Coaching Through Transition: Part I: Getting Started


Central Park -- Gina Lynette

I love to coach. As I shared in my values post, I get practically giddy at the thought of nurturing and guiding folks safely and smoothly through change — transitions and transformations.

Over the course of the next several Tuesdays, I’ll share 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.

Coaching, by its very nature, is a highly individualized process involving the establishment of trust, the co-creation of goals, and ongoing support throughout the relationship. It is important when working with individuals and teams — but it is never more critical than when working with a family. Trust, co-creation, and support become trickier as we add individuals to the table, but I’ve spent my entire adult life gathering tools and skills that support individuals in assessing their current reality, establishing goals – both stretch and very realistic in nature – and enrolling their community in support of those objectives.

The Scenario

In this scenario, a family is interested in figuring out the process of transitioning their son from high school to a really, real adult life as part of his community. The son, Jon, expects to graduate at age 22 with the current class of juniors. He has been diagnosed with an intellectual disability and is receiving special education services at his local high school.

His parents are divorced but civil. His father, Dan, expects him to get a job and live on his own or with a couple of roommates. His mother, Kate, does not see him ever leaving home – there are way too many things that can go wrong. Jon’s circle of support includes extended family, classmates, several favorite teachers, people at church, and family friends.

The state where they live currently has a waiting list of about 8000 people with intellectual disabilities hoping for services and supports. With recent budget cuts, only the most urgent needs are addressed by the state system when enrolling new individuals into services. Having two living parents puts Jon near the bottom of the list of people waiting.

The parents of a classmate at school are working with me to do similar planning for their daughter. They shared my name with Kate while attending a transition workshop offered by the state’s Parent Training Institute. Kate called to find out whether I could help them figure out what their son will do after high school.

Establishing the Coaching Relationship

As Kate was referred to me by another family who is in a similar situation and who found the coaching process helpful, I’m already at somewhat of an advantage over a coach who is called from an advertisement. Kate, Jon, and Dan already have some idea of what I’m able to do, although they may not have a clear understanding of my overall role in Jon’s transition.

Even so, the first order of business is to establish trust while outlining what coaching can and cannot do for this family.

A partnership requires that coaches earn the trust of people they work with, so that can provide the right amounts of challenge and support throughout the process. — David B. Peterson

I rely heavily on a humanistic approach as a foundation of my practice and incorporate other tools and theories when needed. Walking this family through the transition planning necessary to move Jon from high school into an interdependent adult life, while paying attention to his hopes and fears and those of his parents, and helping them to build a strong circle of support will necessarily direct some of the content and most of the goals of the coaching relationship. How I guide them through this is steeped in my values, my training, and my solid belief that everyone deserves to be happy and included.

Because they do.

In Part II, 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.


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.

So it has been a month…

since my last post. Sorry to those folks who actually like to hear from me. I do appreciate the comments and support – and kick myself when I let so much time slip without writing. But then I remember that guilt and shame should not be my motivators and I let it go. Way. Too. Long. Bad habits die hard.

Yeah, I am still not back in the swing of blogging – funny how things that you couldn’t go a day without doing end up on the back burner. That goes for working out, too. However, I can happily/proudly/smugly report that I made it to the gym 8 times in the past month and am officially at 85/200. Yes, you could point out that there was a time when I would work out that much in a week. You could also point out that I have been sitting at 147 pounds since November. But that is when I would point out that this is my blog and I decide what is woot worthy. So there! 😉

I have sort of half-heartedly decided that I would like to get down under 140 pounds. Nothing official, mind you. Just one of those, “It would be sort of cool if I weighed less than 140 pounds.” I do realize that this is the same kind of thinking that went on the entire time I was gaining the forty-some-odd pounds that I have already lost. There is something to be said for being content. I don’t know that the same can be said for being complacent. I also don’t know which category fits.

The great news? I am so happy. Truly happy. Whistle while you work happy. Honestly. Yeah, it is tough raising my kids without a second set of hands nearby, but it is infinitely easier than attempting it with my heart tied behind my back. Life is so good.

Oh, and on the clutter front: there has been vast improvement in my house over the past couple of months. I have whole rooms that are (and stay) clean. Sure, the kids make messes. Yeah, there is lots more to clear away. But I have actually cleaned out closets that I hadn’t opened since we moved here 6 years ago. It feels wonderful to toss stuff in the garbage. Really. Cleaning out the house is a bunch like losing the weight. It feels so overwhelming when you start seriously thinking about it, and halfway through you wonder what you have gotten yourself into, but when you get to the end you feel great all over. It is so worth it. Now, from what I understand, maintenance is the hard part…

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