Coaching has been developing for some 20 years or more both in the UK and elsewhere. There are many different types and 'definitions' of coaching, and as I write, a clear and agreed definition has not yet been reached! But that doesn't make coaching any less real, and any less useful and effective. It's just that it is new and very varied, and still developing all the time, and all the better for that. And I can still give you a definite flavour of what coaching is all about.
In essence coaching is about giving you the support and the know-how to enhance your feeling of well-being, and to make the changes in your life which will help you to reach your potential. It's about working out where you want to be, and working out how to get there. But it isn't like counselling, it requires active input from you, and will often involve you learning new skills. Coaching should be interesting, energising and exciting. It can be life-changing.
You can be coached using almost any form of communication available to you. So you can actually meet your coach, or it is very common to use the telephone or e-mail. Some coaches combine meeting a client with e-mails between meetings. Whichever way you communicate, coaching would usually take place over a number of sessions, usually 30-60 minutes each. What does the coach do in these sessions?
Your coach will:
Listen to you and help you set goals
Build a rapport with you
Empathise, encourage and support you
Have a sense of humour
Work in collaboration with you to reach your goals
Help to generate ideas for reaching your goals
Know where to find any information you need
Help you with problem-solving
As our lives today are so varied and full, coaching has developed to cover many areas of life in the 21st Century, though these do inevitably have some overlap:
· Life Coaching: looks at where and how you live, your family, relationships, social life, work, health, confidence and your sense of purpose.
· Business/Executive Coaching: deals with improving performance at work, including working with staff, colleagues and superiors, identifying strengths and weaknesses, working as a team or independently, and so on.
· Specialist Coaching: focuses on a particular area such as stress, career planning, assertiveness, or confidence-building.
National organisations like the Association for Coaching, and the British Psychological Society Coaching Section are currently working hard on formulating and agreeing definitions, guidelines and all the fine print required by this new and growing coaching profession.
Coaching is undoubtedly a useful and refreshing way for you to work on a range of problem areas, and to realize your potential. When choosing a coach you should of course make sure that they have a recognised qualification in a relevant area, or in coaching itself. A proven record of success, or a personal recommendation is also a good way to choose a coach, and to take that first tentative step to a better life.
By Alice Muir BSc BA(Hons) MSC(Psychology)
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