Coaching through Transition: Part II

Over the course of several Tuesdays — Transition Tuesdays — I am sharing one area of my practice that thrills me more than just about anything — coaching individuals with disabilities and their families as they transition from one life stage to another. Please note that while I’ll be describing a coaching scenario that is very similar to several families that I’ve worked with, it is an amalgamation of those conversations and is not based on any one family.

In Part I, I introduced you to Jon, Kate, and Dan and wrote a little about my approach to coaching families through the transition planning necessary to move students with disabilities from high school into an interdependent, adult life.

From here, I’ll share more about my role in working with Jon, Kate and Dan. I’ll also talk some about what it means to be “humanistic” in coaching… and I’ll hint a bit at how we’re going to get everyone on the same page and pointing forward.

Foundations of Family Transition Coaching

Coaching a family through a transition requires a balance of coaching, mediation, and networking skills that allow each individual to be heard, address potential conflicts in a person-centered manner, and build the natural supports that will help ensure long-term success.  The humanistic approach is based heavily on the work of Carl Rogers.

“It is through an optimal climate (empathy, positive regard, genuineness), in the relationship and provided by the practitioner, that the client’s capacity for self-growth is accessed.” — Carl Rogers

The humanistic approach has self-actualization as a foundational emphasis along with:

  1. a relational emphasis as the fundamental source of change
  2. a holistic view of the person as a unique being
  3. a belief in the possibility of freedom of choice with the accompanying responsibility –Stober & Grant

As Jon has likely experienced low expectations based upon his identified disability, it is especially important that I demonstrate high regard for him and support him in expressing his dreams in a safe environment.

Showing high regard for Jon and coaching him through goal-setting and attainment must be balanced with a measure of advocacy. I may need to work individually with his mother, who may see her son as a perpetual child, and with his father, who may not acknowledge some of his son’s real need for supports in identifying their roles in limiting their son’s options for future growth.

“People are masters of their own destiny in the sense that they take charge of their own development if they want to grow. Nothing can be done to make them grow; they grow only as they want to and as their own insights enable them to.” — Paul J. Brouwer

This quote is ever more poignant when you realize that, in some cases, the parents’ lack of growth can inhibit their son’s reaching his dreams. Part of this coaching process must address this reality if Jon is to have any realistic hope of launching into adulthood as an interdependent, self-determined individual.

One important note about my work with families: my goal is never — not ever — to undermine Jon’s relationship with the people who love and support him. Yes, I may work to help him build confidence while also helping him show his parents where he can soar without tethers, but I also recognize that every single one of us needs other people.

People do the best with what they know, and Kate and Dan are no different. It certainly isn’t my place to tell this family what to do — but I do see it as my role to open up the windows and allow some fresh ideas to blow in. What they choose to do with those ideas is truly up to them. As Martha Beck recently wrote so eloquently in O, The Oprah Magazine, it’s about loving without caring. Somehow, in my coaching, I am able to facilitate change without the impulse to control the outcome. I promise to share more about this balance later.

Tools of the Trade and Then Some

In order to achieve the foundational elements of this relationship – establishing trust, supporting Jon in being a self-determined individual, gaining buy-in from his parents on his goals, and building a strong circle of support – I pull from every evidence-based method at my disposal. I use aspects of The Learning Community’s Essential Lifestyle Planning – which the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid are studying through a five-year, five-state demonstration project – along with PATH planning, co-active coaching tools, person-centered assessments, and graphic facilitation methods that allow Jon to participate in conversations where he has traditionally been shut out.

In Part III, I’ll outline the process and the steps I’m using to walk Jon and his parents through his transition. And when I say “process and steps” I mean a delightful mix of gentle fact-finding, person-centered conversations, and fun facilitation with colors and markers and BIG paper! Wooohooooo!


For folks who like to know more, here are the references from this post:

Brouwer, P. J. (1964). The power to see ourselves. Harvard Business Review, 42(6), 156-165.

Helen Sanderson and Associates. (2007). Person centred thinking. Liberty, Missouri: HSA, USA.

Pearpoint, J., O’Brien, J., & Forest, M.  (1993). PATH: Planning possible positive futures. Inclusion Press:  Toronto.

Peterson, D. (1996). Executive coaching at work: The art of one-on-one change. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 48(2), 78-86.

Stober, D. R. & Grant, A. M. (eds.) (2006). Evidence based coaching handbook: Putting the best practices to work for your clients. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...