Last month, I explored quite a few of the most common myths about coaching over on our YouTube channel.
I explained how coaching isn’t just about goals, how it’s not just ‘a conversation’ and how it isn’t focused on making you happy. This time, I’d like to focus on a question that comes up in virtually every chemistry session I have with potential new coachees: why doesn’t coaching go on forever?
Why do people think this?
One of the main reasons for this misconception that I encounter, is people mixing up coaching with some forms of psychological therapy, which are based on a longer-term professional therapeutic relationship. This is easily cleared up, in my experience. Coaching is not therapy, counselling or mentoring – different helping relationships which can last a lot longer.
Another reason some people believe coaching will on forever (or at least a ‘very long time’), is that they’re in distress with a problem or challenge, and want to be reassured that help will be on hand for as long as they need it. This is a tougher misconception to deal with, but it’s important to rectify as soon as possible.
I make it clear early on that my job is to help clients be their own coach by the time our sessions have finished – thus, there’s no continued reliance on me, but rather empowerment to use new perspectives and skills after coaching.
Coaching: the reality
The kind of coaching I and other coaching psychologists provide is a time-limited activity. Built around a pre-defined number of coaching sessions, we build a coaching programme to extract maximum value from each session.
We work together – coach and coachee – in chunks of time, typically one hour, across a six month period. On the one hand, six months can feel like a very long time if you’re in a situation you want to get out of. On the other hand, when you’re cultivating new skills and attitudes, it can feel like it’s just not enough.
This is why it’s so important to reflect and take action in between the coaching sessions, to maintain momentum and make each conversation with your coach count.
Why six months?
There’s no evidence-based ‘rule’ that coaching must only last six months. But it’s usually a reasonable amount of time for someone to get clarity on their issue, learn more about themselves, and take the valued action that moves them towards a resolution.
Time-based boundaries support focus, accountability and action. Without them, a coachee may be tempted to string out coaching until they felt ‘comfortable’, which is not what it’s intended for. The central focus of my coaching practice is to help people do the stuff that matters most to them – even if it’s uncomfortable.
Coaching can represent a chapter in the book of your personal development, but it’s not the entire volume. It’s a tool in the development tool kit, but not the only tool.
Towards the end of a coaching programme, my clients will often ask “Does this mean I can never work with you again?” Even though it might sound like a contradiction, I’ll happily work with a coachee again in the future.
My door absolutely remains open to future coaching programmes – after all, as we continue through life, learning and developing, we can also face new challenges and new opportunities. Coaching may well be a helpful aid to these in the future. The point is, we’re not going to continue to work on the same issue or topic for years.
Why can’t going go on forever? Because ultimately, it’s not helpful, and doesn’t support the coachee in getting where they want to go to.
To learn more about the coaching ethos at WorkLifePsych, check out this introductory video on our YouTube channel. If you’d like to schedule a free, no-commitment chemistry session to discuss your coaching needs, you can book an appointment at a time that suits via our public calendar. Just visit worklifepsych.com/appointments and select a slot.