Coaching Alignment: Patience and Pacing

Alignment

Being in alignment with our client can refer to both our cognitive and emotional congruence with them. Congruence, resonance, and even alignment itself are all ways of expressing “being on the same page” with our client. This means clearly understanding the content of what our client is saying and also being in touch with their emotional state and expression. This allow us to more easily and effectively provide empathic understanding. This results from the effort by the coach to relate to our client, understand them and what they are communicating.

Alignment is achieved by a combination of effective coaching presence, a lack of judgment, active listening skills and the way the coach creates a tempo for the session through the use of their own verbal skills. On this latter point, how is the coach matching or reflecting the speed of the client’s speech and how are they (the coach) influencing or regulating it? How fast is the client covering ground ? That is, how quickly are they discussing subjects and processing? In other words what is the pace of the coaching session?

When coach and client are out of alignment coaching, much like a car engine, tends to sputter. If the coach is ahead of the client; talking much faster; pushing an agenda or trying to cover ground too quickly, the client may simply check out of the conversation, or struggle to keep up. The result could be awkward silences in response to questions, or a ‘fits and starts’ type of interchange that is seldom productive.

If the coach is behind the client, we see insufficient energy being expressed by the coach and the client is setting a pace that the coach is out of synch with. At some point the client will notice how the coach is not keeping up either with content or with energy. The client may become frustrated, or despondent and could even decide to drop out of the coaching. The consequences of being out of alignment with our client can be serious.

Being Out of Alignment – Causes

So, what can cause a coach to be so out of alignment with their client? What leads them to become out of synchronization with the coaching conversation?

Coach’s personality and anxiety. Some people are naturally faster talkers and processors. These coaches have to self-monitor their own rapid speech and processing with a determined effort at patience. There is also the anxiety that comes with being new to coaching.


Coach’s culture and background. Some people have simply learned to talk faster because of their family of origin, their own background, or even where they grew up. It’s a common observation to see the stereotypical New Yorker speaking rapidly.


Pressure from a coaching system the coach is working in. Coaches sometimes work for companies that expect fast results. Coaching sessions, even with limited time, don’t have to feel rushed but easily could.


The coach is too up in their head. That is, they are thinking too much about what to say or ask next and their listening is suffering as a result. The coach misses vital expressions of emotion or even content leaving the client feeling unheard. The client may be baffled by why the coaching is asking about something that they spoke of earlier but have already moved on from.

How to Be in Alignment With Our Client

Get centered. Being centered, grounded and more calm allows the coach to be as patience as they need to be. It allows the coach to be more present and better at observing all that is going on with their client. Doing what centers you in your life on a regular basis will allow you to come into the coaching session in a more centered way.


Psychophysiological self-regulation. What allows you to manage your own anxiousness? First is awareness that you may have gone beyond feeling energetic to acting frenetic. Become aware of the signs that your level of anxiety has gotten high. Anxiety is not always accompanied by worry. Are you jumping at sudden, loud noises? Are you breathing short and shallow? Have you exceeded the caffeine intake that you can handle without becoming ‘wired’? Practice breathing with more depth. Get enough sleep and rest. Consider learning methods for deeper relaxation such as relaxation recordings, practicing Yoga or Tai Chi, etc.


Know yourself. If you are a person with a long history of very rapid speech (no matter where or how you learned it), your challenge is to accept the fact that unless you are matched with a very similar client, it just won’t work well in coaching. You will have to make a very conscious, concerted effort to slow down.


Pace with patience. Consider the work you are doing with your client as a whole, not just one coaching session. This is where coaching with a well-developed methodology that has significant coaching structure will allow you to have perspective. Such perspective will allow you to be more patient and not feel like you have to push to get steps accomplished prematurely.


Dance with some rhythm. Good and great coaching appears to be like a dance between two partners that have established a rhythm that they are in synch with. There is a great two-way nature to an effective coaching conversation. The coach is actively involved, not just passively listening for long periods of time while the client rattles on. This is where effective use of Active Listening Skills throughout the conversation keep the coach involved and keep the client better focused. There is a rhythmic back and forth in the conversation that leads to productivity. A big part of dancing is also adjusting to the changes in the music. When your client shifts, are you able to shift with them? A change in mood, energy or topic needs to be noticed by you and requires an adjustment. To keep your client focused you might bring the shift to their attention and ask them how they would like to proceed.


Self-reflect. Listen to recordings of your coaching. It is much harder to self-reflect in the moment. Your lack of synchronization with your client may become much more obvious when you can observe is afterwards on a recording.

It’s easy to become far too content-focused in our coaching. Yet, what is the content bringing up in our client emotionally, mentally? There is so much more going on in a coaching session. This is where our threefold task of awareness comes in: 1)awareness of our client; 2) awareness of ourselves; and 3) awareness of what is happening in the coaching relationship. When we are in touch with all three, we will notice more about our pacing, our speed of speech, and the whole tempo of the coaching experience. Bottom line is trust the coaching process, relax and enjoy!

Michael Arloski, Ph.D., PCC, NBC-HWC is CEO and Founder of Real Balance Global Wellness (https://realbalance.com) a premier health & wellness coach training organization that has trained thousands of coaches around the world.

LOVE and HEART HEALTH: Coaching for Connection

“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn, is just to love and be loved in return.”

From the Song “Nature Boy” – lyrics by eden ahbez, recorded originally by Nat King Cole, sung by David Bowie in the movie Moulin Rouge

There is the biological heart that pumps our blood and keeps us alive.  There is also what cardiologist Sandeep Jauhar calls our metaphorical heart.  “The metaphorical heart is the way that we thought of the heart before science came along…The heart was the seed of the soul,” Jauhar said. “It was where our emotions resided; emotions like love or courage… And what I have observed in my two decades now as a cardiologist is that the heart that is associated with love, that metaphorical heart, directly impacts on our biological heart… People who have healthy, loving relationships have better heart health.” (https://www.cnn.com/2019/02/14/health/love-heart-health/index.html)

Matters of the heart unfortunately on the medical level, also present us with the leading cause of death worldwide.  Heart disease is number one and stroke is number two across the globe.  (https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/the-top-10-causes-of-death). We know all too well of the health risk behaviors that are part of people’s lifestyles that contribute to these conditions –    “high blood pressure, high low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, diabetes, smoking and secondhand smoke exposure, obesity, unhealthy diet, and physical inactivity.” (https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/publications/factsheets/heart-disease-stroke.htm) Yet there is evidence that love, emotional support and connection can lessen these risks significantly.

Chemistry!

It’s no accident that we speak of two people in love “having chemistry.”  Our initial attraction causes dopamine to be released deep in our brains.  The body follows this with a release of chemicals like adrenaline and norepinephrine causing to literally tremble with loving feelings.  “The brain seals the deal by releasing oxytocin, often called “the love hormone” because it helps couples create strong bonds. Oxytocin is a neuropeptide secreted by the pituitary gland during times of intimacy, like hugging, kissing and orgasm.” (https://www.cnn.com/2019/02/14/health/love-heart-health/index.html)

The effect of all of these love hormones flooding our bodies is very positive on our nervous system and our hearts.   We relax as we experience warm feelings of affection and as we do our parasympathetic nervous system dilates blood vessels and our blood pressure drops – certainly a good thing.  Likewise, the sympathetic nervous system – the initiator of our fight or flight stress response – is tamped down.  “A study in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine found that people who spent time with their romantic partners experienced a greater dip in blood pressure than those who hung out with a stranger.” (https://www.everydayhealth.com/heart-health-pictures/reasons-love-is-good-for-your-heart.aspx)

The Power of Positive Relationships

There have been numerous studies showing that married people live longer and have better health overall.  “A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology assessed the relationships of nearly 5,000 adults ages 30 to 69. Those with strong, happy marriages lived longer than unmarried men and women.

Unfortunately, the phenomenon goes both ways. In the same study, adults with poor social ties had twice the risk of death compared to others in the study.” (https://living.aahs.org/heart-vascular/love-relationships-and-health-the-surprising-benefits-of-being-in-love/)

Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brigham Young University “led a trailblazing 2010 analysis published in the journal PLOS Medicine that looked at data from 148 studies involving more than 300,000 people. It found the odds of being alive at the end of a study’s given time period was 50% higher for those with the strongest social relationships compared with people without such ties. As a predictor of survival, this is on par with the effect of quitting smoking.

Other studies led by Holt-Lunstad focused on the health effect of marriage itself. The lesson there: Quality matters.

The work found people in happy marriages had lower blood pressure than people who weren’t married. But people in strained marriages fared worse than single people… Elements of a positive relationship, whether it’s a marriage or something else, include trust and security, she said. As does how well you respond to your partner’s needs – “the extent to which you are both giving and receiving, so it’s not a one-way kind of relationship.” (https://www.heart.org/en/news/2020/02/05/how-a-happy-relationship-can-help-your-health)  So being in a loving and supportive relationship is very different than the constant heart-damaging stress of being in a negative relationship.

It’s About Connection

Supportive relationships may or may not have a romantic element to them, and don’t need to.  Cardiologist Baran Kilical notes “Some of these health benefits still apply to people who have a strong social support system…Positive, close relationships with family members and friends can keep you healthier, too.” (https://living.aahs.org/heart-vascular/love-relationships-and-health-the-surprising-benefits-of-being-in-love/)   Other research shows that hugging others reduces our chances of becoming ill.  Social support can reduce inflammation in the body.  An article in Everyday Health (https://www.everydayhealth.com/heart-health-pictures/reasons-love-is-good-for-your-heart.aspx) references research that shows that laughter can cause our circulation to improve by dilating our blood vessels; writing love letters can actually lower our cholesterol; having a positive attitude can reduce heart attacks; and holding hand can calm our nerves.  

And Don’t Forget Fido

Harvard Medical School’s newsletter (https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/puppy-love-may-help-your-heart) featured an article showing the “increasing body of research that dog ownership may boost heart health.”  A four-legged fitness trainer will get you out walking more often improving your exercise level.  The research points to reduction is stress – a major contributor to heart ailments.  “Another big part of the benefit of dog ownership is probably its effect on mental health…Loneliness is a huge cardiovascular health risk.”

Coaching for Love and Connection

All of this research underscores the value of love and healthy supportive relationships and helps us identify critical health risks, but the challenge is how to help people do something about it.  When we do a thorough job of exploration with our client at the beginning of coaching and help them take on a 360-degree view of their wellness the importance of connectedness in their life will show up.  We can celebrate the support they have and help them identify where such support is lacking.  Our client may acknowledge these needs and be open to exploring more about them and to how to get these needs met.  On the other hand, our client may appear more closed to exploring these areas.  

When it comes to such matters of the heart there may be mixed feelings.  When a coach proceeds gently, with their client’s permission to explore these areas, and does so empathically, without judgment, the client may feel safe enough to explore the subject.  Coach and client can work to sort out fears of rejection, feelings of inclusion/exclusion in social circles, and the perceived risks in reaching out to others more.  This is sensitive territory and it is vital that the coach not impose their own values on their client.  The client may not be willing to take on working on such areas in their life at this time.  A thorough knowledge of and application of Readiness for Change Theory is crucial here as our client may need to explore much more rather than jump into action around increasing connection with others. (https://jprochaska.com/books/changing-to-thrive-book/)

Health and Wellness coaches must develop competency in coaching with emotions.  See my previous blog posts: “The Great Utility of Coaching In The Emotional Realm”, https://wp.me/pUi2y-lA) and “Emotions, Feelings and Healthy Choices: Coaching for Greater Wellness” https://wp.me/pUi2y-ok)  When coaching around a client’s ambivalence or reluctance to explore closeness in relationships with others becomes unproductive, yet the client still wants help in this area, it may be an opportune time to discuss how counseling could be of much greater benefit to the client.  Issues around intimacy, etc. may have roots in past experience and could at such times, be better helped by counseling.  See my previous blog post “Coaching a Client Through To A Mental Health Referral Using The Stages of Change” (https://wp.me/pUi2y-lp) .

We all have needs for love, connection and relatedness.  Helping our clients to get these needs met may benefit them, and their hearts, in more ways than they imagined.

Michael Arloski, Ph.D., PCC, NBC-HWC is CEO and Founder of Real Balance Global Wellness (https://realbalance.com) a premier health & wellness coach training organization that has trained thousands of coaches around the world.

Health and Wellness Coaching Trends for the New Decade

A whole new experience of time

Health and Wellness Coaching Trends for the New Decade

Only now that we have put 2020 in the rearview mirror does it seem like we are moving ahead into a new decade.  Who knows what moniker we will come up with for this century’s version of “the twenties”, unlike the “Roaring Twenties” of the 1900’s.

So, what lies ahead, particularly for the field of health & wellness coaching (HWC) in the next ten years?  Where HWC is going is influenced by three major factors: internal factors within the field itself; the larger field of wellness and health promotion and the field of medicine, particularly, lifestyle medicine.  

Pandemic Adaptations  

While the Covid-19 Pandemic has radically altered so many aspects of life, work and health for all of us, it will pass, but will leave a lasting mark.  This is evident in the 2021 Wellable Employee Wellness Industry Trends Report (https://resources.wellable.co/2021-employee-wellness-industry-trends-report).  Based on what we have already seen happen as adaptations to the health cautious pandemic restrictions employers are intending to:

Invest Less In:

  • Health Fairs
  • Free Healthy Food/Stocked Kitchens
  • Biometric Screenings
  • On-site Fitness Classes
  • Gym Membership Reimbursement
  • Health Risk Assessments

What will that mean for HWC?  

There could be less referral to HWC from simple screenings and HRA’s.  Coaching clients will have less opportunity to exercise at their workplace and will rely more on their coaches for creative ways to adapt fitness to their home environments where coaching accountability will be of even more value.

Employers are intending to: Invest More In: 

  • Mental Health
  • Telemedicine
  • Stress Management/Resilience
  • Mindfulness/Meditation

What will that mean for HWC?

This is an excellent opportunity for HWC to shine.  Coaches can work with their clients remotely and be of great value providing help with managing stress and developing resilience.  They can also be resources for not only the learning of mindfulness techniques but provide coaching around the adoption of these habits and their consistent practice.  Mental health coaching will increase but coaches will have to be especially careful to remain within their Scope of Practice (https://nbhwc.org/scope-of-practice).  Decisions will have to be made as to when referral to EAP Counselors would be much more appropriate.  As telemedicine increases coaches may be able to play an important role as referral resources for filling the lifestyle prescription – the lifestyle behavioral improvements requested by the treatment team.  Coaches role in primary care will continue to increase.

Investing in Health & Wellness Coaching

The Wellable Report Key Takeaway regarding HWC was that “Investment in health coaching has stayed relatively consistent.  Although they offer a more personalized approach, cost often prevents more adoption.”  When it comes to investing in HWC employers intend to:

  • Invest more – 23%
  • Invest about the same – 57%
  • Invest less – 21%

It’s great that we are holding our own in the eyes of employers.  HWC has done a great job of providing the evidence of our effectiveness.  The continual challenge is the affordability for companies to provide HWC.  Look for new experiments about who gets coaching and how to provide it.  Group coaching should be on the rise and coaches would be well advised to learn more about how to provide this service.  The real GAME CHANGER in the next ten years will be when HWC services qualify for direct reimbursement from insurance companies.  As you know, we are already in the Level Three of the CPT Codes.  When HWC reaches the first level, the field will explode.

Influences and Trends from the Larger Wellness Field

road of wellness

To a great degree we might say that as goes wellness, so goes wellness coaching.  The field of wellness and health promotion is quite diverse, ranging from employee wellness programs to spa managers.  It, and HWC are intertwined with the medical world, the fitness world, nutrition, and much more.  Gathering together a panel of wellness and media  experts, the Global Wellness Summit (GWS) put forth ideas about trends for 2021 (https://www.globalwellnesssummit.com/gws-2020/media-experts-predict-six-wellness-trends-for-2021/).

Looking at how the Pandemic has shown us the importance of preventative lifestyle approaches, their leading trend was A New Convergence Between Healthcare and Wellness.  They predict “new models that bring health and wellness together symbiotically” and see telemedicine and tele-wellness playing a much bigger role.  As we described above, much of that tele-wellness role can be filled by health and wellness coaches.

The same GWS panel predicted that Strengthening The Immune System would be another big trend.  While the panel referred to high-tech ways that medicine will be individualizing treatments, we know that the immune system is powerfully affected by stress and lifestyle – both strongly in the domain of the well-trained health and wellness coach.

The GWS panel identified a strong trend in Increased Contact with Nature.  Many people have discovered during the era of lockdown that connection with people “is being replaced with nature connection, which provides unique healing and solace in a pandemic.”  There can be a greater emphasis put on contact with the natural world as a way to manage stress and be more active at the same time.  Coaches can help people to come up with strategies for having more nature contact and following through on those ideas.  

The same panel also pointed out the shift that the Pandemic has brought to awareness of ways to optimize our home environments as wellness refuges.  Coaches can play a role here by helping people with de-cluttering and organizing their living spaces and making them work better for both relaxation and comfort and also things like home exercise.

Broader Trends

Pandemic times will end.  Broader trends that were embryonic before the pandemic will continue to grow in importance to health and wellness coaches.  Chief among them is:

  • Coaching with a greater acknowledgement of the role of Social and Environmental Determinants of Change.
  • Incorporation of technology while still providing ‘high-touch’ service.

HWC will emphasize greater exploration of our client’s living situation and how it affects their lifestyle choices.  There will be a greater recognition of the social, environmental and cultural barriers that our clients face and more coaching around how our clients can deal with those challenges.  Some of our most important coaching will be around helping our clients to overcome their sense of isolation and to build community in whatever ways they can.  Connection and support are paramount to wellness.

HWC will integrate more digital resources to help lower stress levels and improve sleep. There will also be more use of exercise apps and videos, digital weight loss trackers, and online nutrition resources in the coaching process.  Some of this will take place in individual coaching and some will work well with the support provided by coaching people in groups who share the same wellness challenges and goals.

Perfectly Positioned

HWC has been operating via telephone since its inception.  Nothing new here and perfect for our current times, and the times to come.  Adapting coaching to platforms like Zoom is a natural.  Cell phones have made it possible for coaches to reach people in even the most remote places.  Our challenges as we move forward will be:

  • To maintain high standards of professionalism and integrity so health and wellness coaches are held in high esteem and value by the public and our related professions.
  • To continue to pursue ways to make coaching more affordable through different access systems and through – eventually – direct reimbursement.
  • To maintain our identify and function as wellness coaches focusing on lifestyle improvement.

We are perfectly positioned to be leaders in the health and wellness of people around the world.  We can deliver the individualized wellness services that so many people need in order to live long and happy lives.  The future is bright!  Coach on!

Michael Arloski, Ph.D., PCC, NBC-HWC is CEO and Founder of Real Balance Global Wellness (https://realbalance.com) a premier health & wellness coach training organization that has trained thousands of coaches around the world.

Reimagining 2021


It’s fairly safe to say the few people will be sorry to see 2020 fade into the rearview mirror. The receding year has been a whirlwind of stress, anxiety, fear, and worry. Most of us have experienced times where predictability and stability went out of our lives leaving us feeling powerless in the face of external forces. It’s been a real test of our fortitude, resilience and endurance. Despite it all, it’s important to reassure ourselves that we have done our best.

New years have that innate ability to bring forth optimism. The hope for new vaccines and other changes in the shifting landscape cause us to look to a brighter future. How can we shape that future to manifest more of the health and wellness that we truly want?

It’s often said that we create our own reality. While pandemics and global events are more than our own individual creation, our response to all that happens to us is more in our own hands. Two techniques from life coaching that can help us create the life we want are perfecting the present and imagining a transformative future.

Perfecting The Present

“The past is no more
and the future is not yet …
nothing exists except the now .”

Fritz Perls

Much of our regret comes when we are contemplating, perhaps even stuck in, the past. Much of our anxiety comes when we do the same with the future. A great personal growth (and coaching) technique is to ask oneself “How can I make the present moment the best possible?”


It is easy to ignore much of what is around us as we dream of living somewhere else, working in a different job, being in a different relationship. Aspiring towards goals is good, but are we always looking beyond the ground we are standing upon, and what do we lose in the process?

A silver lining of the pandemic lockdown has been the reports we hear of people who embraced their present moment, their present situation, and made the best of it. It has been like we are trapped in the present, which many philosophers would argue that we are. With that has come realizations. What can I do with a time schedule that I have more control over now that I’m not commuting into a workplace? What am I noticing about my own backyard, neighborhood, even my own living space, that I appreciate, or that I want to improve upon? How can I make this day my best day possible? We might call this mindfulness, or awareness of the present.

Perfecting The Present is about asking your client to examine their present time in their life and how they can make it their best possible. How can you make this your best possible day, week, month, year? The focus shifts to improving the present and our relationship with it. It becomes about loving our own neighborhood more and making it a better place to live. The same with our workplace, our home, our family.

Imagining a Transformative Future

Guide yourself (or your client) through this Future Self Fantasy.

Imagine that it is December 2021.
You breathe in deep with your eyes closed and reflect upon what you imagine the past year has been.

Take your time and ask yourself:

What am I really glad that I did to make this year a positive experience?
Pause and reflect upon this.

What do I find myself very grateful for from this last year?

What am I glad that I did for my own health and wellbeing?

What am I glad that I did for others?

What new meaning and purpose did I discover in this last year?

Now, take what you imagined, and what perhaps you have realized from that experience and begin to shape it into a fantasy of what you want 2021 to be like.

We imagine
Then we fantasize
Then we plan
Then we actualize our plan

Setting Intentions

In the coming year I see myself being more ___________

In the coming year I see myself being less _____________

In 2021 I intend to connect more with ______________

In 2021 I intend to shift the way that I ________________
In 2021 I have the opportunity to ____________________

In 2021 I will ______________________________________

By the end of 2021 I will be able to see these measurable changes in my life _______________________________________

Support & Accountability

The very act of writing these intentions down and making them conscious is a great first step. If you want to ensure even great probability of success, share them with someone else. Select that person or persons with great care. Make sure they are positive and supportive, not critical or negative. Create agreements with them on checking in on a regular basis. Perhaps you might do this with a group. A terrific coaching group could be formed by attracting people who want to have group support and accountability in actualizing their intentions to make 2021 their best year possible, perhaps their best year yet!

Be safe, be well and stay well.  

Coach Michael

Michael Arloski, Ph.D., PCC, NBC-HWC is CEO and Founder of Real Balance Global Wellness (https://realbalance.com) a premier health & wellness coach training organization that has trained thousands of coaches around the world.

Maximizing Wellbeing During Pandemic Holidays

By now most of us know personally someone who has been infected with the COVID-19 virus. The Global Pandemic has found its way into almost all of our lives. In the Northern Hemisphere we are facing the coming of winter with its cold, its shorter days, but also with its holidays. We’re all tired, if not exhausted by the degree of isolation and all of the precautions we are taking. The virus, of course, does not, however, care about how we feel. So, we keep up our smart preventative behavior and operate on what we might call functional paranoia.

There are two challenges facing us as we approach the dark days of winter and the joys of the holidays. One in psychological and emotional. The other is quite practical. For guidance on the practical this article by the Center for Disease Control (U.S.) is excellent! It is quite thorough and addresses some great strategies for dealing with our holiday celebrations and gathering with others to do so.

Thanksgiving and Covid-19
Holiday Celebrations and Small Gatherings

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/holidays.html

How can we bring warmth to our holidays in many ways?


Mental/Emotional Wellness for our Winter Holidays

Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, and other important celebrations are usually a time to come together, share in honoring our spiritual beliefs, celebrate gratitude, love, peace and togetherness. Now the “coming together” part is completely different. Holidays, beyond the practice of faiths, also meet a lot of interpersonal needs that we all have. While turkeys and brightly wrapped gifts under an evergreen tree often take center stage in the media and in our minds, it is really the connection with others that we value above all else.

“Connection is the currency of wellness.” That long-ago quote from wellness pioneer Jack Travis is as true today as ever. On the flip side we know that social isolation is correlated with higher rates of all of the major chronic illnesses. (https://www.cdc.gov/aging/publications/features/lonely-older-adults.html) We also have a population in North America and many other countries where the number of single-person households is greater than the number of households with two parents and children present.

Many of the connections we have developed with others are now challenging to carry out safely. Getting together for coffee, tea or a pint is not as simple as it used to be. As our needs for connection grow more pressing, we may be tempted to make some dangerous self-defeating decisions in order to get those needs met.

Connection: a Resilient Redefinition

Our measures to counter the pandemic will not be going away soon. We will have some form of “Iso” (isolation) as my Australian friends call it, for some time to come. Yet, we must frame it as a temporary adaptation. It will not last forever. A key tenant of resilient thinking is to recognize when some circumstance is, in fact, temporary. Coping with the here and now is easier when we frame it as impermanent.

Perhaps, though, we do need at some level to grieve the loss of how things have been. Grieving is acknowledging what is and begins our journey towards accepting a loss. We can speak of what we miss. We can process this through with others who are in touch with the same losses. By expressing ourselves we can allow ourselves to let go and no longer cling to false hopes of returning to the way things were, or worse yet, acting like the return is already here when it is not safe to do so.

Then into the vacuum left by our grief it is time for gratitude. We often don’t know what we’ve got until it’s gone. Iso, the lockdown, has caused many of us to deeply appreciate the connections we took for granted. It has also caused us to appreciate what we have. Many reports come forth about slowing down, noticing life, seeing beauty in the everyday. Working at home, no longer commuting, we have more of our day to notice birds in our backyard, sights and sounds that had been passing us by.


Many are finding that there could never be a better time for a practice of gratitude. That might take the form of meditation, prayer, or some kind of ritual that centers us in our gratitude and brings it to our awareness. Hard circumstances bring out gratitude. I chuckled recently as I shoveled snow, grateful to be bending over and lifting shovelfuls of the white Colorado powder that had smothered the raging forest fires to our west. The threat of loss of someone we care about puts us in touch with the gratitude we have for their presence in our lives.

Science even validates the importance of gratitude. A Psychology Today article describes “7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude”. “Recognizing all that you have to be thankful for —even during the worst times—fosters resilience.” (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/what-mentally-strong-people-dont-do/201504/7-scientifically-proven-benefits-gratitude) “


1. Gratitude opens the door to more relationships.
2. Gratitude improves physical health.
3. Gratitude improves psychological health.
4. Gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression.
5. Grateful people sleep better.
6. Gratitude improves self-esteem.
7. Gratitude increases mental strength.


Time for a Reframe

We have all, by now, adopted a particular perspective on our current circumstances. That perspective is shaping our thinking and behaving every day and is shaping how we are anticipating the holidays ahead. The question becomes “How is our perspective working for us and our wellbeing, or against it?” In coaching we often help our clients to examine such perspectives and see when it is beneficial for them to reframe their thinking. In my new book Masterful Health & Wellness Coaching: Deepening Your Craft (https://wholeperson.com/store/masterful-health-and-wellness-coaching.html) I speak to how we can use the art of reframing.

“Reframing is a way to help someone consider a new perspective on an event that has taken place or is about to, a circumstance of their life, a relationship they are involved in and more. What would be a new way for your client to look at the same situation? How could shifting perspective change their course of action? An effective reframe can empower a previously stuck and helpless feeling client to engage in change.

Reframing can help clients to:
• See a personal quality previously seen as a liability as an asset.
• See what they believed was a personal weakness as a strength.
• See a potential problem as an opportunity.
• See the upside of a situation and how they can benefit from it.”


How can we reframe our pandemic experience? Reframing is not minimizing or engaging in self-delusion. What’s real is real, but how are we looking at it? While a Zoom meeting Thanksgiving dinner is nothing like the real thing, it may allow us to include people we love who would never be able to travel and be with us for the holiday feast. Working at home can be very stressful, but we are more in charge of our own work-clock and that can allow us to get out and walk at noon.

Get Cozy

There can be a real tendency when we are lonely and isolated to self-sooth. This can take the form of eating too many “comfort foods”, drinking more than we have in the past, etc. This may be an opportunity to reframe self-soothing as engaging is self-care activities that are both enjoyable and health enhancing. Luxuriating in a slow, hot bath, taking the time to make a healthy and delicious food you’ve researched, declaring a one-day moratorium and all work (including housework) and drifting along doing just what you want to do.

“Hygge, a Danish term defined as “a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.” Pronounced “hoo-guh,” the word is said to have no direct translation in English, though “cozy” comes close.” (https://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/the-year-of-hygge-the-danish-obsession-with-getting-cozy) Taking pleasure in the simple things of life that yield contentment is a great way to make it through the winter. Whether alone, or with whomever you can get cozy with, we can slow down and give ourselves permission to “indulge” in things that give us comfort. Shutting off the television and reading a good novel under a warm blanket with a hot cup of cheer on hand can start to reframe our whole mood.


Salvation in the Natural World

Being with others in the outdoors allows us to be active while physically distant enough to be safe. (https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/safe-activities-during-covid19/art-20489385) We’ve seen a huge surge in outdoor activity since the pandemic took hold. As we head into the colder season, don’t let it hold you back. Our contact with the natural world is “not an amenity – it’s a necessity.” (https://news.uchicago.edu/story/why-time-outdoors-crucial-your-health-even-during-coronavirus-pandemic) With a few adaptations to our wardrobe we can still be outside and enjoy it, more like our Scandinavian friends do. Our Nordic friends have another new, and useful word for us. “A passion for nature cuts to the heart of what Scandinavians call friluftsliv (pronounced free-loofts-liv). The expression literally translates as ‘open-air living’.” (https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20171211-friluftsliv-the-nordic-concept-of-getting-outdoors) By consciously scheduling our “friluftsliv” time our lives, even in winter, can be so much more rewarding.

The outdoors is not just for those fortunate enough to live on the doorstep of wilderness areas. Urban areas are looking at how city dwellers can make the most of time together in the safest possible place – the outdoors. This Bloomberg City Lab article tells of astonishing programs taking place around the country to reduce winter isolation (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-09-11/how-to-prepare-for-a-coronavirus-winter).


A Pre-Emptive Plan for Well Holidays

To create the kind of holiday experiences you want to have describe the outcome you want to see. Get clear about what’s truly important to experience as part of your holidays. Plan for it. Coordinate with others about how you can actualize your best holidays possible. Come to some agreements with friends about what is the best and safest way to experience the connection we all need. Reach out to communities (faith-based and otherwise) that you are part of to see how you can support each other in healthy connection this winter. Set your plan in motion with the support (and built-in accountability) of others. It may be as simple as a group hike on so-called Black Friday (day after Thanksgiving), or a series of small connecting experiences that see you through the dark days and bring more light into your world.

Be safe, be well and stay well.

Coach Michael

Michael Arloski, Ph.D., PCC, NBC-HWC is CEO and Founder of Real Balance Global Wellness (https://realbalance.com) a premier health & wellness coach training organization that has trained thousands of coaches around the world.

15 Vital Books for the Wellness Coach – 2020 – Straight Off My Shelf

In the last ten years the field of health and wellness coaching has continued to evolve as a professional filed with standards, credentials (https://nbhwc.org) and a solid evidential base (https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1559827619850489). We’ve attained more clarity about what effective health and wellness coaching looks like and more awareness of what all coaches need to learn. Coaches have an ethical obligation to constantly be learning and growing in our profession.

So, what are the “must reads” for the wellness or health coach? Ten years ago, I posted a three-part blog on this topic.

15 Vital Books For The Wellness Coach: Straight Off My Shelf – Part One
https://wp.me/pUi2y-1n. 15 Vital Books For The Wellness Coach: Straight Off My Shelf – Part Two https://wp.me/pUi2y-1z. 15 Vital Books For The Wellness Coach: Straight Off My Shelf – Part Three https://wp.me/pUi2y-1H.

Now, in 2020, what I want to share with you are the top fifteen books that will influence the way you do coaching, the way you prepare for professional exams, and books that you will want to have at arm’s reach. These are the books on my own bookshelf that I find myself recommending over and over again to the thousands of wellness coaches that Real Balance has trained. There are many great resources out there, but here is my own very biased (as you’ll see when I recommend my own books) and opinionated list. In contrast to my own previous blogs this time I’m listing them in rank-order of importance to the coach practicing in the field.

15 Vital Books for the Wellness Coach – 2020 – Straight Off My Shelf

1. Wellness Coaching For Lasting Lifestyle Change,2nd Ed. , Arloski
2. Masterful Health & Wellness Coaching: Deepening Your Craft, Arloski (In Press)
3. Co-Active Coaching, 4th Ed., Whitworth, Kimsey-House & Sandahl
4. Changing to Thrive, Janice & James Prochaska
5. Becoming a Professional Life Coach, Williams & Menendez
6. Motivational Interviewing 3rd Edition, Miller & Rollnick
7. The Coaching Psychology Manual, Moore, Tschannen-Moran and Jackson
8. The Blue Zones, Dan Buettner
9. Your Journey To A Healthier Life: Paths of Wellness Guided Journal, Vol. 1, Arloski
10. Taming Your Gremlin, Rick Carson
11. The Wellness Workbook, Jack Travis & Regina Ryan
12. The Open Heart Companion, Maggie Lichtenberg
13. The Craving Mind, Judson Brewer
14. Raw Coping Power, Joel Bennet
15. The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working, Tony Schwartz


1. Wellness Coaching For Lasting Lifestyle Change,2nd Ed. (2014), Michael Arloski. (https://wholeperson.com/store/wellness-coaching-for-lasting-lifestyle-change.shtml) Like I said, a very biased list. Yet, I will have to say that this book (which is now also available in Mandarin) is used by many colleges and universities, as well as other commercial wellness coach training organizations all around the world. The 2014 2nd edition has expanded its coverage of coaching skills and the process of co-creating a wellness plan. The Wellness Mapping 360 Methodology provides the coach with a complete approach to behavioral change that distinguishes this book from others. The integration of what we know from the field of wellness and health promotion is another unique feature of this resource.

2. Masterful Health & Wellness Coaching: Deepening Your Craft, (2020)(In Press) Michael Arloski. (https://wholeperson.com/store/masterful-health-and-wellness-coaching.html) Coaching is both an art and an applied science. In this book my intention is to provide guidance for the health & wellness coaches who wants to go beyond competence to proficiency and embark on a journey towards mastery. The book is divided into four sections, Transformation, How To Be, What To Do, and Coaching People with Health Challenges. We will explore what distinguishes masterful coaches form those who are just learning their craft. Thoroughly substantiated by the evidential literature and providing in-depth lessons on all the major behavioral change theories, Masterful Health & Wellness Coaching will allow the reader to take their coaching to an advanced level.


3. Co-Active Coaching, 4th Ed., (2018)
Laura Whitworth, Karen Kimsey-House, Henry Kinsey-House & Phil Sandahl. (https://www.amazon.com/Co-Active-Coaching-Fourth-transformative-conversations/dp/1473674980/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2E78YGNE10TNG&dchild=1&keywords=co-active+coaching+4th+edition&qid=1601155442&sprefix=Co-%2Caps%2C206&sr=8-1)
THE foundational book of the life coaching field. The authors became the founders of The Coaches Training Institute (CTI) and in this work set down the cornerstones that shape the coaching mindset. A great book to bone up on your coaching skills and to learn what the essence of coaching really is. A true must-read.


4. Changing to Thrive: Using the Stages of Change to Overcome the Top Threats to Your Health and Happiness (2016), Janice & James Prochaska. (https://www.amazon.com/Changing-Thrive-Overcome-Threats-Happiness/dp/1616496290/ref=sr_1_1?crid=24WCWLPXR1KL2&dchild=1&keywords=changing+to+thrive&qid=1601155877&sprefix=Changing+to+thrive%2Caps%2C202&sr=8-1) Replacing the original Changing For Good (1994), this book definitely is in the top four for your bookshelf. The tremendous utility of the Transtheoretical Model for Behavioral Change (TTM, Stage of Change) makes it the coach’s most important behavior change model to know well.

5. Becoming a Professional Life Coach: Lessons from the Institute of Life Coach Training, (2015) Patrick Williams & Diane Menendez. (https://www.amazon.com/Becoming-Professional-Life-Coach-Institute/dp/0393708365/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=5.+Becoming+a+Professional+Life+Coach%2C+Williams+%26+Menendez&qid=1601156765&sr=8-1) Pat Williams is one of the true pioneers of Life Coaching and his earlier book (along with Deb Davis) Therapist as Life Coach was one of my favorites as I made the shift from psychotherapist to coach. Becoming A Professional Life Coach largely supplants this earlier book and provides the wellness coach with not only great skill building but lots of very practical guidance for practicing their coaching.

6. Motivational Interviewing 3rd Ed., (2012) William Miller & Stephen Rollnick. (https://www.amazon.com/Motivational-Interviewing-Helping-People-Applications/dp/1609182278/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=6.+Motivational+Interviewing+3rd+Edition%2C+Miller+%26+Rollnick&qid=1601157105&sr=8-1) This third edition is definitely the best resource on this vital approach to helping people change behavior. Motivational interviewing (MI) is a key tool for the health & wellness coach, especially when working with the ambivalent client. In addition to presenting the MI approach to many of the same skills used in coaching (with their own unique MI terminology), the book contains real gems of learning about the functions many of these skills serve and how to apply them in your coaching.

7. The Coaching Psychology Manual, 2nd Ed., (2015) Margaret Moore, Bob Tschannen-Moran and Erika Jackson. (https://www.amazon.com/Coaching-Psychology-Manual-Margaret-Moore/dp/1451195265/ref=sr_1_12?dchild=1&keywords=The+Coaching+Psychology+Manual%2C+Moore%2C+Tschannen-Moran+and+Jackson&qid=1601157580&sr=8-12) Another foundational book of the wellness coaching field. A comprehensive guide to many of the behavior change theories that coaches use and how to apply them.

8. The Blue Zones: 9 Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest, 2nd Ed. (2012) Dan Buettner. (https://www.amazon.com/Blue-Zones-Second-Lessons-Longest/dp/1426209487/ref=sr_1_2?crid=1OT3CA9BCUW6O&dchild=1&keywords=the+blue+zones&qid=1601323354&sprefix=The+blue+zones%2Caps%2C202&sr=8-2)  Longevity, we’ve found out is only 20% genetics (at the most) and is really 80% lifestyle (culture, behavior, beliefs, environment). Looking at studies of the hot spots or “Blue Zones” around the world where people live to a ripe old age quite often, common denominators teach us what it takes for an environment to make it easier to be well. The lessons for wellness are profound and based in solid evidence. We have made this part of the Real Balance curriculum since it was first published in 2008.

9. Your Journey To A Healthier Life: Paths of Wellness Guided Journal, Vol. 1, 2nd Ed., (2017) Michael Arloski. (https://wholeperson.com/store/your-journey-to-a-healthier-life.shtml)
A wellness journal for the client, this book outlines an entire wellness coaching process from self-assessment, to visioning, wellness planning, meeting challenges to change, tracking behavior and setting up accountability and support through connectedness for success. Many of the coaches I’ve trained use this with each of their clients either individually, or as a group guide (works very well in a 12-session format). Many coaches love it simply as their own guide for how they coach their clients.

10. Taming Your Gremlin: A Surprisingly Simple Method for Getting Out of Your Own Way (updated edition) (2003), Rick Carson. (https://www.amazon.com/Taming-Your-Gremlin-Surprisingly-Getting/dp/0060520221/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Taming+Your+Gremlin%2C+Rick+Carson&qid=1601159057&sr=8-1) Whenever the wellness coaching client takes on change their own personal “Gremlin” or “inner-critic” will be there to oppose it, even if it’s the best thing in the world for that person. Our clients have plenty of external challenges to their attempts at change, but the internal ones can be the most devastating. This classic little book shows us how to spot the self-talk of the gremlin early and get it out of the way (as we get out of our own way!). Another true must read. I know of coaches who supply their clients with copies of this book when folks sign on to coaching.

11. The Wellness Workbook, 3rd ed: How to Achieve Enduring Health and Vitality, (2004) John W. Travis and Regina Sara Ryan . (https://www.amazon.com/Wellness-Workbook-3rd-Enduring-Vitality/dp/1587612135) Health & Wellness coaches need a thorough understanding of wellness and health promotion. This is the foundational book to understand what wellness is truly about. Jack Travis is one of the modern-day founders of the wellness movement and he lays out his theoretical foundation and theories in the introductory thirty-six pages which is worth the price of the book alone.

12. The Open Heart Companion: : Preparation and Guidance for Open-Heart Surgery Recovery, (2006) Maggie Lichtenberg. (https://www.amazon.com/Open-Heart-Companion-Preparation-Open-Heart/dp/0977606309) The psychological side of a major health challenge is often ignored. Maggie Lichtenberg, a PCC level coach, went through mitral valve repair surgery, saw a big missing piece and filled it admirably with this excellent book. As a wellness coach, whether you deal with heart patients or not, this book is an ultimate guide to helping your client with self-efficacy and self-advocacy. I make sure anyone I know (client or not) who is headed into any kind of major surgery (but especially heart surgery) either has a copy of this book or knows about it.

13. The Craving Mind: From Cigarettes to Smart-Phones to Love – Why We Get Hooked & How We Can Break Bad Habits,(2017) Judson Brewer. (https://www.amazon.com/Craving-Mind-Cigarettes-Smartphones-Hooked/dp/0300234368/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=The+Craving+Mind%3A+From+Cigarettes+to+Smart-Phones+to+Love+–+Why+We+Get+Hooked+%26+How+We+Can+Break+Bad+Habits%2C+Judson+Brewer&qid=1601319691&sr=8-1) The subtitle says it all. Health and wellness coaches today are quite likely to discover that their clients may be struggling with “device addiction” as well as other habits that work against their health. Understanding how our mind craves these behaviors and how they feed a cycle of addiction is critical to helping anyone take back control of their lives. What makes Judson Brewer’s approach different is that it is based in the practice of Mindfulness and offers an effective way back to wellness.

14. Raw Coping Power: From Stress to Thriving, (2014) Joel Bennett. (https://www.amazon.com/Raw-Coping-Power-Stress-Thriving/dp/0991510208/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Raw+Coping+Power%2C+Joel+Bennett&qid=1601319602&sr=8-1) Coaching around stress is an inevitable part of health & wellness coaching, so having the knowledge you need to do so is critical. From knowledge to research about stress to the tools and methods you need to apply it, Raw Coping Power’s strengths-based, resilience building approach is the best resource out there.

15. The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working, (2010) Tony Schwartz.  (https://www.amazon.com/Way-Were-Working-Isnt-Performance/dp/1451610262/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=The+Way+We’re+Working+Isn’t+Working%2C+Tony+Schwartz&qid=1601320068&sr=8-1) Our coaching clients are often over-worked and under-supported with ever-increasing demands heaped upon them. Schwartz’s book looks at the systemic problems of the modern-day workplace, but then takes on an approach that individuals can use to cope and hopefully thrive. Think of stress management and time management as energy management. We are wired to deal with stress, but do we have “sufficient volume and intensity” of recovery? A great resource for helping our clients learn how to recover from the stress in their lives.

So, there you have it! Happy reading and keep on learning!

Dr. Michael

Michael Arloski, Ph.D., PCC, NBC-HWC is CEO and Founder of Real Balance Global Wellness (https://realbalance.com) a premier health & wellness coach training organization that has trained thousands of coaches around the world.

 

Emotions, Feelings and Healthy Choices: Coaching for Greater Wellness

One of the first things we learn about in the fields of Wellness & Health Promotion and Health & Wellness Coaching, is that our lifestyle choices are a primary determinant of our health and wellbeing. It seems straightforward that making the right or healthy choice is a rational process based upon having the best information. We often then address how challenging it is for a person to put that choice into practice by looking at their social support, environmental conditions, etc. Much of the focus for wellness coaching becomes helping our client to create a wellness plan based upon those healthy choices and implementing with support and accountability. Let’s stop and take a closer look at those decisions.

Anyone in the healthcare or wellness fields is keenly aware that clients don’t always opt for the best, or healthiest choice. They also often observe clients changing these choices for no apparent reason. One day our client is convinced to start working towards a largely plant-based diet, and on another day, they show little if any desire to do so. We can explore ambivalence, of course, but what is really going on in our client’s decision-making process?

Applying what we know about the role that emotions play in decision-making can be extremely useful to the wellness coach. Learning how to coach our client in this emotional realm is often critical to their success. (See my previous post: “The Great Utility of Coaching In The Emotional Realm”, https://wp.me/pUi2y-lA)

Emotions and Making Lifestyle Choices

Making lifestyle choices are like any other decision-making process – they are more complex than it seems at first. Understanding how our emotional bias fits into this process may help coaches to be less perplexed by some of the self-defeating lifestyle choices we see that our clients have made and continue to make.

Emotions are a heavily researched area of psychology and it is easy to get lost in its vast literature. In an especially succinct article, Executive Coach Svetlana Whitener synthesizes the work of several key researchers and conveys a useful paradigm to coaches to learn from. (“How Your Emotions Influence Your Decisions”, https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2018/05/09/how-your-emotions-influence-your-decisions/#5eece5313fda)

Emotions emerge as a response to external stimuli, or the recollection of it, or the imagining of it. “That stimulus generates an unfelt emotion in the brain, which causes the body to produce responsive hormones. These hormones enter the bloodstream and create feelings, sometimes negative and sometimes positive… So, to review, it’s stimuli, then emotions, then hormones and, finally, feelings. In other words, your emotions impact your decision-making process by creating certain feelings.” (Whitener, 2018)

 

How we interpret or frame those feelings and how we respond to them results in our choices executed in our behavior.

In this model it is not the emotions that we are aware of, it is the resultant feelings that we feel. When our clients contemplate making lifestyle changes, they often experience a variety of feelings. They may experience positive anticipation or dread. The memory of past failures may bring up the emotion of fear resulting in feelings of embarrassment, regret, shame or guilt. Likewise, a history of more pleasant experiences may lead to positive anticipation. What Stage of Change the client is in may be heavily influenced by the feelings they are experiencing.

Expand Your Emotional Vocabulary

Psychologist Paul Ekman’s research on emotions opened a huge doorway to understanding how people express themselves. A key from his work that can help the coach is to look at how (as in our model above) emotions generate feelings and how those feelings differentiate. Researcher Tiffany Watt Smith has listed 154 different worldwide emotions and feelings. (1). Studying Ekman’s Wheel of Emotions can help a coach to expand their own knowledge and use of emotional terminology. As you coach with your client you can explore more possibilities to help your client clarify exactly what they are feeling.

 

Ekman’s Wheel of Emotions

 

 

 

 

How The Coach Can Help: Coaching With Emotions and Feelings

1. Coaching Presence – Your coaching presence sends an ongoing message that either gives permission to explore feelings or denies it.
2. Notice – Be keenly observant of the emergence of feelings on the part of your client. Be continually scanning not just their words, but how they say them. Hear the changes in tone of voice, volume, rapidity, etc. Notice all of the nonverbal information you can gather.
3. Contact – Help you client to connect with their feelings. Use the Active Listening Skill of Reflection of Feelings. Share observations of patterns you see. “I’m noticing that each time you talk about taking time for self-care you begin speaking about your partner.”
4. Name it – Help you client to name their feelings. As we saw above emotions can generate a wide variety of feelings. Expand your own emotional vocabulary and help your client to drill down to what they are truly experiencing. “Well, it’s not really anger, it’s more like resentment.”
5. F.A.V.E. – First Acknowledge the client’s experience and what they have been through. Then Validate their feelings. It’s okay for them to feel the way they feel about it. (Regardless of how rational or appropriate their feelings may seem.). You absolutely must not judge their feelings. Most importantly Empathize. Show real empathy and compassion and put it into words.
6. Process – Help your client to explore and process their feelings. Allow them to expand and talk about them. Once the initial release has taken place, they will usually start to analyze what is going on for them, looking to make sense (and meaning) out of their feelings.
7. Insight – Is your client able now to gain some insight from what they have learned in this process?
8. Application/Integration – Are they able now to take their insights and turn them into action? Now you can coach your client on ways they can modify their behavior or create experiments in their lives to improve their lifestyle.

Note – If you find that you are answering the questions in items 7 & 8 with the negative, your client may benefit more from counseling instead of (or in addition to) coaching. That is, if they just continue to process feelings, and process feelings without it leading to insight, or if they are unable to put their insights into action, and instead return to processing feelings (and emoting), then begin to explore the alternative of counseling. See my blog on this topic – Coaching a Client Through To A Mental Health Referral Using The Stages of Change (https://wp.me/pUi2y-lp).

A wellness coach may think that it is their job to get their client to make the right lifestyle choices. When coaching deteriorates into convincing or persuading, we are stepping away from the coaching process. We can certainly warn our clients about misinformation they may have about fad diets, or unproven remedies, etc. However, effective coaches honor their client’s autonomy. The reality is that after a coaching session, our clients will go on living their lives doing what they choose to do despite our urging. Trust the coaching process. Help your client to factor in their emotions in a more conscious way so that the lifestyle choices they make are working for them instead of against them.

References
(1) Tiffany Watt Smith. “The Book of Human Emotions: An Encyclopedia of Feeling from Anger to Wanderlust” (PDF). Anarchiveforemotions.com. Retrieved 2017-05-28.
(2) Ekman, Paul (1999), “Basic Emotions”, in Dalgleish, T; Power, M (eds.), Handbook of Cognition and Emotion (PDF), Sussex, UK: John Wiley & Sons.

Dr. Michael Arloski

Michael Arloski, Ph.D., PCC, NBC-HWC, is a psychologist, professional coach, author, trainer/educator and CEO and Founder of Real Balance Global Wellness. Follow his blog at https://realbalancewellness.wordpress.com, and his presence on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/michael.d.773), Twitter https://twitter.com/DrMArloski) and LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/realbalance/).

The Utility of Self Determination Theory and Motivation in Wellness Coaching – Part Two: Autonomy, Competence & Relatedness

 

Activities like camping with a friend in the backcountry can meet our three innate psychological needs.

As health and wellness coaches work with their clients to help them live their healthiest lives possible, an understanding of the basics of Self-Determination Theory of Edward Deci and Richard Ryan (http://selfdeterminationtheory.org), is very useful. In the Part One blog posting on this subject we looked at how this theory addresses human motivation. (https://wp.me/pUi2y-nT). Here we will look at how coaches can benefit from understanding the significance of the theory’s identified three innate psychological needs that we all have.

 

The Three Innate Psychological Needs

At the heart of Self-Determination Theory (SDT) is the underlying assumption that there is an inherent human need for fulfillment and self-actualization through personal growth, development and mastery (competence), for connectedness (relatedness) and for the experience of behavior as self-determined and congruent with one’s sense of self (autonomy). These three needs are considered universal and essential for well-being. Whatever supports the positive experience of competence, relatedness and autonomy promotes choice, willingness and volition, interest, full engagement, enjoyment and perceived value — the inherent qualities of intrinsic motivation. It also leads to higher quality performance, persistence, and creativity.

The degree to which these needs are either supported or compromised and thwarted has a significant impact on both the individual and the individual’s “social context” (the physical and social setting in which people live and work and the institutions with which they interact). If all three needs are satisfied “people will develop and function effectively and experience wellness” and if not, “…people will more likely evidence ill-being and non-optimal functioning.” (http://selfdeterminationtheory.org/theory/)

“We believe that all human beings have a set of basic psychological needs. The needs that we feel are important are the need for competence. That is to say to feel confident and effective in relation to whatever it is you’re doing. Second, to feel relatedness, that is to say to feel cared for by others, to care for others, to feel like you belong in various groups that are important to you. And the third need is autonomy… Human need is something that must get satisfied for optimal wellness and optimal performance. If they don’t get the need satisfied, then there will be negative psychological consequences that follow.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m6fm1gt5YAM)

 

Coaching In Support of Autonomy

People have a need to feel they are operating their lives out of their own choice. Supporting the client’s need for autonomy is considered one of the primary tasks of a coach. The client-centered nature of coaching supports client autonomy throughout the coaching process. Coaching operates on mutual agreements between client and coach. Agendas are co-created with the client always in the lead. In wellness and health coaching this is especially true as client-generated goals have more inherent “buy-in”, that is, more motivational connection. The coaching cornerstone stance that the client is “naturally creative, resourceful and whole” (NCRW)( https://coactive.com/why-cti/buy-the-book) fosters autonomy as the coach works to evoke the inner wisdom of the client. Rather than operating from an expert point of view, the coach provides support for the client’s own decision making, even though they assist in the process.

Coaching In Support Of Competence

This NCRW stance also supports the other key human need according to SDT, of seeking to achieve competence. Again, in line with the tenets of humanistic psychology and the more recent developments in positive psychology, clients are treated as though they are indeed capable and possessing great potential. The strengths-based, positive psychology nature of coaching emphasizes acknowledging and building upon the client’s attributes and qualities they already possess. A key here is acknowledgement. Client’s often minimize or fail to recognize their strengths and achievements. If their self-efficacy is already low, having been brought down by previous failure experiences, they may tend to overlook what they are accomplishing, or to downplay it. The active listening skill of acknowledgement needs to be used by coach whenever it can be genuinely utilized. As client and coach work on self-determined goals and break it down into doable action steps, leading the client to enjoy more and more successful experiences. As they do so, they begin to feel more competent in the area of improving their lifestyle, which naturally builds their feelings of self-efficacy.

Coaching In Support of Relatedness

The heart of coaching is the coaching relationship itself. Creating that alliance supplies the client with a trusted resource for support that can be relied upon unconditionally. As the coach exhibits the qualities that make up great coaching presence (supplying the facilitative conditions of coaching) (https://wp.me/pUi2y-6i) the client feels accepted, acknowledged and cared for. Often our clients are lacking relationships in their lives where they experience adequate empathic understanding and are free from judgment.

“It is important to note that whilst a coachee may have close relationships outside coaching, s/he may not consistently feel heard, understood, valued and/or genuinely supported within those relationships. If not, they are unlikely to feel strongly and positively connected to others and in an attempt to satisfy this basic need, may attempt to connect by acting in accordance with the preferences of others, rather than one’s own.” (https://ro.uow.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1106&context=gsbpapers)

For the client, it is not only refreshing to relate to someone who provides unconditional positive regard and validates their experience and feelings, it may actually free the client up to explore their lives with new openness and independence. Perhaps they have been holding themselves back from making some of the lifestyle changes they need to make because of the fear of losing connection, to some degree, with others. Perhaps with the support of the coach, the client may be willing to take such risks to live in a healthier way.

The Real Balance approach to coaching has long recognized the importance and power of coaching for connectedness. We realize that coaching is a very brief moment in someone’s life and that lasting lifestyle improvement often hinges upon finding the support of others for the changes clients need to make. As we help our clients choose action steps in their Wellness Plan, we continually ask, Who else can support you in doing this? Building in strategies to seek out and gain support for wellness goals and the action steps needed to achieve them is often critical to success.

Of course, not all of our clients enjoy lives rich in connectedness at home, work and in their communities. As we co-create the Wellness Plan with our clients, we may want to include developing more connectedness as an Area of Focus to be consciously worked on. Part of that process may be exploring ways in which the client holds themselves back from reaching out and making more interpersonal connections in their lives. As clients feel empowered by the autonomous nature of choice in the coaching process, they may be more willing to increase their connectedness.

As coaches reflect upon their work, not only with a single client, but will all of the people they coach, they can benefit from asking themselves if their coaching process addresses and supports the fulfillment of these three innate psychological needs. The self-vigilant coach may want to listen to session recordings and ask themselves “Am I coaching in a way that really supports my client’s autonomy, or am I being too prescriptive or too directive? Am I using acknowledgement enough to help my client realize how their sense of competency is increasing? Am I remembering to ‘coach for connectedness’ and help my client expand their circles of support?”

Deci and Ryan see the fulfillment of these needs as paving the way towards optimal functioning — essentially making the wellness way of life much easier.

Dr. Michael Arloski

For the very best in wellness and health coach training look to REAL BALANCE GLOBAL WELLNESS SERVICES, INC.  Over 8,000 wellness & health coaches trained worldwide.  http://www.realbalance.com 

 

For more about effective coaching refer to Wellness Coaching For Lasting Lifestyle Change, 2nd Ed., by Michael Arloski, Ph.D., PCC, CWP, NBC-HWC.   https://wholeperson.com/store/wellness-coaching-for-lasting-lifestyle-change.shtml

and to Your Journey to a Healthier Life (Paths of Wellness Guided Journals) by the same author.  https://wholeperson.com/store/your-journey-to-a-healthier-life.shtml 

A New Code of Ethics For Health And Wellness Coaches: Healthy Boundaries Part One

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Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

The old New England expression that “good fences make good neighbors” applies to the world of professions as well as it does to rows of piled rocks in the old fields and forests of places like Vermont and Maine. The concept of professional boundaries seems to expand the more you look into it. In this and a following post we will look at role definition, ethics and scope of practice, boundary crossings and violations, self-disclosure, and other issues from the unique perspective of the health and wellness coach.

icflogoSince its inception just over twenty years ago the ICF (International Coaching Federation) has developed a Code of Ethics (http://coachfederation.org/about/ethics.aspx?ItemNumber=854) which it revises on a regular basis. The ICF also maintains an Ethics Community of Practice (http://coachfederation.org/members/landing.cfm?ItemNumber=2108) where you can bring ethics questions and learn from presentations.

Law & Ethics in Coaching: How To Solve And Avoid Difficult Problems In Your Practice (2006) by Patrick Williams and Sharon K. Anderson houses considerably valuable information from the chief authors and other contributors. (https://www.amazon.com/Law-Ethics-Coaching-Difficult-Problems/dp/0471716146)

With the development and growth of the field of health and wellness coaching, the question of ethics and scope of practice emerged with the realization that such coaches often face unique situations, sometimes interacting with the medical world, that require a fresh look. While the ICF Code of Ethics is to be embraced by all coaches, the need for something more became evident.

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As an Executive Team member of The National Consortium for Credentialing Health and Wellness coaches (http://www.ncchwc.org) I was honored to chair a committee last summer of extraordinary coaches who are part of our NCCHWC Council of Advisors. Through our efforts “in August 2016, the NCCHWC created the
Code of Ethics and Health & Wellness Coach Scope of Practice to serve as a reference for health & wellness coaches and faculty. The NCCHWC expects all credentialed health and wellness coaches (coaches, coach faculty and mentors, and students) to adhere to the elements and Principles and ethical conduct: to be competent and integrate NCCHWC Health and Wellness Coach Competencies effectively in their work.” Please download the NCCHWC Code of Ethics and Health & Wellness Coach Scope of Practice here: NCCHWC Code of Ethics (http://www.ncchwc.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Final-Code-of-Ethics-Oct-3.pdf)  NCCHWC Health & Wellness Coach Scope of Practice (http://www.ncchwc.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Final-NCCHWC-Health-Coach-Scope-of-Practice.pdf)

rblogoYou can also find copies of both documents in the Wellness Resources section of the Real Balance website (https://www.realbalance.com/wellness-resources)
Codes of ethics such as these serve as the primary guides to help form professional boundaries that we can adhere to. In Section Three of the NCCHWC Code of Ethics we find most of the references to boundaries. The most obvious boundary here is #23 – to avoid any sexual or romantic relationship with current clients, sponsor(s), students, mentees or supervisees. But, we also see in other items in this section, that much of the issue of boundaries also refers to creating clear agreements with our clients about the nature of coaching, how it works, confidentiality, financial agreements, etc. The client-centered nature of coaching is emphasized along with complete transparency, spelling out the rights, roles and responsibilities for all involved.
The issue of boundaries is more directly addressed in item #22. Hold responsibility for being aware of and setting clear, appropriate and culturally sensitive boundaries that govern interactions, physical or otherwise, I may have with my clients or sponsor(s). Here we are looking at how we create a safe environment for our client where they feel respected, comfortable and safe. While most individuals are at least somewhat sensitive to this in most social interactions, the coach must be especially sensitive about it because of the trusting nature of the coaching relationship. While not on the same level as clinical relationships, coaching clients must feel free to express themselves at a trusting level. The health and wellness coaching client who is attempting to gain insight about how they hold themselves back from being successful at weight loss, for example, needs to feel that they can reveal information about relevant feelings and experiences without feeling vulnerable. This shows up mostly in two areas, the appropriateness of touch, and self-disclosure.
While not inherently wrong, behaviors such as giving/receiving a hug from/with a client after a triumphant moment in coaching, may be misconstrued in its intention. For one client it may, according to some authors, “engender healthier relationships”, while for another it may feel like a boundary crossing, which other authors would argue, might “pave the way to a boundary violation.”  Coaches learn early on in their training to ask permission. Seeking permission first and respecting our client’s wishes can avoid such boundary crossings/violations. We avoid the pitfalls of assumptions and honor our client’s personal and cultural boundaries in this way.

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Self-Disclosure And Boundaries

Self-disclosure also has different boundaries in different cultures and with different individuals. We looked closely at this topic in a previous blog post “Self-Disclosure in Coaching – When Sharing Helps and Hinders” (http://wp.me/pUi2y-8m). We can remember from that post that coaches who do not self-disclose at all are not trusted, while those who disclose “too much” are thought to be incompetent. Our own self-disclosure, should never put undue pressure on our client to also self-disclose. Differences in culture, social class, family upbringing, etc. all can set very different boundaries around the issue of appropriate self-disclosure.
In our next post we’ll look further at the issues of healthy boundaries for health and wellness coaches and address some very specific questions.

Downshifting To The Speed Of Life: Coaching Slowness

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“Summertime and the livin’ is easy.” How long has it been since the words of that old song rang true? In response to the accelerated pace of life a conscious movement has emerged to help us slow down and reclaim our quality of life again.

In my last post I shared about Time Affluence (http://wp.me/pUi2y-hV) and how we can experience a greater sense of time by changing our way of perceiving it. Today I’ll share about another way to address our sense of “time poverty” by learning how to deliberately slow down our pace of life: the “slow movement”.

What started in Italy with “slow food” as a reaction to omnipresent “fast food”slow-food-logo-1-550x392 (http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/features/carlo-petrini-the-slow-food-gourmet-who-started-a-revolution-1837223.html ) has morphed into a broader “slow living” movement including slow travel, slow schools, slow cities, slow design, slow relationships and more. Its main tenet is that for a more fulfilling and deeply satisfying life we need to allow the appropriate amount of time to experience the activities we engage in.

Savoring may save us. Consciousness may return control to our lives. As author Carl Honore (In Praise of Slowness) (http://www.carlhonore.com/books/in-praise-of-slowness/) puts it, our cultural obsession with speed erodes our health, productivity and quality of life. “We are living the fast life, instead of the good life.”

Operating on “automatic pilot” may seem like an important strategy to cope with feeling overwhelmed. However it usually results in staying stuck in habits that don’t serve us as well as the conscious choices we might make instead, if only we…slowed down and thought about it. As Mae West tells us “Anything worth doing is worth doing slowly.”

article-2381351-1B10EE79000005DC-377_634x422Downshifting

So, how do we make the shift? How do we de-stress ourselves, further change our perception of time and pump up our quality of life? How do we begin to embrace and benefit from “slow living”?

Value the intrinsic over the extrinsic. Focus on the internal rewards found in experience, not production; the taste of fresh tomatoes, the smile of a child. The irony here is that we know that intrinsic motivation drives greater and more creative productivity.

Re-wire your brain. Changing life-long habits means developing new neural pathways in our brains and staying off the old well-worn habit pathways. Catch yourself in your old speedy habits and jump back on the new path over and over again.

Plan to be spontaneous. Plan ahead to have free time. Make plans to “be” not just get things done. Make reservations at campgrounds so you will get out and do it. Arrange with friends to have a slow dinner evening savoring food and fun.

Lose your mind and come to your senses. Focusing on our sensory experience of taste, sound, touch, and smell can help us slow down. Breath deep, eyes closed, and take a moment to smell the roses.

16702647-mmmainCreate conspiracies. The only way to break out of unhealthy cultural norms is to conspire with friends, family and co-workers to create healthier, slower ones. Together cultivate the Italian phrase “Il dolce far niente” the sweetness of doing nothing!

 

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The Coach’s Takeaway

Our coaching clients often come to us either feeling that they are overwhelmed and have to slow down their pace of life, or, perhaps when they have had a “wake up call”, like the onset of a serious health challenge, that has caused them to reassess life’s priorities. They want to “slow down”, but, “marinated in a culture of speed” (as Honore puts it), they don’t know how.

You may have clients who are do not want to slow down. Staying busy, staying distracted, they don’t have to look at deeper issues that may be more troubling to encounter. Coach them around exploring what they fear might happen if they were to slow down. Explore “what if” examples: “What would happen if you made an agreement with your family to eat dinner together with no television or other devices turn on?” “What would it be like to take a long, hot bath instead of a quick shower?” Some clients may have such fears that they need counseling rather than coaching and the “pressure” to slow down may be too much. Referral can be discussed, but you can also back up and coach in other areas until they are ready to look at how they might experiment with slowing down.

Some fears might not be so psychological. Your client may fear that if they slow down they won’t be able to compete in the workplace or marketplace. They may fear that they won’t appear as a attractive as the hard-charging, “work-hard/play hard” person they want to portray. If you client is open to it, this may be where you can turn them on to some of the resources of the “slow movement”, such as Honore’s book, or: http://www.slowmovement.com; http://www.create-the-good-life.com/slow_movement.html; and http://movimientoslow.com/en/filosofia.html. They may learn that they can allay many of their fears by seeing how the benefits of slowing down include just what they are trying to achieve by rushing and working too hard: greater creativity, productivity and quality of life.

Slowing down may have a link with self-permission. Many of the healthy changes in behavior often revolve around greater self-care. Great wellness plans go nowhere if the client is unwilling to give themselves permission to implement them. Explore this concept of self-permission and how the person is holding themselves back.

For most clients though, the desire for a slower, more fulfilling life is there.

  • Create experiments using the Downshifting idea above.
  • Get creative with your client and co-create new action steps that they can take week by week to try out new ways to slow down in whatever area seems both important to them and most likely of succeeding.
  • They may even want to commit to looking at several dimensions of their wellness (perhaps as represented in a simple tool like the Wheel of Life) and creating experiments in each area.
  • Commit to cooking more meals at home.
  • Visit a farmers market.
  • Declare a “technological Sabbath” for a day.
  • Commit to learning and practicing “centering” activities such as Tai Chi, Yoga, relaxation training, or some form of mindfulness practice.
  • Commit to reading a novel instead of work-related books.
  • Read Thoreau’s essay “On Walking” and learn to saunter! (http://thoreau.eserver.org/walking1.html)

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