A Coaching Power Tool created by Franklin Cook
(Grief Coaching and Recovery Coaching, UNITED STATES)
Healing from grief caused by the death of a loved is inherently a painful experience. But the pain of grief is not inherently a negative force, for pain over a loss can be constructive and purposeful—and, indeed, pain can contribute to a person’s healing. In grief coaching, therefore, the coach can make space for a client to feel the pain of loss and, at the same time, help the client move “toward” and “away” from pain in a way that opens up an opportunity for reflection from various perspectives and aids the healing process. An effective and meaningful way to do this is to use the Time One (T1) vs. Times Two (T2) Power Tool.
The process for using T1 vs. T2 involves:
- Listening for (and to) the client’s emphasis—in his or her telling about a situation or an issue that is painful—on a time domain (past, present, or future).
- Formulating questions about the situation or issue from the perspective of the other two time domains:
- If the client is emphasizing something painful in the past (T1), formulate questions about the present and the future (T2).
- If the client’s emphasis is on the present (T1), formulate questions about the past and the future (T2).
- If the emphasis is on the future (T1), formulate questions about the past and the present (T2).
- Being present with the client (namely, communicating to the client that you are listening, that you hear what he or she is saying about the situation or issue, and that you recognize and sympathize with the client’s point of view and feelings, etc.).
- Asking one of the T2 questions you have formulated.
- Engaging in a dialectical conversation with the client in which
- Your role is
- affirming the client (using conversation skills such as active listening and interpersonal skills such as exhibiting empathy and compassion) and
- inviting further amplification of the story about the situation or issue (using follow-up questions, including the second T2 question or various “angles” on both T2 questions you originally formulated).
- The client’s “role” is to focus on storytelling (which means not that the client is assigned this role but rather that the coach’s gauge for whether the Power Tool is being applied effectively is internally asking the question, “Is the client telling a story?”).
- Your role is
That might sound complicated, but it’s not. It does require of the coach practice and preparation regarding the skills involved (such as formulating questions, reflective listening, exhibiting empathy and compassion, etc.) as well as strong and constant attentiveness during the session. In fact, the power in this Power Tool comes in part from its simplicity. Deliberately inviting a client to probe all of the domains of time (past, present, and future) related to a situation or issue that is painful inevitably causes the client to “move” from one place (in time) to another. In so doing, it can shape whatever is being shared into a narrative—or storytelling – framework. While there is certainly some unpredictability involved in using T1 vs. T2, the movement across time tends to generate a story (even if it is communicated in a number of disjointed fragments of the overall story), thereby establishing numerous vantage points from which the client encounters a perspective (or perspectives) on the situation or issue that opens up the range (and depth) of ideas, feelings, and experiences the client is having. The true simplicity of the tool comes from the fact that creating new vantage points for a person and deepening his or her experience are natural outcomes of storytelling.
Here is a fictional example of the tool’s use (which, of course, is truncated and overly simplified):
THE POWER TOOL
|The client is a woman in her mid-20s whose father died six months ago, and her wedding day (which was already set before her father died) is now approaching. She has long imagined her father “giving her away” at her wedding, and she is terribly upset about the impossibility of that happen-ing now—and she doesn’t have any idea how to handle “walking down the aisle” with someone else (she feels that she has to decide on a “replacement” for her father). No resolution is in sight in your interactions with the client.||Listening: The coach hears that the client is focused on something painful that is about to happen in the future. Formulating: The coach considers|
|The coach says, “I can see how badly you wish your father was here—and how painful it is for you that he can’t walk you down the aisle.”||Being present: The coach is saying both that he hears the client and that he “is here” for her.|
|The coach then asks, “Do you mind telling me more about how you imagined your wedding day would be with your father?”||Asking: The coach asks an open-ended question that invites storytelling. This is a very dynamic moment, for the coach is not seeking an “answer” but rather is preparing himself or herself for engaging the client in a conversation focused on the client’s story.|
|The client begins to tell the story of how she had imagined sharing her wedding with her father, mentioning that she can’t even think of her wed-ding day without her father because she has thought about him walking her down the aisle ever since she was a little girl.||The coach maintains a safe space for the client and participates in the natural rhythm of the conversation by taking on two roles: |
|Although the client’s sadness stays with her, she tells more of her story, perhaps including “playing” being a bride when she was a child, telling her father about her engagement, being happy and grateful when he assured her that they could afford helping her have a beautiful wedding, etc.||The story continues to unfold, in part, because the coach continues to use affirming and inviting – very carefully and synchronously, as opportunities within the natural rhythm of the conversation present themselves. The coach does not guide or manipulate the conversation, but rather focuses on “holding a space” for it to be created and shared by the client.|
|The coach asks, “If your father could give you advice right now, what might he say to you about how to handle his absence at your wedding?”||Asking: The “formula” for applying T1 vs. T2 is not at all rigid, for organically unfolding, dialectical conversations such as this are unpredictable, but the opportunity may present itself to ask the question about the other domain of time (the present).|
|The client’s opportunity to tell the story of her aspirations for her wedding and to recall and share about her father’s role in her wedding plans before he died might create a space for her to imaginatively bring him into the present and help her discover a way to resolve or at least cope with the problem that has been troubling her.||Of course, this is a fictional scenario, so it is likely going to turn out fairly well. Even so, I think it is clear that a coach who uses this approach truly can lay the groundwork for storytelling by the client—which holds the promise of opening up helpful perspectives on the situation at hand.|