A Coaching Case Study By Raluca Hutanu, Transformational Coach, SPAIN
How Coaching Can Help Women to Set Boundaries in Their Private or Professional Life
Lara used to be a people pleaser. She grew up with a sick sister and parents that we’re unable to divide the attention and love between the two children. Thus, from a very early age, she learned to be there for others, at the cost of her own needs. Her desire to help others was deeply rooted within herself.
This pattern accompanied her into her adulthood, being recreated in her relationships as well as at work. She was in a long-term relationship and she wasn’t very happy with it. It was very challenging for her to say no to her partner and to set boundaries. She had a few friendships where she wanted to be more assertive and to ask for what she needed. Moreover, she felt that the same pattern was repeating also at work, in the relationship with her manager. Often she would find herself swamped with work, unable to say no to new tasks.
Lara was going to therapy for a few months. She discovered that she deserves more and that it’s in her power to ask for what she needs and to set healthy boundaries. She also realized that she needed a strategy to implement the new boundaries in her relationships. That’s when she sought my help.
Help Women to Set Boundaries
Who Are the Main Players in This Case Study
Lara – client
Me – coach
What Is the Core Problem or Challenge You Applied Your Coaching Skills Too?
Why Is It a Problem?
Lara is unhappy in her relationships.
How Long Has It Been a Problem?
This pattern was going on since then. However, she started feeling unhappy and realized she is not capable of setting boundaries around 2 years ago. She decided to work on a strategy to set healthy boundaries when she gained more self-awareness in therapy.
What Is the Worst Thing About This Problem?
The worst thing about the problem is that she doesn’t have time for herself and her hobbies and she feels many times that she isn’t heard in her relationships.
Why Has No One Been Able to Solve It So Far?
Lara wasn’t able to solve the problem because she is a people pleaser and the belief that she has to be there for her loved ones, even at the expense of her happiness, is deeply rooted within.
What Specific Coaching Skills or Approach Did You Use in This Case?
- Creating trust and intimacy
- Showing empathy
- Active listening
- Powerful questioning
- Using silence
- Evoking awareness
- Direct communication
- Partners with the client to design goals, actions
Explain Your Process in Detail
Many of us face the same problem Lara does. We have difficulties in setting healthy boundaries in our relationships. According to IPFW/Parkview Student Assistance Program: “A boundary is a limit or space between you and the other person; a clear place where you begin and the other person ends . . . The purpose of setting a healthy boundary is, of course, to protect and take good care of you.”
Lara and I worked together for 5 sessions.
First of all, I offered her ample space to vent out and open up. I was gathering information about her problem and I wanted to understand her thinking process and who she is as an individual. I also showed empathy and curiosity, together with mirroring back them from time to time her demeanor. All this contributed to creating trust and intimacy.
I used direct communication and powerful questioning to evoke her awareness and she was able to gain more insights into her limiting beliefs, her patterns, her likes, and dislikes. She also understood what she needs in her relationships – romantic relationships, friendships, at work, as well as the relationship with her parents. She explored what boundaries mean for her.
Furthermore, I invited her to create an action plan on how to implement the boundaries in her relationships. She came up with very creative ideas and sessions after the session she was more confident in applying them. She started small and gradually took more radical action. I made sure to acknowledge her for her hard work and I noticed that this approach made her feel appreciated and gave her more trust in herself and the coaching process.
What Were the Results of Your Process? Was Your Coaching/Program Effective?
I could feel and see that Lara felt very safe and heard in our sessions. She gradually gained self-confidence and felt empowered to take action.
The changes in her behavior were visible after 3 sessions. I believe she needed her time to let the new awareness and insights sink in. There was a lot of work to be done in the area of limiting beliefs.
After our 4th session, she gained the confidence to talk to her manager and to tell her that she can’t work long hours anymore. She set clear boundaries at work.
As our sessions were progressing, she opened up in the romantic relationship she had and conveyed her needs. After trying to make it work with her partner, she realized she was the only one that was willing to make compromises for the sake of the relationship. Ultimately, she decided to break up with her partner. Months after our coaching relationship was over, she wrote me telling me that she has met someone that is caring and that respects her boundaries. She was very happy in her new relationship.
Moreover, she was able to set boundaries also in the relationship with her parents and her friendships. Even though this implied that she lost a couple of friends that didn’t respect her new boundaries.
To conclude, my coaching was effective, given that Lara achieved the purpose of our coaching relationship. The quality of her life improved considerably by setting healthy boundaries. This was confirmed not only when the coaching ended, but in the follow-up months after as well.
If You Could Approach This Problem Again, What Would You Do Differently?
I think I would give more space between the initial sessions, to give her more time to assimilate the new learning and insights.
In the first session, she came up with a complex action plan that she didn’t implement in the timeline she chose. I would ask her to break down the action plan into smaller bits if I could coach her again.
What Are the Top 3 Things You Learned From This Experience?
- Every client has their own pace and you can’t rush up the coaching process. Patience and being realistic are key. Breaking down the action plan into smaller bits and assessing what the client can achieve in the time they have until the next session will make the whole coaching process more solid and fluid. Offering more time between sessions if there is a need for it is key.
- Creating self-awareness is not a linear process. Although Lara was pretty self-aware, it took a big amount of powerful questions, silence, mirroring, reflections, to dig deeper into her belief system and unravel some hidden ones, that even she wasn’t aware of. When it’s about patterns/issues that have been going on for a very long time, evoking awareness is a tedious process that requires patience and listening to my intuition as a coach.
- Choosing clients that you have a good match with as a coach contributes to building trust and producing results. Lara and I have similar personalities and we could both be very comfortable in our sessions. Moreover, she knows that I also had issues with setting up boundaries in my relationships. This gave her the trust that I can understand and help her. My empathy and the good vibes and fun we had in our sessions allowed her to be vulnerable and creative.