Coaching Case Study By Melissa Bosomworth
(Wellness Coach, CANADA)
Josie is in her early 20s and attending college for the first time. She has chronic anxiety attacks and has noticed they often occur while on the way to school and while walking down the hallway. She has the aptitude to be successful but is finding the environment overwhelming to her.
What’s going on?
Early in our first session, Josie disclosed that when she was 16 years old, her friend died by suicide. Since then she has been living with depression, going to therapy and has been through in-patient and out-patient treatment programs. She is hoping that coaching will help her “figure out her life”. She observes her friends and siblings moving through different stages in their lives such as graduating, beginning their careers, finding long-term partners etc., yet she feels stuck. She holds onto a strong belief that she should not get close to anyone because “they can be gone in an instant leaving you hurt”. She also does not make any plans for the future (short or long term future) since “life is full of unknowns”.
Josie was very fearful of being hurt at that deep level again and this has been paralysing her from living her life for six years. Although she was resistant for the first couple of sessions, she continued to come to coaching and reported that she would often think more about the questions asked throughout the week. Slowly, she revealed more about her feelings and insights. Josie’s biggest revelation was that she felt she no longer knew herself and that she doesn’t know how to live without her sadness. She had been through many different forms of therapy but felt that they helped her with her depression and anxiety, however they did not help her understand herself. Creating a feeling of knowing herself has become the intention of her coaching appointments.
Skills and Approaches
Trust, Listening, Non-judgemental
Josie was very reserved during the first appointment. It was critical to ensure that she felt safe in the space where she could explore her emotions at any level. She often feels that people tell her to “get over it” and make her feel unjustified in her feelings and beliefs. By listening, validating and showing empathy, she was able to slowly begin to explore her emotions with me. Listening also provided me with information about possible limiting beliefs which we could further discuss later when she was identified she was ready.
Initially, Josie struggled to find things she was grateful for each day. When exploring her gratitude, she began to realize the many things which help her feel calm. Josie began to journal her daily gratitude and also writing gratitude letters to those who have influenced her in a positive way. Josie continues to using journaling to help her focus on positivity and as a way of processing emotions.
Josie was holding onto an underlying belief that she needed to keep herself safe from being hurt by avoiding close relationships or having expectations for the future. When asked how this serves her, Josie realized that this belief served her in the past, but she no longer needed to hold onto them. She was fearful of being hurt at the same level again. She could now see how this was holding her back from being the best version of herself and she was committed to moving into actively setting goals to change this belief.
After establishing a safe environment, Josie began to accept there was a future for her and that she had the power to shape this. We did visioning exercises on what it would be like if she could control her life. Josie expressed an interest in travelling; one session we focused on her travel plans and later celebrated her taking action and enjoying her first vacation! We also used visioning exercises to help Josie see herself without sadness and what she would be experiencing. This was a difficult process for her as she has many fears and has learned to be comfortable with her sadness over the years. However, each time we do a visioning, she is able to expand on her vision and begin to see herself in a healthier place.
Creative expression Art is a powerful way for Josie to express herself. With permission, the writer introduced Josie to the concept of bullet journaling. Over a three week break in December, she purchased a journal and began to track her daily self-care activities: exercise, eating well, sleeping, journaling, drawing, playing with her dog etc. She also used the journal to capture things which were important to her such as: inspirational quotes, books she wanted to read, and her top 17 for 2017. Josie set goals for the year which was a huge breakthrough!
Over time, socializing with her friends became important. Josie was not ready for large groups and her friends were often going to bar and parties. Using her creative strengths, she planned a paint night for a small group of people and hosted this at her home when her parents were away. The discovery that her friends were supportive and willing to socialize in small groups was surprising to Josie, and also reassuring.
A key to knowing oneself is knowing the values that represent and support your authentic self. Josie engaged in a values exercise where she narrowed her personal values down to five. From here, she created a mission statement about herself. At the end of this exercise, Josie was excited to test her values statement against some of the personal choices she was making. She found this exercise helpful in making sound, confident decisions.
The outcome of these sessions exceeded Josie’s expectations; she often remarked how this was the most important hour of her week as she felt she was learning so much about herself each visit. At our initial visit, she was very withdrawn and shared she was not experiencing her life to the fullest out of a need for self-preservation. Josie came to celebrate her survival of a traumatic time and trust in herself that she can survive future trials. The importance of knowing herself and doing the things which bring her peace and joy have started to come to the forefront of her thinking and decision making. She also learned how to experience a healthy level of happiness and how to live without her sadness.
Often I would catch myself asking questions about the story. I worked hard at refocusing the session on Josie’s experience and the goals of our session. This is an area I need to be mindful of in all my coaching sessions. Josie and I worked together over an eight month period of time. There were moments where I would catch us being casual with each other and I had to establish clear boundaries to ensure that we could set an intention for the session early on. I was nervous that by re-establishing these boundaries I would damage the rapport that I worked hard to establish. Thankfully, this was not the case. In the future, I will be clearer with these boundaries from early on to hopefully avoid this situation from occurring again.
Things I Have Learned
Move at the client’s pace
At times, I felt that our sessions were superficial and I wanted to get into the meat of what Josie was experiencing. In the early months, I was concerned that our time together was not providing her with enough growth to be the best version of herself. Upon reflection and after seeing her progress, I realized that Josie needed this time to learn to trust herself to begin her personal development journey. She also shared reflections and moments which were significant pieces from earlier sessions and I could see how the planting on those seeds helped foster her growth.
While coaching, it is important to trust that the client is resourceful and whole. They know themselves best and where they are in their journey and what feels like the next natural step. By allowing Josie to set the agenda and following her lead, I was able to feel confident in the outcomes we were working towards. When I was doubting myself as a coach, I would check in to be sure that I wasn’t driving the conversation or outcomes. This helped me relax and enjoy the privilege of being Josie’s coach.
I believe that my curiosity helped facilitate Josie’s breakthrough. By asking questions about her experience and learning more about her current experiences and desires she was able to start reflecting on her beliefs. Josie was open to me challenging her for clarity and also in stepping out of her comfort zone to be truthful with herself. This seemed to come naturally for me with Josie and I found her to be an intriguing, motivated and remarkable client to work with on improving my coaching skills.