Catherine Sandler, author of the Psychology of Coaching, kicked off the morning sessions at the European Mentoring and Coaching Council London Symposium, held at Regent’s College, London. Sandler is the author of Executive Coaching – A Psychodynamic Approach.
In her session she talked through her use of psychodynamic approaches in coaching. She said the approach was one of many tools and models she used and that it was particularly effective with clients who are finding it particularly difficult to change.
Some notes from here session
The unconscious mind is our safety valve and the ‘dynamic’ in psychodynamic’ describes the dynamic ebb and flow between conscious and unconscious mind. This is driven by internal conflict. Feelings, thoughts and wishes move between conscious and unconscious mind.
We have psychological defences lodged in our unconscious mind. Common ones include
denial and repression. They are are necessary but can get in the way. They are formed at a young age.
When defences have been used rigidly early in life then they can get in way later in life. Coaches must think about the unconscious life and defensive patterns that have been laid down and work to loosen that defence and overcome entrenched patterns of behaviour.
Change and uncertainty and uncertainty can prompt us to use our psychological defences.
Suppressed parts of ourselves can be come invisible drivers of unhelpful attitudes, feelings, behaviour.
Letting go of entrenched feelings can be difficult for clients as there will be gap for them – they will need to fill it with new behaviours.
Transferrence and counter-transference – we tend to transfer aspects of past relationships with parents and others to significant relationships in the present, says Sandler. This has implications for any practitioner – client relationship. Transference – refers to the way the client relates to the coach.
Some implications of a psychodynamic approach to coaching:
- Don’t take things at face value – observe closely, tune in emotionally, look below the surface
- Expect indirect signs of anxiety – especially at the start of the coaching process
- Look out for other emotions – hidden or unconscious – guilt, for example
- Interaction is an invaluable source of data for coaches
- Focus on clients behaviour at work to identify characteristic behaviours
- Develop hypotheses about client’s emotional patterns but keep these to yourself and test against evidence
- No psycho jargon – build a bridge with client’s world
- Get alongside the client- create a strong working alliance and avoid triggering defensive emotions
- Remain within coaching boundary and focus on client’s effectiveness in their org context
- Actively promote observable, sustainable improvements in the client’s performance at work
Moving them from where they are now to where they want to be
Sandler: If what a client is saying doesn’t feel quite right then look deeper. there might be responses buried deeper in the subconscious
See what they do, say and behave and then trying to see patterns.