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Mental Health & Coaching: A Therapist's Perspective

The Coaching Academy Blog

Posted: March 2020

Rebecca Tucker is a Psychological Life Coach and CBT Therapist who won the Best Newcomer Award in the 2019 International Coaching Awards. Today she's sharing her best guidelines with TCA students and not only, on protecting your mental health as a professional.

As a Psychological Life Coach & CBT Therapist, I support people in managing their mental health and often get asked by clients and colleagues “How do you protect your mental wellbeing?”

It is increasingly understood that 1 in 4 of us in the United Kingdom experience some kind of mental health issue and Coaches are no exception to this.
As a Coach, one of our main priorities is the clients that we support. Most of us spend a majority, or part, of our careers, helping our clients to reach their full potentials, achieve their personal and career goals and build the lives they wish to create. 

However, how often do we as coaches focus on our mental health and psychological wellbeing? Supporting others, in any capacity, can significantly impact your mental wellbeing. Just like everyone else, we can also experience low mood, stress and anxiety either as part of or separate to our line of work. 
Whether you consider yourself to have a mental health problem or not – it is important to take the time to develop and maintain your mental wellbeing. I’m sure you have heard of the saying that ‘You can’t pour from an empty cup’, which applies in this context also. 

You are an important ‘tool’ in your client’s development and your emotional and physical batteries must be charged. The most effective coaches will have high levels of self-awareness, psychological resilience and emotional intelligence.
To support your clients to be the best they can be, you need to feel competent and confident in understanding your thoughts, emotions and behaviours and the interaction they have with each other. 

In practice, this looks like being aware of your own psychological and emotional states and how they influence your coaching and then taking appropriate action.
Taking this investment in you, will, in turn, be beneficial not only for yourself but for your clients as well. 

Here are my top 4 tips and advice for building and maintaining positive mental health as a Coach.

          1. Make Use of Supervision

All coaches or therapists need to have the opportunity to talk through their personal and professional problems, offload and gain perspective from a fellow professional. 
I regularly meet with my supervisor to discuss difficult cases, particularly those that I know might be a trigger for my issues. It can also be a necessary chance for reflection. 
I remember discussing a ‘theme’ in supervision whereby it seemed like most of my clients that week had been feeling low in motivation, fatigued and unenthusiastic. Upon hearing this, my supervisor simply asked: “And how have you been feeling this week?”. It was such a simple question but yet it occurred to me that I had been feeling unmotivated, lethargic and subdued too. 
It’s so important to be mindful not to merge too much with your clients and maintain a sense of self-awareness and separateness between your own and your client’s experience. 

        2. Schedule Breaks Between Appointments

However best you work, I think it’s so important to block out time in between client appointments. Taking small, regular breaks is important for so many reasons, such as improved focus, productivity and stress management. 
Typically, my client appointments last between 45-60 minutes – sometimes longer (i.e. 90-120 minutes) and I do my best to ensure that I protect at least 15 minutes before my next appointment. During this time, you might find it helpful to:

  • Take a mindful moment
    Take a moment to breathe deeply and tune into what is happening in your body, your mind and your environment. This can help you to reset between sessions and be as mentally recharged for your next client, as possible.
  • Reset your physical state
    If you are sat for long periods, it will help to stand up, shake your legs and get your body moving. This can also be useful to do during sessions with clients if you notice that the energy is quite low and stagnant.  

         3. Regularly Check-in with Your Mental State

Give yourself a quick mental check and ask yourself these 3 simple questions.

  • “How am I feeling right now?”
    Check-in on your current emotional and physical state.
  • “What do I need right now?”
    Consider if there’s anything you can do at that time before your next client appointment. For me, it’s usually drinking an extra cup of water or doing all of the above.
  • Finally, “What changes do I need to make to improve my mental state?”
    Consider what you could do after work to improve your mental state. For example, visiting a friend, going to the gym or going to bed early. 

        4. Permit Yourself to Pause

One of the most important things I’ve learnt and exercised during my career is to alleviate myself from the fear and guilt of stepping away. 
It takes a strong person to acknowledge their difficult feelings and work through them. If I am in a poor mental or physical state, I ensure to take time out to process and heal myself until I am in a stronger position to help my clients. 
This might look like rescheduling my appointments or having days off. Your clients won’t benefit from you continuing to push through and ignoring what your body is telling you. 

Remember that it is not just harmful, but also unethical to practice if you are unfit to do so.

This article has been written by Rebecca Tucker, Award-Winning Psychological Life Coach, Cognitive Behavioural Therapist and Trainee Clinical Psychologist. 

Let us know – how do you focus on your mental wellbeing? As a coach, it is your job to hold the space for your clients and it is challenging to do that if you’re low on energy and focus. 
So share your best tips with other TCA students in the comments below!

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