Coaching Case Study By Mette Madsen
(Life Coach, DENMARK)
I am coaching my friend Mary. I have known her for around 3 years, she is from South Africa.
She got divorced 8 years ago, and she has got a new husband and 2 kids. She also has a child with her ex-husband. For many years Mary and her ex-husband had a good relationship and cooperation around their little boy.
Over time things has changed, and the ex-husband, has started to behave in very unplesant way. Mary and her new family don’t know, or understand why things has changed so dramatically.
Lately Marys ex-husband has threatened Mary’s family with a lot of things. Things like if, Mary don’t follow his rules, there will be consequences. He has even said things like “ I want to destroy your new family”, and “I know people who can help me”, and “soon you will hear from my layer”
What is the core problem or challenge you applied your coaching skills to?
1. Why is it a problem?
Mary’s problem right now, is the threat from her ex-husband, and that she still needs to keep in touch with her ex-husband, because they have a child together.
2. How long has it been a problem?
The specific topic for today’s coach session, has been a problem for a week.
3.What is the worst thing about the problem?
This problem fills everything in Mary’s head and life right now.
4. Why has no one been able to solve it so far? Because it is a very difficult and complicated issue.
My client Mary would in relation to the “ex-husband story” like to talk about, how she can keep calm and deal with the fear around the specific threat.
I asked her, if she would like to scale her fear. A week ago it was 10 plus, now it is 7, she would like to get it lower.
Mary has a lot of fear from her ex-husband, and she would like to be coach on, how she can lower her fear. Right now the fear is taking a lot of space in her head and life. It is all she can think of.
I ask Mary to tell me, whats this fear is about?
She tells me, that she fells out of control and a big uncertainty, about what is going to happen, because the ex-husband no longer follows or sticks to the rules, they made long time ago. We talk about the uncertainty.
She is afraid that somethings is going to happen with the kids, or if he really has the power to destroy the family physically and economically. I ask Mary, if it is true that he can damage and harm the family. Marys tells me, that she thinks it is true and she believes, that he has the power to harm them. She has seen nasty things happens, in other families with this kind of problems in South Africa.
Mary talks about how the worst case scenario look like for her.
I really try to be present, and give her lots of space, time and show her empathy.
I try to stay very calm even it is a really nasty story, and Mary is of course very emotional affected.
I find that creating trust is very important in this case.
I ask Mary about, what she believes can help her to lower the fear.
Mary tells me that she need to stick to everyday life, not let the fear take over. She needs to go to work, and do her daily routines and take care of the kids.
She also tells me, that her husband don’t seem that afraid, and maybe she should look at him, and just try to stay calm. She are also worried about the letter from the layer, and she said that they should try as fast as possible to find out what the meaning and consequences of this letter could be. That would properly reduce the fear.
Mary is talking a lot, I feel she is talking herself though the story and her feelings.
I feel that just listening and listening is very important to Mary, she really needed to talk out her fear.
During the coach session, I try to repeat and rephrase what Mary tell me.
Then after 30 minutes coaching somethings interesting happens. Suddenly Mary’s says to me, “It is not when I am in my daily routines the fear is the biggest. It is when everything is quiet, and the kids are at sleep or just before ,I am going to bed myself. Then the fear is high”.
So then we change the goal for the coaching session.
Mary want to talk about, “how she can lower the fear, when everything is quiet at home.”
One of the questions I asked Mary was,“what can help her to lower the fear, when everything is quiet and kids are a sleep in the evening?”
“I have to face the fear and call it by name, put name on my feelings “ and “ I think I have to make a diary. I will write about my fears, that’s going to help me”
I ask Mary, what else could help her ?
“I need to pray to God and maybe play some very relaxing music before bedtime”
We continued to talk about how and when, she could start doing these things.
What were the results of your process? Was your coaching / program effective? Why? Why not?
I think it was effective. Mary’s voice change in the last part of the session. She sounded more calm, and determined. She seemed more relaxed and told me that she felt better. She also looked better.
She also said with strength in her voice “He is not going to destroy us”
Mary told me, that talking herself through this nasty story, helped her a lot to gain clarity around the fear, and she said that the questions gave her an awareness of things, she had not thought of before.
When I talk to Mary a week later, she is doing a great job working on lowering her fear. She is writing in her note book every evening, and she is very aware of not letting the fear take over her life. She has also talked to a few good friends about the fear, which also helps her to process this situation and fear.
I ask her to scale her fear again and she scale it to 3. We talk about how she can keep it low, and what might come in her way. Mary keeps telling me, that talking about the situation help her. Every day she has also started to write down 3 things, she feels grateful for. “That helps me to keep focus on the good things in my life”
If you could approach this problem again, what would you do differently?
I think a couple of time, it happened that I was digging too much into the story. Next time, I will try to stay more away from the story.
What are the top 3 things you learnt from this experience?
I also learnt the sometimes the first goal we are making together with client is not always the right goal, or the issue might, change when you dig into the issue.
I learnt that there is a lot of power in just listening and listening. Sharing an issue can create clarity and awareness around an issue.
There is a lot of power in giving space, and being there together with the client, also when it is painful and solutions are difficult to find.