A Blog about Sensory Processing Sensitivity from the Worldview of a High-Sensing Male
Well, it's the first of the year again. Many people start trotting out new year's resolutions at this time of year – new year, new you. Many folks, including many HSPs reach out to get help from coaches and therapists. Therapists are licensed health professionals who must undergo extensive training and education to become counselors. Coaching is a much newer profession and is not nearly as regulated as psychotherapy. The focus of this article is on the selection of a coach.
The entire bar into the coaching profession is actually pretty low. This is not to say that there aren't many good and effective coaches out there. They may not have all the credentials you might hope for, but the impetus is on you, as the consumer, to vet them. Some coaches have great credentials – an accreditation from ICF or CoachU or programs certified by these bodies. However, life can be a great teacher, experience creates wisdom (sometimes), and this has to be considered as well, and there aren't any certifications for that. In sum, even with degrees and credentials that do not necessarily make the coach perfect for you, armed with this knowledge, you start on a sure footing.
Coaching can be quite an investment in yourself; like any self-help activity, results are very seldom guaranteed. It can also be pricey. Admittedly, I have been somewhat skeptical of the coaching ideology since I first came in contact with it in the late 90s. I have in the past worked with both coaches and therapists and have had mixed results with both. The coaching field has evolved over the years, often bringing about hybrid coaches/therapists or coaches with more specialized coaching techniques that produce outstanding results. It's an evolving field and will, at some point, become regulated.
My experiences could be somewhat biased, but I think it is very important for everyone to do their due diligence. With you doing your homework, you can feel better about investing sums of money in coaching. So let's look at some things you might want to look for.
What is a life coach? The Basics
A life coach is a type of professional that helps people achieve goals and objectives to gain greater life fulfillment. Coaches can help you clarify and quantify your goals and help with strategies to overcome obstacles using your talents and skills.
There are many life coaches, from career, business, financial, health, spiritual, and of course, generic life coaching. For HSPs, there are now many individuals devoted to supporting HSPs in life decisions, most of whom are HSP themselves.
One thing to remember is that a life coach is not a therapist. With that said, many therapists are now moving to the coaching field, so ex-therapists are now becoming life coaches. In my opinion, this gives those individuals a distinct advantage – they can recognize mental health issues vs. coaching issues and make that differentiation. They are also skilled in working with clients and have learned to listen to them and offer help. Hence, these hybrid coaches can wear different hats. But, many life coaches don't have that background. If you select a life coach with a therapist background, I suggest you discuss this with them before you begin the engagement. There may be local, state, or national rules about what services they can provide while wearing the coaching hat.
One of the great benefits of using a life coach is to have an objective point of view, especially in areas where you are stuck. The coach's insights might make the difference in whether you progress through the obstacles or remain stuck in the mud. If you experience success with a coach, you can likely translate the investment you made with them into financial success, which justifies the cost. Having a more successful and satisfying life working with someone who sees your abilities and helps translate them into demonstrable and measurable goals is very rewarding.
One of the greatest benefits of working with a life coach is accountability and having someone hold you responsible for the goals you set. This can be very motivating and may be the push you need to break through.
There have been studies showing the effectiveness of coaching in reducing procrastination, improving self-efficacy, and showing improvement in organization settings for functional improvements. However, like many things in life, success is more likely if the right coach meets the right client and both are motivated.
Coaching and HSPs
Since many therapists out there still do not understand the HSP trait, nor have any training in supporting HSPs or discounting the trait, be even more cautious working with coaches. As stated earlier, many HSP coaches are out there now, many of whom have therapeutic backgrounds and are HSP themselves. And they can cover the same diverse coaching landscape that non-HSP coaches do. My advice is to focus on HSP coaches. I think you will find the experience is much more positive working with someone who understands you.
Dr. Elaine Aron's website, www.hsperson.com, has a page devoted to HSP coaches. She only accepts those on the list certified by ICF and at a professional level. She offers a few caveats for selecting a potential coach, and I suggest you check this out.
If you choose to use a coach, especially a non-HSP coach, because of their reputation or because they have a specific specialty that you need help with, make sure they understand your trait and use your intuition about whether to go forward. That's an individual decision based on your needs and how well you can work with someone who may misunderstand you or your trait. To be fair, there are many coaches out there that are non-HSP that can still be very effective for you. Educate them on your HSP characteristics.
Tips and Cautions
I would say the number one thing is to know what you want. What are your goals and objectives? Are they demonstrable and measurable? What are your time limits for achieving your goals? Are you focused, specific, or somewhat hazy and need help deciphering your goals? You are at a distinct advantage if you know what your goals are. You may not know how to get there, but at least you know the destination.
Interview at least three coaches to determine their style and the rapport you have with them, and get your specific questions about them answered. Many coaches will give a free 20-30 minute interview to get you comfortable. If they don't offer this, then walk. I feel this interview is so important; it should not be bypassed because you must invest your money to vet them. Of course, I get the whole thing about monetizing every minute for a coach. Still, if you can't allow a potential client to interview you for a few minutes, I don't think I'd want to work with them, especially if you are going to invest a sizable amount of your money with them.
Confirm their credentials. Ask them about certifications, experience, education, and client successes. Then, you can judge where you think they fit in with your needs.
And manage your expectations. Coaches aren't miracle workers, so don't expect immediate results. This process requires patience, work, and diligence, most of it on your part. Make sure you and your coach have rapport. And finally, do a cost/benefit analysis to justify any high-cost fees. Some high fees are justified, but the benefit better damn well be there. And only you can determine that.
I know many HSP coaches and am meeting more as I continue down this path. They are all excellent people and thoughtful and purposeful coaches. Yes, it is indeed a wide-open field, but with some diligence on your part and knowing what you want, I think you can find a good coach to help you with whatever needs you have. Good luck with your search.
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Bill Allen currently lives in Lutz, Florida. He previously lived in Bend, Oregon. He is a certified hypnotist and brain training coach at BrainPilots.com. He believes that male sensitivity is not so rare, but it can be confounding for most males living in a culture of masculine insensitivity which teaches boys and men to disconnect from their feelings and emotions. His intent is to use this blog to chronicle his personal journey and share with others.