• Many people may benefit from the accountability of having a coach, someone who can help you stay on track to meet your goals

  • Therapist and coach Amelia Goldsmith Lister explains what you can expect from coaching, and what the benefits are

  • If you would benefit from a coach to help you stay on track, start your search here

I first became aware of the existence of coaching about 15 years ago. I was attending a routine continual professional development session within a mental health service. It was a Friday afternoon and we were all feeling a little bit tired and despondent. Within minutes I was fully engaged. I was able to immediately see that the whole concept of coaching had the potential to be a game-changer for how I could work with people.

By the time I got to hear about coaching it was already ‘big in America’. This is probably not surprising, as the Americans are known as having a ‘go getter’ ethos in many areas of their life.

As an occupational therapist I was already used to thinking and working in a very solution-focused way. However, the concept of coaching presented a host of new possibilities, including user-friendly tools that could help the coach and the client to focus and, potentially, speed up the process of attaining the goals that they really wanted.

Coaching is now used in a variety of settings. It originated from sports coaching, but has spread out into the business world, life coaching, career coaching, leadership coaching, health coaching and more.

What to expect from coaching

Coaching is quite different from therapy/psychotherapy in that it does not usually involve ‘digging down’ into deeper issues. It may be seen as more superficial as things move quite quickly, but this is often exactly what people want. Coaches are trained to assist the client in identifying their true goals.

The process is very collaborative which is another reason why I like coaching so much. The coach’s role is to empower the client to really take control and get what they want, in the way that is most suited to them.

Often people already have a very clear idea about what they want, but are not quite ‘getting there’ for a variety of reasons. Causes for this may be intrinsic i.e. something ‘inside’, unconscious or emotional, like lack of self-belief, feeling undeserving or motivation problems. It could also be something extrinsic that is getting in the way. This for example could be a change resistant boss or lack of time. Coaches are skilled to help the client identify barriers and come up with solutions to move past what is holding them back.

Coaching can be quite a brief process. It is not usually necessary to have as many sessions as one would in talking therapies. Coaching may only require as few as six sessions, or less. It is not unusual for people to space the coaching sessions slightly longer apart than traditional weekly therapy sessions. This is to allow for time to implement and make the changes agreed upon in the session.

The benefits of coaching

As human beings, sometimes it takes us a long time to initiate and implement changes, even if we really want them. There are always so many other things that feel more important, or that we feel we need to do first. We are not always that good at really getting things done for ourselves, even if they really may benefit us. This can be true of doing things that are for our wellbeing e.g. stopping smoking, losing weight, having a better lifestyle, starting new hobbies or seeking the career we really aspire to.

Some clients have told me that they like being ‘answerable’ to a coach, as this increases their commitment and accountability ,and that it helps them to procrastinate less and move forward .

On occasion, a  coach may suggest to the client that they may benefit from talking therapy if they feel that there are deeper issues that may be getting in the way of progress.

I have been trained in a model called Personal Consultancy (developed by N. Popovic and D. Jinks) that combines both coaching and counselling. Research now indicates that there are more similarities than previously thought between these two domains. The model allows to move from coaching to counselling as required, in a seamless way.

When I coach clients, at the first or second session I often use The Wheel of Life. This is a circle that is divided into eight segments that measure satisfaction in key areas such as productivity, relationships, environment, spirituality, health, and leisure. It is great way to start the sessions as it highlights areas that may be lacking, and can help to really focus and prioritise which areas to change and improve.

I have worked with clients on a wide variety of goals, I will list a few to clarify how diverse coaching can be: dealing with challenging colleagues and a stressful work relocation, planning and changing a career including moving away from London, setting up a private Yoga business, managing work stress and a compulsion to get 10K followers on Twitter, weight loss, a 30-year-old wanting to leave home and find a girlfriend.

In summary, coaching is diverse, dynamic, and energising, and can bring great results. Working creatively and dynamically in a way that is very focussed on what each individual wants is very rewarding. I am usually able to see changes that occur from session to session (and sometimes, even within the session, if someone has a lightbulb moment!), so it's definitely something to think about if you are looking to change things in your life.

Amelia Goldsmith Lister is a verified welldoing.org therapist and a coach, in East London and online

Further reading

What's the difference between counselling and coaching?

Where success really comes from

Conquering public speaking

The all-or-nothing personality type: good or bad?

Why do some people get more stressed than others?