Googling around today and looking for inspiration for my website I realized what a jungle the internet is for someone looking for a Coach.
I came across quite a few magic cure quick fix sales power-designed (the virtual 80's power suit) websites. Most of you will have seen websites claiming "cures" in as few as 1 session. Only today I saw a website claiming to "cure" PTSD in 3 sessions. Having worked in psychological and psychiatric research for many years, reading peer-reviewed papers and having learned to identify "faulty" research and pseudoscience I got quite suspicious right away, also a little concerned and finally I found what I was looking for: Inspiration for this article.
Quick fixes are generally situations where something is done "onto you" by the "expert". Straight away there is a power imbalance and that increases the risk of "dependence" on the coach. Whenever something new arises, e.g. a new challenge, it is more likely that people will go back to get fixed whatever needs fixing. Some quick fixes of course work, whether it is placebo or something else is the question. The result in any case: Learned Helplessness.
So how does REAL and long-lasting change work, especially in connection with coaching but also psychotherapy?
First of all, coaching is a relationship of mutual responsibility and ultimately you are in control of that relationship. One part of the change process is of course action. You try new things, act on your plan. The other important factor however is learning. You learn about your process, reflect on what works and what didn't work in the past. You learn about your strengths and your resources. This learning is empowering and ultimately leads to independence and autonomy, a goal that every coach and therapist should have for their clients should have. Someone once said to me: "If you want your clients not to need you ultimately you are going to coach yourself out of business. It's about making people come back for more." I couldn't disagree more. Not only is this against my work ethic but also against my professional integrity.
Once you have gone through a real transformative change process you are more likely to use the skills you learned and the strengths you are in touch with independently. This is true empowerment. Positive Psychology lends itself for that perfectly. We realize that we can depend on other people but don't necessarily have to when we know our strengths, skills and resources. You know you had good coaching when you learned something about yourself and the change process, reached your goal and are maintaining it.
Studies show that the most successful "self-changers" are people who had several attempts at it. This means that they didn't give up but also have been creative with the way they changed the process of goal setting and achieving. They don't see their previous attempts as failures or relapses but as "recycling". They are more likely to succeed within the next 6 months.
Change never really ends. Being human is about growing. Once a goal is achieved this means that we are in maintenance. A lot of quick fix solutions don't take into account that this is also a process. Quite an exciting one actually as you truly internalize the things you have learned with an honest and authentic coaching relationship. It becomes second nature. Depending on what the issue was, maintenance can take a few months or - in a few cases- a lifetime.
When you go on a journey of change, an authentic coach keeps you in the driver seat. He or she might point out different directions and together you can explore them.
The end result is not only reaching the goal but also a sense of real achievement and true empowerment.
For more information on true transformative and co-active coaching check out the books Co-Active Coaching and Changing for Good