Drawing a line – who won’t you work with?

Deciding not to work with a particular client is a really difficult decision, especially if a client appears distressed or vulnerable in some way.

The good thing is that this happens quite rarely. My inclusive approach to coaching means I am prepared to coach anyone who is well enough to be at work, whether or not they have ongoing health or wellbeing concerns. The basis for deciding whether to work with a client or not, is the same for all clients – are they able to engage with the coaching process or not.

However, a number of performance coaches are uncomfortable working with clients who disclose health or emotional problems and some consider it inappropriate to coach these individuals. This arises from an understandable wish to avoid blurring the boundaries between coaching and counselling and has long been an ethical minefield for the coaching profession even with the Codes of Ethics which are intended to help.

The difficulty is that coaches often assume that a client who would benefit from counselling is unable to also engage in coaching, or even that they are being expected to be a coach and counsellor. And yet as I see it, coaches can help people with wellbeing concerns to improve their performance at work without straying beyond their remit into therapeutic intervention.

As I said in my previous blog, I will discuss anything that has a practical impact on my client’s working life, including wellbeing concerns, as long as it is in the context of encouraging self-management and improving performance. For example, I can help clients think about the sources of help that are available but I stress that it is up to them to make that happen.

Nor would I hesitate to work with a client who was seeing a counsellor or health professional provided they are in work and able to engage with the coaching process. I also think that counselling and coaching can complement each other because in my experience a positive emotional life and a productive working life often go hand-in-hand.

I’m confident that coaches can make a positive difference, but we should all be prepared for clients to share their personal issues and respond professionally when they do.

In truth, I don’t believe we can afford to be uncomfortable when wellbeing and health issues are a fact of life for so much of the population.

My next blog will ask how coaching professionals should change their approach to wellbeing and boundary setting