Using the Flywheel to Attend to Ourselves & Others.

This is Us, circa summer 2008?

In 2008, I got up at the crack of dawn to have my 4 little ones ready to be at the polls at 7:00am and then off to start their days at school. They were 4, 6, 9, and 10. I wanted them to see the process, even though they wouldn’t understand it for years to come. And I knew we were electing our first Black president. It was important to me. 

Having said that, it occurred to me today, under the backdrop of the impeachment proceedings, that this president is the only president my younger two have really known and frankly, my older two, as well. Just at the time when they were coming into an awareness about government, leadership at the national level, or understanding what it means to live in a democracy, this administration took office. It has put some things about their perspective into context for me.  

Despite what you might think about, or how you might feel about, our current president, he is the identified leader of our country. But he is definitely not providing leadership. All too often, people in my practice are expressing a sense that they’ve lost their tether to anything they previously relied on for grounding. Young people are confused. Their parents are afraid. And others are just living in their “happy place,” immersed in work or Netflix or online cocktail hours. 

That loss of outer guidance has made some of us question our inner guidance, too. 

How do we support each other ~ especially those who look to us for direction ~ when it feels like we cannot depend on anything right now?

Here are a few places to start.

  1. Spend some time with your own thoughts and feelings. Check in with yourself. What is true for you? Without judgment or rationalization, get curious about your own response without changing it or even resisting it. Just notice it. 
  2. You don’t need to fix anything. Your job is not to change someone else’s response, but to be present to it. To witness someone who is struggling, with kindness and curiosity, is a gift to both of you.
  3. Check back in with yourself. Anything different? 
  4. Invite them back to talk again. Be an ear. But the only way you can be an ear, is to continue to practice being present to your own truth. Self-observing, so that you are aware of your own ongoing response, will allow you to listen to the other without the veil of your own emotions clouding what you hear. They don’t need you to hop on their bandwagon or even to dispute it or “correct” it. They need you to hear it. Acknowledge it. Be present to it. 

In Good to Great, Jim Collins talks about how doing one simple thing, over and over, can have monumental impact on a company. He calls the process a “flywheel.” We can apply that same strategy when we attend to ourselves and others.

You don’t need to prove your value as a friend, colleague, or parent. You simply have to show up, know what’s your stuff, and listen, without attachment, to theirs.

Repeat. Again, and again. 

This is Us, circa summer 2020

Showing up for yourself and others in this way will absolutely have impact; and when even just one person shows up for another with presence, like throwing a stone into a pond, the whole world starts to change.

How Do I Know Whether I Need a Life Coach or a Therapist?

My practice has seen an onslaught of beautiful seekers looking for something, many not knowing exactly what. They aren’t happy, and while they may engage in conjecture about the reasons, they just haven’t been able to get out of their own way and move towards a goal. And sometimes, the goal is to have less anxiety. It is a coach-y/therapy-y issue, but which one?

This crossroads presents a choice to the seeker:

“Who can help me?”

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

1.   Do you need to see someone?

  • No one actually needs a coach. Coaching is not about treatment. Coaching is about co-creating a relationship that involves helping you to access your own, inner resources that will support the change you want. Coaches help you move from “perfect as you are,” to “always room to grow.”
  • Therapists are uniquely qualified to treat mood disorders, personality disorders, and help those who struggle to function in the world. Therapy involves healing. People need therapists. Some therapists with additional training will cross over to the role of coach, too.
  • Because of this distinction, health insurance does not cover coaching in the United States. It might cover therapy, depending on your plan and whether or not the therapist accepts your insurance. So if cost is a factor, you might look for a therapist with whom you can use your health insurance.

2.   Do you have symptoms, resulting from trauma, that you are looking to get relief from?

  • If you have experienced a traumatic event and are having symptoms like flashbacks, too much or too little sleep, loss of executive functioning, memory issues, or other symptoms, your best bet is to start with your primary care physician, followed by a therapist. The therapist might enlist the help of a coach to help with strategies related to daily functioning, but the treatment of the emotional component related to the trauma is best evaluated by a trauma-informed therapist. 
  • Caveat: Coaches can be trauma-informed but make sure the coach is able to share specifically what qualifies them to identify themselves this way. In fact, the competencies of a credentialed coach fit the model for trauma-informed work nicely, but it is not a given that all coaches are actually trauma-informed. If this is important for the work you need to do, please ask them specifically about this. Frankly, this is true if you hire a therapist, as well.

3.   Do you have a goal you want to achieve and just can’t get out of your own way to achieve it? 

  • This is a great time to enlist a coach. Coaches are excellent at seeing your own, unique genius and helping you to access your inner world in order to clear the path towards creating a life you want. They are deep listeners, accountability partners, and have your agenda as their primary focus. What you want is what they want for you. It is an incredibly powerful relationship. 
  • Things you might want to seek help with in this category include executive functioning, business goals, career issues, or parenting help. 

4.   When in doubt, ask. I receive inquiry calls all the time where we have a discussion about what the person is looking for and whether or not I feel like I can help them. I am really clear about the way I work, what I pay attention to, and what circumstances might have me refer to a colleague. Oh, and there’s that…I have colleagues. I refer out. I want you to get what you want in this one, beautiful whack at life you have. If you sense that the professional on the other end of the phone is working from a place of scarcity, that’s a warning sign. There are enough clients out there for all of us. You don’t owe that person anything, other than a yay or nay.

Which brings me to the final point….

5.  If this is something you are considering, go to your own, inner resources. Sit quietly. Imagine yourself working with this person. Consult the guide, Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Therapist or Life Coach. And then leap. This is not your forever family. You are hiring someone to provide a service and can operate fully in choice. To do otherwise, would be to not take that first step towards a better you.

You are the best person to choose your helping professional. 

Life Coaching and Therapy are two distinct helping professions with different codes of ethics and different competencies. Is there overlap? You betcha’. Are there times to choose one over the other? Yup. Do your homework. Ultimately, you are hiring a human being. The connection you find there is often as important, if not more important, than the framework they use. Take a leap. Make the call to the person you are most drawn to. And then bring this question to them. See what they say!

Questions to Ask When Hiring a Therapist or Coach.

You are at a crossroads and have decided to hire someone to help you. But what do you want? There are so many options. No matter which route you go (and if this is a question, read my blog on How to Know Whether I Need a Life Coach or a Therapist!), you want to make sure this person is a good fit for YOU. And you want to make sure they meet some standard of care so your investment ensures you are getting what you pay for.

Read on for a few questions to help you during your inquiry call.

  1. What is your niche, and how do you think you are qualified to help me?
  • Coaches and therapists often specialize in a topic (executive functioning, disordered eating, business development, substance use, parenting, career, etc.) or a demographic (teens, lawyers, entrepreneurs, women, or in my case, Seekers of Something More!). These chosen niches of practice are sometimes about the professional’s specialty or preference, but sometimes, it is really about how they market themselves and their practice is more expansive. Ask about their experience with your particular challenge or diagnosis. Get curious about them. My experience is that most of us love to talk about our work!

2. What is my commitment to you?

  • Coaching takes time. But you should not be held to a contract that requires you to stick with something that isn’t working for you. Make sure that you are signing an agreement, an understanding, or an informed consent, and not a contract. Sometimes, the relationship is just not a good fit and you want to be careful that you don’t pay in advance for something that might not work for you. If you decide it isn’t a good fit, make sure you can part ways without a large financial obligation.

3. What are your policies around confidentiality and other ethics-related issues?

  • Both coaches and social workers are held to strict ethical guidelines around confidentiality. Therapists are bound by HIPAA which are the Federal regulations that protect your privacy. It is legal for anyone to call themselves a coach or a therapist; they are not protected titles in most states. Having said that, there are certain credentials available to both coaches and therapists by regulating organizations. Knowing these might help you to know who to hire. 
    • For coaches, the International Coach Federation is the organization that administers a third party exam to credential coaches. Many coaches are certified through their own educational programs, but coaching schools vary greatly so it is difficult to know what this means. If your coach has an ICF credential, they have passed an exam, both oral and written, and have agreed to abide by a universal set of ethics. They have met an objective set of requirements, independent of their coach training. Further, they are required to complete continuing education and stay current in the field to maintain this credential.
    • There are many, many types of therapists, many of whom have the ability to be granted a license to practice in a given state. Requirements for licensure vary from state to state, but they are rigorous in all states. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is a wonderful resource for educating yourself about the different types of therapists. On the NAMI website, the myriad types of mental health practitioners and their accompanying state licenses are outlined. Again, in order to receive a license to practice, a therapist must reach a certain level of education, engage in a specific number of supervised practice hours, pass state exams, and agree to uphold ethical standards. In most states, you can go to the website for the state government to check the status of someone’s license. Obtaining professional licensure is not for the faint of heart, but does demonstrate the level of education and skill set of the practitioner.
  • To be clear, there are probably many wonderful helping professionals who are unlicensed and without credentials who can competently serve you and help you to meet your goals. But buyer, beware. If you are hiring a professional, hiring someone with a credential from a statewide, national, or international credentialing organization, indicates the person has undergone a rigorous process and meets a particular set of competencies and ethical guidelines.

Finally, after having this conversation with the potential coach or therapist, ask yourself a few questions, too. 

  • How will this relationship support me to show up and do the work that is called for?
  • How honest can I be with this person?
  • Even thought I don’t know this person well, what 2% of them do I already know, like, and trust?

Want to talk more about hiring someone to help you? Reach out to me by making an appointment for a complimentary inquiry call, here