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Paul Dorrington - Coaching to make a difference


We caught up with the fantastic Paul Dorrington, winner of the Coaching for a Cause Award at the 2019 International Coaching Awards, to get a glimpse into the life of an award-winning coach. As we're all spending more and more time on Zoom these days, we invited Paul to sit down with The Coaching Academy for an insightful conversation about his coaching journey, coaching during COVID-19 and myths about mental health.

Paul Dorrington is a qualified coach, mental health recovery and vocational rehabilitation specialist and public speaker. He works with unrepresented groups both in his coaching business and in his role with the NHS – where he works as the Lead Employment Specialist for a service that helps people with severe and enduring mental health conditions rebuild their lives achieve their vocational goals. 

As a gift to the TCA community, he shared a course he created in collaboration with Sadie Hopson from WeWorkWell, about How to Cope with your Mental Health in the COVID-19 crisis. You can watch it for free here

A storyteller at his core, Paul shared stories from his coaching journey and how he got started in the mental health industry.  

“I have been a coach, counsellor, therapist, some form of caring professional/ mental health/ drug and alcohol worker for about 27 years now. I started my training with The Coaching Academy, must be 5-6 years ago. Before that, I've been in drug and alcohol services for young people at the age of 21. I had my own narrative as to why I entered into this profession, I had my own challenges (…) from a very young age and at the age of 21, I got a chance to turn that around and make it mean something. 

[That’s] where I began my journey into psychotherapy training. I qualified as a therapist at the age of 26, did outreach work with gangs on the streets, tried to get them off the streets into counselling. (…) About 17 years ago, nearly 18 now, I joined the National Health Service where I became a Vocational Rehabilitation Specialist, one of the first people in the UK to practice individual placement support model of vocational rehabilitation. Just to condense that, I help people of acute mental health conditions, rebuild their working lives, go back to work, start a business, or hold onto the work or business they have. 

And that brought me to The Coaching Academy world. (…) I attended The Coaching Academy weekend because I thought – uh, coach, I'm a coach, I know what coaching is about, I can do this. I can go away and become a rich life coach and go to America and start helping others… (…) The point being, I went to the coaching academy free weekend thinking -come on, I already know this stuff and it turned my life upside down. 

I found out not only wasn’t I coaching, I didn’t actually know what coaching was and I absolutely fell in love with it that weekend.” 

Watch the first part of the interview to hear more about Paul Dorrington’s coaching journey, find out how he applies his coaching and leadership skills and what role coaching plays in his life. 

With 27 years of experience in the mental health industry, Paul believes in the holistic approach to the recovery journey where therapy and coaching play two different but complementary roles in helping people get their lives back on track.  

“I work with people with rather complex mental health conditions, where they’ll have various needs. So for example, some of the clients I work with might be on medication, and that might be the best treatment plan for them, in terms of the complexities they have. And another client, they may need more specialist CBT counselling, or psychotherapy or trauma counselling. 

And my view of that, that’s only one part of recovery.

We did some research a few years back, what does recovery mean to them. It wasn’t treatment, it wasn’t therapy, it was generally home, relationships, family, friends. So my work works well if it’s integrated, if all needs are met. Because if I try, for example, if I try to wing it with advanced trauma therapy using coaching strategies, that actually I will potentially put my clients at risk.

And that’s something I loved about The Coaching Academy and the ethical framework and the training. What is coaching, what is mentoring, what is counselling, what the difference is? But what I discovered is, in my client demographic, sometimes one on its own won’t serve. 

So I have worked with people with complex mental health conditions, but I work in conjunction with clinicians so I know where the line is, and I know what I’m doing, how I’m doing it and it integrates. (…) So that all needs are met and I know what I’m doing within that journey. “

Watch the second part of the interview where Kris and Paul discuss life beyond illness, the role of coaching within that and how the current climate can affect people’s mental health today. 

How can coaches help clients in this difficult time? And how can anyone help themselves? Paul answered both of these questions and he also shared a gift for the TCA community, a practical course on how to deal with anxiety, depression, to understand it and help people cope with their mental health in the COVID-19 crisis. Watch it here.
A special thanks to Sadie Hopson from WeWorkWell who worked on this course in collaboration with Paul.

“My first tip is - start with you. There’s that lovely inspirational quote – you can’t pour from an empty cup.

That's quite renown but the reality of what that means is if your cortisol and your stress hormones are on an unhealthy level, then it's going to affect your immune system.

And the one thing before you even get out of bed, that you need to consider, is that the one thing you need right now in this crisis, if possible, is a healthy immune system.

So your own psychological, emotional,  physical health is paramount, especially if you want to serve others.”


If you’re a coach or serve others in any way, you’ll find many valuable tips in this third part of the interview. You’ll also find out why Paul does what he does, why he coaches in this industry and how he hopes to impact the people he works with. 

Paul Dorrington spends a big chunk of his time leading people as part of his NHS role and also coaches people with acute mental health issues through his Phoenix Transformational services business. 

Paul’s story shines a light on what it means to find strength in your values and lean fully into them to serve others. There are so many ways we can help each other and coaches can have a big part to play in the recovery journey. Listening to your own values will help you decide where your role lies. 

If you are a student of The Coaching Academy, let us know – why do YOU coach? We want to hear your stories so leave in them in the comments below! 


And if you would like to find out more about coaching and how it can change your life, just like it changed Paul’s and many other’s, start by joining us for a free online Introduction course. Choose available dates here.