5 Things to Remember for Those Starting Coaching, Therapy or Counseling (and 5 More For Coaches, Counselors and Therapists)
1) Have some instructions for how best a coach or counselor should work with you. Write them down and take them with you for your first session. Know your learning style. Have examples/anecdotes ready to illustrate this.
2) Ask about professional credentials, experience and client references.
Ask questions about them when you get them.
3) If the coach/counselor insists on doing it his or her own way, find someone else. Give a professional at least two sessions if you think it may be workable in spite of misgivings and only three if you continue to have serious doubts. Let them know you are doing this.
4) Regardless of the feeling content, much of your first session will be concerned with creating a kind of business contract. Your job is to make sure your prospective counselor/coach can fulfill their end of the contract. Have a time period in mind or how many sessions you think will be necessary to accomplish your goals. Avoid those who seem unable to make at least a preliminary plan for how long you will be seeing them. You can always reset the goals and time at a later date.
5) Never let your fear of hurting someone's feelings prevent you from asking questions about the direction of your work together, the purpose of time used on something that seems peripheral, or how anecdotes from their own life relate to the work you are doing.
For Coaches, Counselors and Therapists:
1) Listen first, listen long, listen by asking for more and clearer information. Reflect reflect reflect.
2) Use silence as a friend to revelation and mindfulness. Listen to it.
3) Moving into problem solving or advice-giving too soon does not work. In fact, I would say advice-giving is rarely advisable and most effectively used only when sought (even then, eliciting reflection about why advice is being sought may be more effective) and rarely. If you are moved to give it without it being sought, ask for permission first.
4) Be aware of cultural norms and ways of communicating. Ask questions about cultural norms before evaluating speech patterns and nonverbal communications according to your own norms. It might be good to have a routine set of queries about cultural norms as a part of your intake interview/s. Remember that your own norms, regardless of how familiar you are with them, can remain so prevalent that they are invisible to you. Differences in cultural communication norms are innumerable and vary from family to family, neighborhood to neighborhood.
5) Be patient and wait for indications of an entrance into spontaneous problem solving initiated by the client. Amplify and build on that.