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Eclectic Coaching and the Dangers of a One-Model Approach

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One of the most liberating moments for me as a coach was getting to the place of choosing a style and approach to coaching that aligns with who I am. At the end of the day, the coach has only their personhood to share with the other in an enabling journey. It’s more than tools, techniques and models. The key coaching question is, “how can I be fully present to my coachee on their journey?’

Recently I took up the generous offer of Henley Business School bursary to join their Professional Certificate in Coaching. I have coached and counselled for many years, having trained as a psychologist, consulted and worked in organisation development. Over all that time I did not brand myself as a coach. As I stepped into a new organisational role which had a substantial aspect of coaching, I felt the need to refresh my professional competence in what is a massive, burgeoning new discipline or market, depending on your perspective.

One of my big anxieties was my lack of knowledge and ‘certification’ in all of the new coaching methods. If you Google the net, you can be easily overwhelmed by the hundreds of methodologies, tools and techniques, each claiming to be the holy grail of coaching practice. I felt quite out of the scene in this regard joining the programme with a slight trepidation of being straightjacketed into the ‘Henley way of coaching’.

Refreshingly our facilitators, Prof Patricia Bosson and Denis Sartin took us on an inside-out journey as coaches; understanding human dynamics, our biases in how we observe the world and what it teaches us about us in the coaching role. Through the programme we had exposure to various, alternative coaching models and practices, not anytime being told that this or that is the right or the only way. My biggest take-away was the freedom and permission to develop a coaching practice that is integrated with my values, knowledge, skills and experience, whilst still maintaining the highest standards of professional competence.

This is what is considered an ‘eclectic approach’. I first came across this approach as a young student psychologist. After spending an entire year learning multiple therapies from client centred to gestalt to transactional analysis to psychodynamic and the list went on, I left the masters programme with a toolkit of therapies, each proven and valid in their own right. How do you assess which therapy is best for which client? As a young psychologist I ritually followed the different therapeutic modalities which made sense to me and seemed to have value for my clients. With time I started experimenting with different approaches starting from where the client was in their journey and using tools, techniques and insights from different therapeutic modalities that would serve the clients journey.

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