Mental health and Coaching
In the last few years the phrase “mental health awareness “has become a buzz phrase used in all different platforms particularly in social media. There is no doubt that this has helped to raise awareness and get more people talking about their mental health, challenging the stigma and increasing people’s confidence by sharing their stories. And openly talking about their mental illness, highlighting some of the struggles people are or can be facing as result of their illness.
However, we still have more awareness to raise, as a life coach myself, inclusion is important to me, and I find it extremely challenging when people relate mental health to disabilities. It is the negativity that we allocate and associate with mental health that hurts me the most. Somehow it is always followed by the word’s issues or problems. And unfortunately, our mental health is still not seen as a fundamental part of our wellbeing, and like our physical health we have a duty to look after it and maintain it. The fact that some people are still confused between mental health and mental illness is disturbing. And given our knowledge of how much the body and mind interact with each other; we should be more aware that having poor mental health can happen to any one of us regardless of any diagnostics of mental illness.
So where does coaching fit in to all of this? We all know that unlike most physical illnesses, the signs of poor mental health are not always easy to spot. As a life coach dealing with people ‘s wellbeing, mental health is big part of that, and we have an obligation towards all our clients. But when we are coaching people who are stable but have history or are living with mental illness, we have an ethical obligation to get it right.
We all know the importance of engaging our clients and we understand that setting those strong boundaries from the beginning is a fundamental part of any coaching practice. But when Coaching someone living with a mental health illness or a history of it, this requires specific skills in my view. it is about having that honest conversation about someone’s mental illness and being open about it, addressing the impact of their illness on their coaching sessions. Identifying what support mechanism both medical and non-medical they have in place to ensure their mental stability. It is our duty as a coach to have clear systems in place where we are monitoring our client’s ability to manage their mental illness, reviewing things together regularly, highlighting any risks or concerns that effect their coaching. Empowering our clients to identify signs of deterioration and building that trust so they are able to share their concerns with us. This requires a lot of empathy and great skill of reading the signs when someone is deteriorating, establishing those agreements when psychological and medical advice is needed. Plus, our duty of ending the coaching contract when someone’s mental illness has reached a point where the coaching can no longer progress to meet its objectives.
I think a supervision is a must, but continuous development including specific mental health training could be a requirement for anyone taking those roles. Coaching cannot discriminate against those living with mental health illnesses, but we have an ethical obligation of ensuring that we are well equipped and have the relevant skills to do the job, as well as a clear understanding of our remit as life coaches.