Bernie Forde is a counsellor and coach in London and online

What attracted you to become a coach?

For 20 years I was an entrepreneur, doing business around the world. The highs of the successes were amazing. But entrepreneurship can be isolating too. And being self-critical, I took minor setbacks personally. Eventually I turned to therapy, which helped me realise I’d had an unrealistic relationship with myself. I was amazed by the power of one-to-one conversations in transforming not only how I related to myself, but to others, and to life generally. Executive coaching was a way to bring such transformational experiences to people like me in the business world who may otherwise never have discovered it. 

Where did you train?

My MSc in Coaching & Behavioural Change is from Henley Business School. A deep and inspiring programme. I made ‘lifelong’ friends, developed great business contacts, even joined Henley’s faculty as executive coach for a while.

Great though this was, it wasn’t enough, because I was never comfortable with there being a boundary between coaching and therapy. A boundary is vital if you’re not trained as a therapist, but I could often see times when a client would benefit more from a therapeutic than a coaching approach, so it was tempting to push that boundary, to try to work more effectively.

Luckily I discovered Dr Nash Popovic at University of East London had thought deeply about this problem. Seeing significant benefits to the integration of coaching and counselling, with Debra Jinks he developed the Integrative Counselling and Coaching post-graduate programme, which I joined. This too was an amazing learning and personal development experience. I believe it’s unique as the only post-graduate coaching qualification accredited by BACP.

Finally, two years as an NHS trainee and honorary counsellor has been key to my development as a practitioner. An environment with exceptional support and guidance where I could challenge myself and grow in competence and confidence. I learnt so much there.

What kind of coaching do you offer?

Personal Consultancy. This means I integrate coaching for the challenges of life and work, with counselling drawing from a diverse range of psychotherapies. Counselling and therapy can help you deal with any cracks in the foundations, whilst coaching helps you rebuild the house the way you want it!

How does personal consultancy help people overcome their problems?

Bringing counselling and coaching together allows me to work with clients above and below the surface, on their past and their potential futures, to help them heal and repair where necessary, and grow to be more authentically who they want to be. It can help you gain perspective and work out what’s really important to you, so you can make better choices, aligned with your truest values.

What sort of coaching clients do you usually see? 

I used to work exclusively with business and government, flying around Europe and the Middle East to coach leaders of business and commerce. When I qualified to combine counselling with coaching, I wanted to work more with private individuals. Now I see people from many walks of life. Doctors, lawyers, bankers, accountants, professional athletes, entrepreneurs, police officers, estate agents, air crew, media personalities, tech people, engineers, even coaches! the list goes on and on. I’ve had clients from their late teens to their mid-80s.

Lately I’ve been working with a lot of younger adults in their 20s & 30s and their self-awareness and willingness to engage in the process impresses me so much.

Do you ever suggest books or other materials to clients?

Nonviolent Communication – A Language of Life, by Marshall B Rosenberg is a practical and insightful book on better ways to communicate that help improve relationships and get better outcomes. It’s hard to do it well, but well worth the effort!

Any School of Life video or book; I particularly like their little book: Philosophy in 40 ideas.

Lisa Feldman Barrett’s Ted Talk “You aren’t at the mercy of your emotions – your brain creates them” is a useful concept to grasp. And I’m a fan of Tim Ferris on YouTube, who combines ambition with being a practical thinker.

What do you like about being a coach?

The relationships my client and I create together can be immeasurably rewarding. These relationships are special, because we’re talking about what’s real and important, not skirting around. Trust and openness is at another level to relationships outside of this work. Every day, people are telling me things they think and feel, that they’ve never told another soul. And they trust me to be non-judging, yet honest with them, in return. It may sound cheesy, but doing this work, really is a privilege.

What is less pleasant?

Coaching and Personal Consultancy can be demanding and emotional, but there’s nothing about it I find unpleasant.

What is one life lesson you try to live by?

We create our own realities. Things only matter as much as we think and feel they do. Typically when we think of anything, we instinctively sense how much it matters to us. We don’t stop to consider whether we want it to matter this much, or more, or less. Sometimes we underestimate the importance of things, but more often we exaggerate their importance. We think “I must do X, Y or Z”. This really limits our choices. 

The more that we are willing and able to step back, get some perspective, and choose the degree of importance we assign to particular thoughts and feelings, usually the more choice we will have; what we really want becomes clearer, and we develop and grow as a consequence. Grasping this concept and integrating it into our daily lives can be liberating, reduce stress and enhance our creativity.

What do you wish people knew about coaching?

The paradox of change. The paradox is that in order to make changes in ourselves that are meaningful and lasting, we first need to accept ourselves as we are, with all our perceived limitations and imperfections. So I will always be trying to help you to recognise and to believe that you are absolutely OK, just the way you are, even when you are unhappy with yourself.

Do you have a favourite client testimonial or particular success story?

When a client tells me “this has changed my life” that’s enough for me.

Contact Bernie here

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