How to Maximize the Value of Coaching or Counseling

There is a wide variation in the results that clients get from working with me. Speaking of short to medium-term results, the majority get what I will would term very significant value from their sessions. They are able to sharpen their career, life, and or relationship goals; they get clarity on a path (or paths) forward to achieve those goals, and they acquire knowledge or enhance certain skills that help them get to those goals.

A not-insignificant minority find that as a result of their work with me they literally transform their lives in a relatively short period of time. Because they are imparted with new strengths, attitudes, and perspectives they are able to identify and pursue possibilities that weren’t even imagined before, or which might have been imagined but then dismissed as impractical or impossible.

And then there are those, again a minority but not a negligible one, that get little value from their work with me. Although this disappointing outcome results (in a general sense) primarily from insufficient time and commitment to the process, there are other elements to be considered. Here are three of the key factors that, in my experience, can help you make sure that you maximize the value of working with me or another coach / counselor / therapist:

1) Commitment

Examining one’s career, life, or relationship and exploring ways to change it is a challenging, complex, and often quite difficult process. You need to commit to doing what we mutually agree to (i.e. homework) in as complete and timely a manner as possible. Yes, emergencies do arise that can interrupt a schedule or plan. But “I didn’t have time” is an excuse that I simply don’t accept as a reason for not following through. Recognize that failure to meet commitments (again, barring a true emergency) is either a matter of misplaced priorities or of emotional blockages; both of these can be addressed in our work together.

There is another important aspect of commitment that comes into play: a commitment not just to complete assigned tasks, but commitment in a larger sense. Don’t let a setback or a disappointment derail this process. It takes time, and progress is generally made in a “two steps forward one step back” kind of pattern. Allow time for results to manifest. Also, frequency of sessions can often be an issue. If you are coming to see me only every three weeks, for example, you are far less likely to see progress than would be the case with weekly sessions, unless you are extremely diligent in working on mutually agreed to assignments between appointments.

2) Possibility

This is a factor that is difficult to cultivate but, to the degree it can be, will yield valuable dividends. Clients seeking my assistance are generally locked in to a way of observing themselves, their situation, and their prospects in an unnecessarily bleak way. Recognize that you’re probably viewing circumstances through an unnecessarily dark lens, and that unforeseen possibilities ALWAYS exist. Haven’t there been times in your life when a problem seemed insoluble but when a completely unexpected solution appeared “out of the blue”? Here’s a simple tool to help move you into a greater acceptance of possibility: on a 3×5 index card write LOTS CAN HAPPEN and tape it to your bathroom mirror or to the inside of your front door. Remind yourself of this truth frequently throughout your day.

3) Candor

It is hard to solve problems if they are not articulated. Generally, clients seeking my assistance have experienced some kind of setback or feel stuck, and as a result they often carry some shame about their situation. They feel they shouldn’t need to ask for help. Keep in mind that my interest is in figuring out and helping you solve your problem, not in judging you in any way, shape, or form. Yes, I do need to understand you, but I have no interest in evaluating your worth. What is critical is that I understand exactly where you are so we can plot the most promising path(s) forward. Think of me as a GPS: just as a guidance system will only work if it knows your current location, I need to know as completely as possible just where you stand: factually AND emotionally.

Relatedly, I will be most effective in helping you with the benefit of candid feedback from you. Sadly I am not omniscient, and sometimes my take on you or your situation can be off. If you sense that that is the case share that assessment with me. I pride myself on not being defensive; again, my interest is in helping you to the best of my ability, not in demonstrating how smart or right I am.

Finally, I pledge to you that these three factors are uppermost in my mind as I work with you. I am fully committed to providing appropriate and effective solutions, the curiosity and optimism essential to identifying possibility, and the candor to identify issues that are hindering progress to help insure an optimal result from our work together.