Home » Blog » Coaching clients with traumatic background

Understanding the role of a coach means remembering what coaching is and what it isn’t. It is not ministry or therapy or healing. A minister’s role is to provide spiritual guidance; A therapist’s role is to explore, dissect, and work through emotions. It is not a coach’s role to do any of these. Coaching doesn’t focus on feelings; it doesn’t delve into them to try to understand and explore them. It does, however, acknowledge emotions, especially in a crisis situation.

A successful coach focuses on normalising and bringing into perspective the emotions that a person encounters as a result of stressful life events. Feelings emerge — we’re human, this is perfectly normal. It is important for the coach to first recognise and describe the emotions they are experiencing. Therefore, allowing the client to understand his or her responses and emotions in relation to the rest of the case.

Conversations that involve conversations about trauma are made when the coach knows what trauma is, how it presents in the coaching room, and how to respond. In compliance with predetermined rules and contracts, all of this was done.

Trauma-informed coaching isn’t:

  • Practising as a fake-therapist or entering the domain of therapy
  • Engaging with clients who would be better helped by a therapist
  • Working only with those with obvious signs of trauma, such as PTSD or addictions.

Do not ignore the feelings of the client

Feelings, neither our client’s nor ours, should not be neglected. As coaches, we need to be mindful of our emotional reactions and how a client might be influenced by those reactions. Do we get hooked by something that a client is going through?

It may be that a client’s trauma is very similar to one in our own lives, and we have difficulty distancing ourselves from it. Or it may simply be that this client and his or her life are emotionally invested in us, which causes regular, natural sadness. But it must be discussed when the grief overwhelms us or causes us to shut down and remove ourselves from the client.

Making the client aware of their own trauma

The self-awareness of trauma shakes the foundations of one’s biography and strengthens a new view of personal experience.

With each new traumatic event, the resolution imaging increases. Unfortunately, one experiences a new traumatic phase as one becomes conscious of the trauma, which may intensify the trauma or delay the appropriate care.

Knowledge of a traumatic experience does not offer any relief, contrary to the psychoanalytic belief that awareness relieves or reduces traumatic symptoms. We can clarify to the client what’s going on while remaining true to our position as a specialist at the same time. Our help is needed and warranted by the client, and our appropriate role is to ask how best to coach the client at the moment.

Nuances of a Trauma-informed coach

Trauma-informed coaches have a working knowledge of trauma, not as deep as the criteria of a therapist, but adequate to identify and explain what it is. From conception onwards, they also understand the circumstances that generate the permanent neuro-physiological trauma response.

To be able to explore their survival habits and personalities, clients need to feel comfortable. Not all coaching environments allow this, and the context may be sensitive to trauma-informed coaches.

  1. These coaches are able to listen to the signs and symptoms that, both in the client and in themselves, may be part of an internal trauma system.
  2. Without any intention of becoming diagnosticians, they have innovative approaches to obtaining autobiographical knowledge.
  3. They are eligible to encourage the client to discuss potential associations between ‘there and then’ and ‘here and now,’ and to focus on what behaviour is healthy for their well-being in the present.
  4. They also feel secure about when and how to raise the trauma problem, and how it should be addressed to the client, while remaining securely in the partnership and approach of coaching.

In short, as coaches we need to be sufficiently self-aware to deal with the reactions we’re going to have. In regular coaching, as well as in traumatic situations, we’re going to have emotional reactions — we are going to get hooked from time to time. The best response is to have the support necessary to deal with it and remain effective. At the end of the day, the coach must remain a good coach.