Client referral is one of the most important conversations that we have in Trauma Informed Coaching - when, why and how to refer coaching clients.
The Role of Trauma-Informed Coaches
As Trauma-Informed Coaches, or even Coaches in general, we have an ethical responsibility to refer our clients through the International Coach Federation (ICF). Given that we are non-clinical – we do not treat, nor do we diagnose clients – we need to be very aware when we are working with clients whether in the Trauma-Informed Lens or not, when what is going on with them may be outside of the coaching wheelhouse.
We make sure that any intervention needed by another professional has been taken advantage of and remembering that the intervention does also help with the process of the client getting to that solution-focused place and can save lives in the most extreme situations.
Why Refer a Coaching Client to Another Professional?
One reason that we look at referral is when the scope of work is outside of the Coaching wheelhouse. If the scope of work that our clients are bringing to us is way outside of what we do as Coaches, then at that point we want to consider referring the client to someone that is more capable. Only we as individuals can decide whether our Coaching ability can work with specific clients, so it’s very good to be able to check in with our ego and see where we’re at on that scale of one to ten in our ability to work with our client themselves.
We will also do this if we see some behaviours coming up for the client that they are unable to mitigate*. If we are working with the client and they have some behaviours that keep presenting themselves and we’re not able to assist them in mitigating those behaviours and they start interfering with daily functions, then we also want to think about that possibility of referring.
If we’re in sessions where we feel that there are too many barriers or are becoming stuck for extended periods of time with the client themselves and if we’re finding no solutions to move us out of that stuck area, then we want to be able to talk to the client about referral to make sure that they’re getting exactly what it is they came for from us as Trauma-Informed Coaches.
As Trauma-Informed Coaches, we are always mindful that if the issues are psychological in nature and are deeply seated emotional traumas, then we want to be able to make sure that the client is getting the best resources, that they are open to being referred and that we are only in their best interest suggesting this.
How to Refer a Coaching Client to Therapy or Other Support
Some of the ways that we suggest referral is that we are direct with the client, we can talk about some of the things that we notice as a Coach. We can say, “I have noticed over the last while that you have been commenting more and more about falling back in your process here.” We talk to them about where are they feeling in that scale of one (not at all) to ten (completely) with how they’re progressing in what we’re doing. If again some of the behaviours that they’re exhibiting are pointing to a deeper issue, we want to be open and listen closely that what they are saying to us, that what we’re mirroring back to them is encouraging them to seek other help if they’re not making progress within our lens of exploration.
The other thing we want to be able to do with the client is to be able to speak about other therapy and other modalities as being quite normal in the process of trauma healing. We do that as Coaches, we also want to bring that lens into the trauma arena because what we’re doing is working as hard as we can with the client in creating that alliance with them to do the best work possible, and sometimes it might not be with us.
As Trauma-Informed Coaches, we want to be very open to making referrals and consider being able to have other professionals like psychologists, psychiatrists, doctors, counsellors, and social workers that we may have on a referral list that we might be able to put our clients in touch with. Of course, we also want to consider in extreme situations that we also have other resources such as suicide hotlines and 9-1-1 in North America (or similar emergency response numbers in other countries) for immediate support.
We want to make sure our clients are being taken care of on all levels - the mental, physical, and emotional levels that we work with them on, and that we are open to the client’s process of evolving, awakening and growing.
*It is recommended that the client has been cleared to work with a Trauma-Informed Coach by their family doctor, psychiatrist or psychologist or providing Trauma-Informed Coaching in conjunction with these other professionals.
The International Coaching Federation (ICF) defines coaching as “Partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”
Very clean, very simple. As Trauma-Informed Coaches, we also partner with clients in thought-provoking and creative processes to maximize both personal and professional potential, however, on top of this Trauma-Informed Coaches have an understanding of what trauma is, and how it affects the body and the brain.
We are also able to respond when it shows up in the coaching session and take the trauma head on, while most coaches tend to skirt the topic as it makes them feel uncomfortable and out of their scope.
As Trauma-Informed Coaches, we tend to have a greater awareness for our clients' need for safety and we are taught to listen at the Fourth Level. This is important because most coaches listen at Level Three, this is what is taught in all accredited ICF ACSTH and ACTP programs. Trauma-Informed Coaches will also have the competence on how and when to assist our clients and present when they are having problems. We will recognize when our clients are in trouble and needing additional support beyond what we can offer, and we will have the resources to refer to them when needed.
Trauma-Informed Coaches are also very clear about the boundaries between therapy and coaching. We are able to avoid getting drawn into areas that are not appropriate in a coaching session, and we are clear that we do not treat and we do not diagnose. We leave this to the clinicians. However, we can work alongside them to support the client.
Who Usually Becomes a Trauma-Informed Coach?
Trauma-Informed Coaches usually tend to come from a traumatic background themselves, and/or have experienced a traumatic event in their lives. They want to support others moving through these types of traumatic events and tend to be more reflective and have done the healing journey and are ready to step into this line of work
What Training is Needed to Become a Trauma-Informed Coach?
A Certified Coaching Program in which you are being trained to coach at the Professional Certified Coach (PCC) level, and a coaching program that is recognized by the International Coaching Federation (ICF) - is certainly the first and most mandatory step to becoming a Trauma-Informed Coach.
Why do you want to train with an ICF accredited program? Courses that take on the process to become ICF accredited have to meet a very rigorous standard, it is not done overnight and takes a great deal of time. The ICF is considered the gold standard in coaching education and is the most recognized coaching credential in the world. If you're wanting to apply for a job or work within an organization, most of the time they will require that you either have an ICF credential or have taken an ICF accredited program.
If you have any further questions on Trauma-Informed Coaching, we would love to support you! Call 604-581-4452 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
How can you discover your niche market and live a life of passion and purpose while you do it from anywhere in the world?
I have had this conversation hundreds and hundreds of times over the past ten years, both with potential students and clients. I think I’ve come up with a simple way to get you started down the right path of living the life that you’ve always dreamed of.
Who Should Become a Coach?
I truly believe that coaching is a calling. It’s not something that you wake up one day and say, “Hey, I think I’m going to become a coach!” I believe it’s a series of events over the years that lead to one defining moment when we say to ourselves, “I want to help and support others.”
It doesn’t matter if you’re looking to become a life coach, a business coach, a Trauma-Informed Coach, or any other type of coach - the driver is always to serve others and support.
I want to share my simple, yet effective tool or formula for discovering your niche market while living a life of passion and purpose. You must have a pen and paper, and pause to write down some of your thoughts. The more detailed you can get on this, the better off you are.
1. Who is Your Perfect Coaching Client? If I were to ask you, “Who is your perfect client?” can you describe them?
How was this for you?
2. Immerse Yourself in This Life Vision
Now, I want to test this. I invite you to close your eyes or get comfortable in some way that suits you. Are you there, are you ready? I want you to imagine yourself getting out of bed in the morning, just opening your eyes and starting to formulate your thoughts. You pull your sheets back, put your feet on the ground, you’re thinking about the day ahead of you and the clients you’re going to be coaching. Can you see this? Can you feel how your day is going to be playing out? What do you hear from the people you’re coaching? Are you happy to be here?
Immerse yourself in this vision for a few more minutes and allow yourself to be here fully and completely.
As you come back into your body, I want you to scale this on a one to ten. One being this is not leading me to a life of passion and purpose, and ten being absolute, this is where I want to be all the time! Where are you scaling?
If you’re scaling at a seven or an eight, then you’re headed in the right direction and need to flush out the details a little bit more. It might be a good coaching session for you to do with somebody. If you’re at a nine or a ten, then really, you’ve nailed it. However, if you’ve scored six or less, this is not your niche market. It will not lead to a life of passion and purpose. That’s okay! It just means you need to dig a little bit deeper and flesh out a few more details.
3. What is Your Mess in Life?
So what is your mess in life? Yes, that’s what I said. “What is your mess, M-E-S-S, in life?”
Now think about this for a moment. All the struggles that went along with it, and the person you became because of it. If you can support one person to move through this same struggle, will you lead a life of passion and purpose as a result?
Pause here and ask yourself the same questions. Describe who this client is.
Immerse yourself in this vision for a moment, and be here fully and completely. Now come back into your body and go back to the same test. Close your eyes for a moment and make yourself comfortable in some way. Imagine yourself getting out of bed in the morning, just opening your eyes and pulling your sheets back off your body. Put your feet on the ground, think about your day, and the clients you will be serving and coaching.
Now, where are you scaling?
If you’re a seven or eight, you need to flesh out the details a little more and do a coaching session with somebody. If you’re at a nine or a ten, you have nailed it.
I hope this exercise helps you to discover more about your passion and purpose in life!
Please feel free to connect directly with me at my email email@example.com. My passion and purpose are supporting others in finding their niche and living a life they have always dreamed of.
The phoenix is a mythological creature that is
known for its resurrection.
When its life comes to an end, the phoenix collapses in a fiery pyre, depleted and drained, burning to ash before rising once more to be reborn. The analogy reminds me of trauma survivors that have endured such extraordinary situations and circumstances, and when the last embers seem to be fading from red to black, a great resilience reignites them and their wings spread. This ability to help transform our clients is the essence of being a coach, and one that works through a trauma lens.
As with the phoenix, trauma has been an enduring story for millennia, told through many different cultures and races. As you know, trauma is non-discriminating. It has no concern for race, color, gender, language, beliefs, or preferences. It can be a silent force that pays no mind to any of these dividing factors in our society. It can penetrate the most and least fortunate of people. It can perform its task in mere seconds or take its toll over time. Trauma is a force to reckoned with, but coaching has an innate ability to loosen its grip, with grace and ease.
This is what recovery can look like if they are ready
Like the phoenix, trauma clients have seemingly come to an end, exhausted, but there is hope for those who pursue trauma coaching as a resource. It is through coaching that they begin to reconstruct, regenerate, and resurface to be reborn. It is through this avenue of coaching that they learn they are uniquely remarkable, they are full of possibilities, and it is within their power to recover and rebuild that which they desire. This is what recovery can look like if they are ready for change.
For these reasons I resonate with the idea of the phoenix when we speak of trauma and coaching. I am always inspired by the ability to create a shift within a person tormented by memory and feeling, trapped in moments that no longer exist. As a coach, our ability to loosen the grip and invite change is a welcomed elixir. I am not taking credit for the inner workings of my clients. They do the heavy lifting, they envision new and enchanting ideas and ways to exist. Yet, as coaches we know how far to push, when to lend a hand and what question to purpose at any moment to propel our client forward. We recognize when the client’s barriers are deeper than the average coaching session. We have the knowledge of what is restricting and what flows. We form a relationship to uncover the awareness of patterns and behaviours that no longer serve them, then champion them to build a better life.
Trauma coaching requires all the baseline techniques that must be learned by any certified coach.
You will not only need a coaching foundation but the empathy and compassion to shine a light on the dark places. You will work with people who feel exhausted and with no ability to conjure the positive resources that free them from the captivity of their own memory. This constant wear on the nerve of existence depletes their resilience and leaves them unable to decode their own situation. This is where coaching comes in.
I have heard some say that trauma can’t be coached. However, with the proper techniques, coaching can work for clients who are experiencing trauma. Having more knowledge around trauma and its effects is essential when maneuver such areas and having a solid coaching education is an absolute necessity. It is the groundwork that compliments the trauma education that follows. With the expertise that comes from the Trauma-Informed Coach training, this will be some of the most rewarding work you ever do.
Processing trauma in a coaching environment happens several ways. Values and beliefs take top bill. Values and beliefs work is something that as coaches we investigate with all clients, but when working in trauma, it can release and strengthen a client immensely and instantly. Trauma by nature can dislodge a person from their core values, so in working with core values we strengthen their ability to focus on what is important and in which direction to head. Rooting out beliefs that no longer serve our “here and now” is another invaluable method to support trauma clients in building resilience. Shifting old beliefs or stories that no longer serve them, in order to author new stories that fill them with encouragement and possibility, is a practice for healing like no other.
We can come to a place of understanding.
We are currently in a pandemic which has amplified people’s trauma, and their ability to cope has come under additional stress. Physical and social restrictions can feel suffocating at times, and simple activities that went unnoticed day in and day out, executed without concern, are now cautiously scrutinized. Coaches’ have an innate skill that lends a hand that is firmly attached to the present we are living in and what clarity that can bring. When given the ability to make sense of our past stories we do not need to lose ourselves down the well of trauma. We can come to a place of understanding that what is agonizing today does not need to defeat us, but it can make us stronger.
Resilience allows us to confront the dragons, stare the giant in the eye and find our true north. Trauma-Informed Coaching offers this; a way to reconstruct, regenerate, and resurface to be reborn. Changing what exists into something with possibility, more life and more strength then could have ever been imagined. Coaches know our clients are capable and have everything they need within them, but it is our responsibility to bring that awareness, hold that space and encourage resilience. One question at a time, until our clients have honed their own skills to dawn a new day. Taking those last embers, fanning the flame and reigniting the phoenix, so it may rise and take flight once again.
As leaders in Trauma-Informed Coaching, Moving The Human Spirit is often asked how coaches can become involved with coaching clients who have experienced trauma, specifically coaching clients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The questions are: What is needed? Is the skill set different or are there special requirements to be able to do this type of coaching? What we have experienced with our various clients so far, is that each and every person, and their experience and definition of trauma, is different. What works for one does not always work for others.
How do you get started in Trauma-Informed Coaching?
The next question becomes: How do you get started in this field? There are no hard and fast rules, but based upon our experience, here is what we have found to be the most helpful to successfully working in this field called Trauma-Informed Coaching. A Certified Coaching Program in which you are being trained to coach at the Professional Certified Coach (PCC) level, and a coaching program that is recognized by the International Coaching Federation (ICF) - is certainly the first and most mandatory step to becoming a Trauma-Informed Coach.
We work along with our Moving The Human Spirit Associate Coaches who are trained in various other areas including the latest brain sciences, Emotional Intelligence, Conversational Intelligence, trauma counselling, Somatic Experiencing, Masters of Counselling Psychology and Master Practitioners of Neuro-Linguistic Programming, along with other various modalities that support in the process of healing and mastering the effects of trauma. As a Trauma-Informed Coach, it is very helpful to bring an awareness to the process of trauma in the physical body, how this connects with the mind/brain and how it may manifest itself in both. This is good insight when uncovering and releasing anxious states. There are other programs offered by several universities or colleges which Trauma-Informed Coaches may consider learning about cause and effect which will assist them when encountering clients who have experienced trauma.
Aware of the nuances of working with trauma.
As Trauma-Informed Coaches, we do not treat trauma – we are simply aware of all of the nuances of working with clients who have experienced trauma.
Trauma-Informed Coaches can help alleviate symptoms in trauma survivors by helping to create new positive experiences and diffusing event flashbacks. We assist with emotional and conversational intelligence, giving language to feelings when possible, supporting when there is no language for these, learning to manage the window of tolerance and supporting our clients to start to create a picture of a better future that they want for themselves, building this capacity little by little over time. As Solution-Focused Trauma-Informed Coaches – we acknowledge and honor the past where it is, honor the person for who they are now and focus in on starting to bring an awareness to the present and the positive possibilities of the future, including post-traumatic growth. We bring awareness to other feelings that may/may not serve the client at this time such as anger and unnecessary arousal.
Create a working relationship with professionals.
It is recommended that the client has been cleared to work with a Trauma-Informed Coach by their family doctor, psychiatrist or psychologist or providing Trauma-Informed Coaching in conjunction with these other professionals. If at all possible, it is best if you can create and have a working relationship with the psychiatric or psychologic treatment area that your client has been working with. It is highly recommended that your client discuss with their psychologist, psychiatrist or counsellor that they would be seeking a Trauma-Informed Coach to compliment the healing process. As long as the client feels strong enough to participate with the coaching sessions themselves, then you can form a client relationship that is supportive and successful for everyone involved.
From a Trauma-Informed Coaching perspective, the more specific coaching approaches or tools that have proven to be effective for post traumatic stress are:
• Checking in with yourself as a coach and asking: “Is this my passion to work in this field of Trauma-Informed Coaching?” “Do I have this capacity?”
• Knowing, understanding and practicing the difference between “empathy” and “compassion”
• Creating and holding a space of non-judgement at all times
• Listening and believing what the client says is true for them in that moment
• The Trauma-Informed Coach must leave their own “agenda” aside and out of the coaching sessions
• The outcome should be specific to the client themselves and what they want
• Meeting the client where they are at – in this present moment, in this day, week, month, year – remaining flexible to their present “state”
• Believing in the resourcefulness of the client – even during the times when the client does not believe in themselves
• More than anything else, the most important tool that can be used in coaching trauma survivors is holding a safe space for our client in each present moment
Positive short-term results include building trust with any trauma survivor.
Positive short-term results include building trust with any trauma survivor. Usually, the client’s world has been turned upside down and they lose trust in most areas of their life and with most people in their lives. This makes them more susceptible to post-trauma stress. As a Trauma-Informed Coach, it will take time to build this trust with you and for your client to understand what trust means to them now. If over time, you are unable to build this trust with your client, we recommend that you support a safe process of referring your client to a more advanced Trauma-Informed Coach in that specific field or seek another trained professional in which to refer your client to.
Trauma-Informed Coaches must be able to conduct sessions that may have lengthy silences, involve highly agitated states, or involve shutdowns in the moment. They require advanced listening skillsets when things are being said, understanding what is not being said or even a very brief “hmm”. While it may seem like nothing has happened in a session to us as coaches, this could seem completely different for the trauma survivor. When doing Trauma-Informed Coaching watch for these things: anxiety, disassociation, redirecting, and delusion. Tone and sound are incredibly important to the trauma survivor as it can take them in and out of a flashback. Be very aware of the breath and breathing of the trauma survivor when coaching them. If you are having a visual session, be aware of the body language being created.
Support the client to move towards mastery of their particular situation.
The overall goal of Trauma-Informed Coaching is to support the client to move towards mastery of their particular situation and supporting them to find and learn ways and practice tools and skillsets. This will help them to continually move towards a life that they want to create for themselves – perhaps a calm, peaceful and more enriched life.