Are boundary definitions preventing coach therapists from offering their clients the best possible interventions? Kate McGuire reports
Why do we do what we do as coaches and therapists? What is the best way of doing our work to achieve our purpose? What enables us and what gets in the way?
At the AICTP conference (Association of Integrative Coach-Therapist Professionals) on 9 February 2019, speaker Kate Manley described how, as a therapist, she had sometimes felt constrained from making certain interventions with clients because they fell outside the boundaries of a therapeutic relationship.
After training as a coach, she felt there was a lack of depth in coaching work. How, I wondered, does it serve our clients when highly qualified practitioners feel unable to offer useful interventions because of the boundary definitions that we might apply to our work?
Julia Vaughan Smith has gone in the opposite direction – from executive coaching to therapy – and now concentrates on working with trauma. Her view is that nearly all personal difficulties are connected in some way to early ‘trauma’, which she describes as the internal damage caused by stressful external events, and which she views as a spectrum on which we all reside.
In other words, trauma is going to show up in the coaching room, and we should be ready to work with it. She talked about recognising that “here-and-now” issues arise from “there-and-then” causes and that solutions need to be appropriately tailored with the powerful tentacles of these root causes in mind.
I believe I meet the consequences of trauma frequently in my work. My professional purpose is to enable people to unstick themselves from unhelpful historically formed patterns to create a new future, particularly mid-career women who are struggling with how to be senior and authoritative and successful and female, in a male-defined professional world.
Helping women step into their power involves reflecting on how they can move away from a historical legacy that no longer serves them. I work in the territory where coaching and therapy intermingle. I believe this is where deeper, more sustainable personal change happens.
This has led me recently to qualify as a Fusion Certified Therapeutic Coach in order to feel more comfortable – resourced, knowledgeable, competent – in working with issues traditionally defined as therapeutic.
This is in addition to my original coach training and a Masters in Organisational Change which emphasised the psychology of individuals and organisations, and ongoing supervision with an integrative practitioner.
And yet I don’t know where to turn for professional development or accreditation that sanctions and enhances this integrative way of working. None of the current overseeing organisations seem to know quite what to do with me.
We “talking helpers” continue to debate the many issues that arise from working in the integrative ground between coaching and therapy, not least how to ensure we have the appropriate competence as practitioners, and appropriate contracts with our clients.
How do we nurture the person-centred, responsive approach of drawing on a multiplicity of approaches, while putting in place appropriate safeguards for our clients? How do we evolve a governing framework which adequately reflects, supports and develops the way we are working in practice?
Until we have the answers to these questions, practitioners like me – and the attendance level at the AICTP conference confirms I am not alone – continue to test boundaries and push at definitions, as we work with our hopeful clients.
- Kate McGuire is a coach and founder of Fenner McGuire