what someone is saying is a great gift to them. That being heard is a deep human need.

I’m really good at this. To some extent, I believe it’s an inherited trait. My youngest sister is very skilled at listening too. Or it may be a survival skill we picked up in our family-of-origin.

I see deeply within people seemingly without effort. In fact, the effort I had to put forth involved recognizing boundaries and shutting my mouth. Not comment on the things I saw when in surface conversations. Mind my own business. Only comment on feelings and issues when asked or invited to do so. Now that skill took a few years to learn!

One important factor I learned in peer counseling is that you have to have the ability to attend to what others say. You have free yourself from self-distractions to listen to other people talk about themselves. This means that people need to let go of their own stuff in order to give their attention to the other person. It also means to me that I need to listen to others without bias and an opinion or judgment about what they are saying.

I had a mentor who could hear me talk and feed back to me what I hadn’t realized I’d said. That was an amazing skill. It was healing and encouraging. Somehow, she’d normalize whatever I was experiencing and weave it into a positive frame. I’d come away from those conversations willing to live whatever I needed to in order to come out the other side. Nearer to my goals. She taught me that skill over the years. I didn’t understand it until I began to study the listening skills involved in life coaching.

This week I went through the documents I used to use for psychotherapy patients and changed them for coaching clients. It was a dramatic change with massive edits. I’d been sensing the vast difference between coaching and therapy, but this activity had a WOW factor to it for me.

The first things I deleted were the series of questions about health and medical status. The next were the questions about eating, drinking and drugging habits. As a therapist dealing with mental health, I had to be mindful that a person’s health, personal habits, and/or medications can cause psychiatric symptoms. I needed to be prepared to send people back to their physician, to a psychiatrist, or even to treatment for addiction.

Eventually, I got to the place in my form where I deleted questions about your history, specifically family, suicide attempts, and child abuse.

As a life coach, my focus is different. I’m not working with symptoms, history or people who have mental health conditions. If I do agree to coach someone with a diagnosis, like for example, PTSD, my work is not related to that diagnosis. Instead, my focus is on living as fully as possible in your life according to YOUR definition of living fully. I won’t be treating people; I’m having partnerships with them.

Some therapists do therapy with people and then manage to do coaching. I cannot imagine myself working that way. When I went to work as a licensed Marriage, Family and Child Counselor [later retitled Marriage and Family Therapist], I became a therapist. I internalized my work, developed skills, and enlarged my talents. Performing psychotherapy became instinctive and intuitive.

Now I’m working to grow myself into a life coach. To become. It’s not a surface change for me. I don’t learn like that. I have to take what I’m learning deep inside me and allow the learning itself to change me. I am working to become a life coach, not simply the mechanics of life coaching.

As a coach, I will be having conversations with people. The ideal is to partner with someone in order to help them to reach their goals in life. The goals they set for themselves. In order to do that, I have to adjust the listening skills I already have into what I believe is a much more positive stance.

I’ll continue to listen to what people say, listen for what people need me to hear, and listen with my whole self. I’ve always seen the potential within people. Their larger life. The light within them. Even their relationship to their spiritual life path.

However, my focus was on what blocked and stopped them from living fully. I’d work with them on what had been injured in them to prevent them from becoming.

Now, my focus is not on what I see, but on what they see, want, and believe. It’s not on injury but on hope. It’s not on what I can to to help them. Instead, my focus is on what I can do to encourage them to do what they really want. Pursue the goals they have for their lives.

This is an exciting change. I’ve spent a lifetime studying and applying positive thinking to my personal life. I’ve recited and chanted affirmations till the cows came home and went back out again. I’ve studied positive thinkers. I’ve collected stories of people I’ve labeled heroes. To me, heroes are those people who survived and thrived despite overwhelming odds against them. People who allowed their inner light to shine on the world. And who made a positive difference in the lives of others.

And so it begins. I have my newly re-minted Life Coaching Information Form and seriously adapted Coaching Agreement Form. I have a list of people from vastly different backgrounds willing to allow me to practice coaching on them. I even a waiting list of those who would be willing to allow this student coach to coach them.

Life is good.

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Telephone: (615) 464-3791