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Your Goals!

28 Jan

I think it’s great if one of my grandchildren gets a goal in soccer! In every sport there is a mark to attain, whether it be in competition or to mentally note as one’s personal best Both objective and subjective goals are important indicators of
where we have been
where we currently are AND
where we want to go!
If we want to improve our lives, we may want to enlist a coach or counselor, and that’s where

“How to Get the Most from Counseling and Coaching”

comes in. Jean Eva’s book begins Chapter Two with “Goals Based on Relationship Issues.” What do you suppose is the main issue couples come to counseling? You guessed right: communication issues. These issues run the gamut from physical hearing problems all the way to complex communication about how and why a partner feels hurt. And these hurts can be compounded when replies are curt or sarcastic. What is often not realized is how the partner’s past experiences influence current feelings and behavior.
That is why couples counseling is not so simple and why it does involve unraveling the past — childhood memories and the aftermath of previous significant relationships. However, when couples can learn to actively listen to each other, they will each feel heard and understood. This alone is like a balm to soothe away the roughness of past hurts.
In choosing a couples counselor you will want to look for the following skills in your counselor:

1. impartiality; will hear and NOT judge each one of you
2. a teacher of communication skills — verbal and nonverbal
3. ability to help each of you to express emotions
4. ability to help you reflect back your partner’s emotions
5. takes time to get to know each of you individually
6. knows about personality type and can assess each of you through the MBTI
7. someone who can work with you individually AND in a relationship

Next article will look at some of the issues couples commonly face!

Factors to Consider in Choosing a Counselor

18 Jan

Perhaps you are stressed out beyond belief and you really feel as if you’d like to talk with someone who could be objective in helping you set priorities in your life. How would you go about choosing a counselor?
Or maybe you and your spouse have periods in which your relationship seems problematic, and you wonder whether the good times outweigh the bad or vice versa.
As you think about working with a trained counselor or coach, you should give thought not only to the geographic distance of the counselor’s office, but also to what factors might impact the quality of the helping relationship with this person.
So let’s look at whether you have very specific goals in mind, or whether you just want to get through a very rough time in your life. A specific goal might be dealing with your fear of speaking up in public, which you need to do every week at staff meetings. Or perhaps your “rough patch” has to do with a series of personal and/or professional losses. In scenario number 1 you will want a therapist who will specifically help you become more self-confident in public speaking (and maybe in other areas as well!).
In case number 2, you will want a therapist to guide you through grief and re-direct your attention toward hope. You will need support to let go of your loss and encouragement and creative thinking to embrace new directions in life. So based on what you perceive your goals to be, you will begin thinking about what you can expect from the relationship.
Of course, there are many other factors to consider, including the counselor’s philosophy or life values. Often you can get a glimpse of how a counselor presents him/herself through their website. Of course, you will do more research, including calling the counselor’s office and requesting a few minutes of her time. Your own values should be reflected somewhat in those of the counselor, so here are some questions to ask yourself:

1. How important is family to you?
2. How important is family AND community to you?
3. What values do you hold dear: courage, kindness, loyalty, privacy, compassion, etc.?
4. How do you balance career and personal life?
5. Do you have a spiritual life, and if so, how do you practice it in your daily life?
6. What are your views on social justice?
7. How important are money and material things to you?

The answers to these and similar questions will guide you not only in choosing a counselor who meets your needs, but also in beginning your own path to self-discovery.

New Book: How to Get the Most from Counseling and Coaching

14 Jan

Jean Eva has recently published a new book to help those just beginning counseling or those contemplating returning to counseling or coaching. She believes that many more individuals and couples would embark on a counseling journey if they knew more about the options: What to expect from a counseling relationship; how to formulate goals; how to negotiate fees; and so on. This is what one of Jean Eva’s reviewers wrote about her new book:

“Jean Eva’s book is straightforward, simple, to the point, and wise. She covers everything one needs to know prior to choosing a coach or counselor, and is also beneficial to those who have already started seeing a professional. What a GIFT — for a professional coach and counselor to share what she knows about the process you may be going through — something I’ve never known a provider to do before!

Whether you desire to be on a journey of self-discovery, healing, overcoming obstacles, making decisions, achieving a particular goal, or obtaining more self-confidence, this book is a MUST READ!” — Lyn Kelley, Ph.D., MFT, CPC

I will discuss the contents of Chapter 1 in my next blog article. In the meantime, pick up a copy from the convenience of your own home. You can download it on the Kindle app or buy the paperback version on Amazon.

Volcanoes and Traumas!

11 Jul

It was pretty obvious when the tsunami hit Indonesia in the early 2000s that this horrific natural disaster would have far-reaching consequences — to the people who lived in this region, to their homes and economic well-being, and to the holiday visitors all taken totally unaware.

Like a tsunami or a volcano which remains dormant for years or decades, a trauma can “go underground,” with the trauma victim “carrying on as normal.” But the fact is that those who have suffered a trauma are severely handicapped in their ability to cope with life. The time between a trauma and the after-effects presented in therapy can be as short as one hour or as long as decades. There are innumerable events which can precipitate a trauma in anyone’s life:

  • an accident in which there is a loss of any kind, including loss of life, injury, loss or damage to property
  • any kind of natural disaster, including but not limited to fire, flooding, earthquake, volcanic eruption, mudslides, tornadoes, tsunamis, hurricanes
  • a war zone, including any violence experienced in an inner city environment
  • rape or incest
  • bullying, whether that be in person or in social media
  • numerous traumatic incidents during childhood and adolescence, including physical fighting or verbal abuse in the family
  • lack of emotional connection to others in the family
  • alcoholism or other addiction
  • a hostile work environment

Any and all of these experiences are of course experienced through an individual’s unique person — his/her personality type, psyche and physical constitution. A hallmark of PTSD is that the person feels that his/her very being is threatened by extinction. We can easily see this in the horrific events of war or in natural disasters. Yet when a person enters a hostile work environment most days of the week and remains there from early morning to late afternoon, he may feel that his inner being is being extinguished. He may have the same symptoms of post-traumatic stress as a survivor of an enemy attack. Let’s look at some of the symptoms:

  • flashbacks to the traumatic scene
  • hypervigilance and/or a startle response
  • triggers that reactivate the traumatic experience
  • dreams in which the distressing events recur
  • overreacting to others’ verbalizations
  • sleep disturbance
  • negative or depressive emotional state
  • inability to remember aspects of the traumatic event(s)

Counselors who have special training to help clients with post-traumatic stress usually employ EMDR and/or Brain Spotting. EMDR is an earlier technology developed in the early 1990s by Francine Shapiro. The letters stand for Eye Movement Desensization and Reprocessing. The client talks about the scenario which initiated the trauma, and the therapist gathers information, including

  1. What is the worst part of the scenario?
  2. What is the image (mental picture) you have of the experience?
  3. What thoughts do you have about it?
  4. What beliefs do you have about yourself in this situation?
  5. Where in your body do you feel discomfort as we talk about the trauma?
  6. On a scale of 1 – 10, where 10 is the highest imaginable discomfort, where are you right now?

The therapist then initiates eye movements or hand movements to begin release of the trauma from the client’s nervous system. After a series of biolateral movements, the client and the therapist debrief, noting if anything in any of the above modalities has changed. The therapist will then make an intervention and proceed with another series of eye or hand movements.

In Brain Spotting, the therapist will normally make use of biolateral sound delivered through headphones hooked up to an IPod or an IPhone. This is a newer technology developed by David Grand, who initially was an EMDR practitioner. In helping athletes overcome “mental blocks” which prevented them from achieving a new level in their sport, he discovered that if he lingered over a specific eye position, there was a release of trauma from the area of the brain associated with the eye position. After much research and study, he developed a course to teach therapists how to deliver brain spotting, which focuses on the body and specifically the nervous system as the “container” of trauma. Brain Spotting is truly an amazing and effective tool to aid trauma sufferers.


“What Was That?”

1 Jul

“I don’t get it! What are you trying to say?” Sometimes when we are with a person we know fairly well, we are dumb-founded by a comment they make or a reaction they exhibit. We wonder where it is coming from. This is especially true when your friend seems to overreact to an event or a comment. Her reaction seems totally out of proportion.

You may not have thought that this was stemming from the other person’s nervous system. It can well be a psychophysiological response! Thus it’s not just attitude!

In the universe Earth is sometimes pommeled by an asteroid or a comet. Or the dust from a nuclear explosion obscures the sun so that there is no growing season for quite a while. Traumatic events like these occur from time to time. Some of them are man-made, such as the recent nuclear reactor failing to cool in Japan. Others occur naturally, such as a tsunami that hit Indonesia several years ago.

In the microcosm of our individual lives events of parallel proportions sometimes occur. And people are able to recover equilibrium to a greater or lesser degree. For example, following the death of his wife, John was unable to go back to the home they had jointly shared. He chose instead to stay with one child, then another, and finally stayed with a sibling for a while. After short-term counseling he was able to go home, get connected with a grief group, and begin his former activities. If all continues to go in that direction, he will reestablish connections with friends and community and once again have a satisfying life.

However, many individuals have a much more difficult time developing resiliency after a loss or trauma. Grief and trauma tend to “piggyback” — that is, we do not handle¬†more grief and trauma better because we are used to it! Unless we actually do the hard work of grieving or of releasing our trauma, it will remain within our psyche and continue to influence how we think, how we feel, and how we interact with others.

Trauma, as opposed to “pure grief,” sets up the nervous system to overreact to everyday events. What is so insidious about trauma is that it becomes embedded in the nervous system and the person is no longer aware of the traumatic event or events. Most often this kind of trauma may refer to events that occurred decades ago! And trauma does not have to mean a single, unspeakable event. Thus trauma could be a one-time occurrence, for example, a molestation or rape by a previously well-loved and trusted individual OR it could be a series of horrific events. An example of this might be growing up in a home with drug and/or alcohol abuse in which there are nightly bouts between parents involving screaming and possible physical violence. This particular scenario might be likened to living in an inner city or even in a ghetto in Syria.

Often people come into therapy for their marriage, but what they are really dealing with is the trauma suffered by one or both spouses earlier in life. The nervous system has held onto this trauma, unbeknownst to them. But when a spouse makes a suggestion, all hell may break loose! The reaction may be totally out of proportion to the original comment, thus “What was that?” Partners are left dumb-founded and at a loss to understand what has happened in this interchange.¬† To an observer, it may become clear that there was a trigger, a word, a gesture, which set off the reactionary response.

Fortunately, for trauma survivors there is an excellent prognosis. There are several methods to help release the trauma from the nervous system. I will plan to tell you about two of them in my next blog!



You’ve Got Attitude!

27 Jun

Well, what is your attitude?! Today I am writing about Your Attitude, your stance, in everyday life. It seems to me that “attitude” is a rather complex phenomenon composed of Perception, Belief System, and Behavior.
How we perceive anything depends on our physical relationship to the object or person we are perceiving. It also depends on similar events we have cataloged in our memory bank, which obviously color what we are currently perceiving.
Our individual perception of an event or a person also depends on stored, unconscious memories which directly (not through a thought process) affect our current perception. In the unconscious are held all stereotypes, which of course we never examine via our prefrontal cortex — unless we are made aware of them.
Individual perception is also dependent on personality type to some extent. The Myers Briggs Personality Indicator notes two opposite classes of perception: Sensing (S) and Intuition (N). People who innately prefer Sensing (about 75% of Americans) perceive a reality composed of information coming in from all five senses in great detail. Those who perceive using Intuition have a more diffuse overview of the entire situation or gamut.

Your belief system is again often unconsciously held. It may be a combination of themes from childhood; that is, from experiences at home, at school, at church or in temple, and in the community. From our parents and care givers we may have adopted — or rejected — certain values which were important to them, including beliefs about the role of courage, compassion, persistence, work ethic, and not least about raising our own children.

Beliefs which are positive build up the individual, give him or her a strong faith in the universe and in herself. They also promote a sense of hope in how things will turn out and a positivity about himself in the world. They result in a strong character ready to take on all challenges which present themselves. On the other hand, people who grow up in a depressive or hostile atmosphere may demonstrate a negative belief system, comprised of cant’s and hopelessness.

We can see two types of attitudes in formation:

  1. the positive, can do attitude and
  2. the negative, glass half empty attitude.

Each of these attitudes brings with it certain behaviors, which affect everyone involved with the person with “the attitude.” Positive persons with strong, helpful belief systems energize and inspire others. Negative, depressive persons drain others’ energy. After having spent some time with a negative person, one feels exhausted. Perhaps one has proposed a number of options to “help” this person, only to be given a long list of why each wouldn’t work. The glass remains half empty for those with a negative attitude.

There are a number of excellent options in the world of therapy for these depressive individuals and not just medication. Cognitive behavioral therapists work directly and intently with negative thought patterns and belief systems to move perception to “the glass is half full”! There are affirmation cards, journals, written exercises, challenges to negative perceptions, and so on.

There are also deeper methods which help release from the nervous system traumas that have lain undisturbed to do their “dirty work” for years and sometimes decades. I will write more about them in my next blog on “You’ve Got Attitude!”

Develop Greater Consciousness as a Leader!

8 Jul

If you deal with employees in the capacity of supervisor or team leader, it’s advantageous to consider applying the concept of “shaping behavior” to your work. This term was probably first used by the humanist psychologist Scott Peck, author of many books, among them, “The Road Less Traveled.”
Peck used the metaphor of a gardener loving his plants and trees. If you love this living “being” in your garden you will do the following:
1. water your tree,
2. fertilize it, and
3. prune it
In so doing, you shape the growth of your tree and ultimately show it to its best advantage.
Whether caring about your employees or whether loving your children, this same metaphor applies. When an employee in your organization or a child in your family does something right, you want to reward that behavior so that you will experience more of it!
The greatest ‘reward” you can provide are words of legitimate praise for a task well done. Words of praise from a respected leader far surpass any monetary reward you can provide your employee. If the employee respects you for your work ethic, your fairness, and your appreciation of his/her situation, your words will mean a great deal to him/her. The employee will want to continue to do a good job for you, the leader.
Another reward that is often overlooked as a morale booster is offer of enhanced duties in the workplace (or at home, as the case may be). Offering the employee enhanced duties — with of course appropriate support in carrying them out — says that you trust this person and therefore entrust important tasks to him/her.
Rewards such as a bonus or raise, flexible hours or choice in holidays are also much appreciated and also convey the message that the employee and his/her work ethic is noticed. However, the psychological impact of words or praise or enhanced duties far outweighs any monetary rewards.
On the home front, monetary rewards such as an allowance can be a great teaching tool for young people. An allowance should be tied to the chores assigned and the level of completion. If the parent helps the child establish a savings account, the child can learn to save part of his/her earnings — not all, because there needs to be some “mad money” the child can use for whatever is fun.
As a leader one also has to consider the consequences of untoward behavior in the workplace (or at home). Here, two words come to mind: discipline versus punishment. In the metaphor of shaping behavior, which we used above, discipline would be likened to pruning the tree. When we discipline those in our care, we allow them to take the consequences of their ill-thought-out behavior. We come at the task of discipline with a calm and fair mind, so as to write an evaluation that is accurate but also extends to the corrective action which the employee can take. This calm mind is not influenced by any angry reactions to the situation. Instead the calm mind sees beyond the present moment into the future reparations which the employee (or child) will make, and ALL IS WELL.
Punishment by contrast usually emerges from an angry mind, intent on getting revenge or caught up in the leader’s own ego. If a leader thinks only about the impressions s/he will make on bosses and peers, such a person will be caught up in all the “dark green” emotions which emerge instantaneously from a difficult situation. Such a leader will be filled with anger, shame, frustration, embarrassment, etc.
If you are not just on earth to accumulate as much material wealth and power as you can, but feel a higher calling to help others reach their potential, while striving for this in your own life, then you will want to develop greater consciousness as a leader!