A Research Paper By Geni Cobb, Life Coach, UNITED STATES
Coaching for Adolescent Students
When we think of coaching for adolescent students, we may think of a coach for every sport that exists; except what has been known in more recent years; a life coach.
Life coaching is a fairly new form of support and is well recognized and is a practical model to support people to make concrete changes in their lives. (Grant, N., 2014, p. 10)
It has become a more substantial method for students to work on various aspects of their lives, overcome obstacles, and achieve goals that they desire.
What Is Life Coaching?
Life coaching is different than counseling, mentoring, consulting, telling, advising, therapy, or questioning. According to the International Coaching Federation coaching is defined as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. The process of coaching often unlocks previously untapped sources of imagination, productivity, and leadership.”In other words, coaching exists to help clients move forward and achieve goals that truly they know the answers to, but need some assistance to get there. Another way to look at life coaching according to Govindji and Linley (2007) is that “life coaching is a process focusing on an individual’s strengths (and builds on those strengths) and the positive parts of one’s daily experience.” Looking at life coaching through these lenses, a coach must describe in great detail what coaching is and what it is not, as students may think of life coaching as a different type of help.
Currently, the world is living through a pandemic that has shattered families leaving students in a crisis mode. On top of this vicious disaster that has been a universal crisis, some students had no choice but to stay at home for a full year and do online schooling while some students had no choice but to go to school with rising covid numbers, while some had a hybrid model. Regardless of the choice a student had or didn’t have, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), and the Children’s Hospital Association (CHA) declared that children’s mental health is a national crisis because of the pandemic (PR Newswire; New York [New York]. 21 Oct 2021). On top of this mental health crisis, students are experiencing other modalities of crisis. “Children are increasingly being diagnosed as anxious or depressed, developing eating disorders and addictions, labeled with behavioral problems suffering bullying and isolation, developing low self-esteem and a poor body image, and experiencing a chronic lack of self-esteem and confidence” (Grant, N., 2014, p. 9). Currently, in the United States, certain students of various ethnicities are experiencing racial disparities and tension (Spector, C., 2019) along with food insecurity(NoKid Hungry, 2021) and housing shortages (Olick, D. 2021). Combining all these variables with the micro tensions of passing courses with high marks, taking exams (state exams, course exams, exams for college entrance), transitioning from academic grade levels to college and beyond, preparing and applying for college are just a few of the added stressors our students live by daily.
Due to these crises and stressors, coaching may be a significant approach to help students pave the way for futuristic positive outcomes in their lives. Renaye Thornborrow, founder of Adventures in Wisdom and leader of a worldwide movement to empower children through life coaching and mindset skills training says “life coaching focuses on awareness and prevention – helping children develop resilience and coping skills so that they can navigate uncertainty and change in their lives. Coaching also helps children develop mindset skills for self-esteem, confidence, self-leadership, achievement, and happiness” (2021).
Studies have examined the impact of life coaching on students. Such examples include Campbell and Garner’s (2005) pilot study that examined high school students and the effects of their personal and academic development when coached. The conclusion gave way in which life coaching was a positive indicator that students were coping better with stress and helped with building resiliency as well. A second study conducted by Green, Grant, and Rynsaardt (2010) concluded that “useful preliminary evidence that cognitive-behavioral, solution-focused developmental coaching has utility in an educational setting. Both studies concluded that coaching is a useful source for students in their assistance to move through their goals in life. To navigate provided useful preliminary evidence that cognitive-behavioral, solution-focused developmental coaching has utility in educational settings provided useful preliminary evidence that cognitive-behavioral, solution-focused developmental coaching has utility in the educational setting provided useful preliminary evidence that cognitive-behavioral, solution-focused developmental coaching has utility in educational settings the complicated positional systems that exist in youths’ lives, it is of grave concern that a student’s outcome is impactful and meaningful for the student.
The Coaching Role for Adolescent Students
The role that a life coach plays is pivotal to the outcomes of the coaching sessions for the students. Again, students have many crises and stressors in their lives, so it is critical that the coach not only have a healthy relationship with the client but can communicate effectively. According to Linda Yaron (2017), “coaching can be transformational when coaches build relationships, cultivate a growth mindset, listen, and ask guiding questions.”
One may believe that students do not have the answers. As a coach, it is important to honor that they too have their answers (Grant, N., 2014, p. 25). Students are resilient and they too have the power to come up with their responses to how they would like to move ahead in their decision processes. When coaching students “Coaching is a particularly useful form of support for young people as it is action-oriented, practical, child-led, and future-focused”(Grant, N., 2014, p. 23).
Apart from having a healthy relationship and effective communication, a coach’s role is to maintain confidentiality. According to the ICF, “confidentiality refers to the coach’s duty to not disclose any information obtained during the coaching relationship without the express permission of the client” (2021). Parents will likely pay for their child’s session, but unless there is a viable threat to others or self-harm, a coach cannot disclose any of the information that happened in the session. Keeping confidentiality can create the trust boundary needed for the client. Coaching can partake in an educational setting as well. Confidentiality must be maintained as well unless there is a concern as discussed prior.
Benefits and Challenges in Coaching Adolescent Students
When coaching is done correctly and the client has a potential growth mindset and is open to change, many benefits can stem from this type of forward-thinking assistance. Dr. Natherra Indrasenan who is a life coach trained general practitioner explains seven benefits life coaching can have. These seven benefits can be transpired onto students and assist them in understanding themselves so they can make their own decisions and move forward. Dr. Indrasenan says the first step is for a client to be “problem-oriented to becoming outcome-oriented”. Students need to look at their outcomes as a way to progress with their goals in mind. Secondly “As you start thinking outside the box and approaching challenges differently, you start to consider possibilities that you may not have thought of before.” it is important for students to think outside the box and for them to consider the possible potentials and directions they can take. Thirdly; “Coaching increases your self-awareness and gives you clarity about what you want in your life.” Self-awareness and clarity are key to student success. The fourth benefit that Dr. Indrasenan speaks of values. She says “values need to be satisfied for you to become motivated to carry out a task.” Students have values and they need to be recognized and heard. A coach can assist a student in recognizing what they value through powerful questioning. The 5th benefit tackles limiting beliefs and asks about understanding your beliefs and how they may or may not empower you. Limiting beliefs can come into conflict when wanting to move forward. They can be the rocks on the road and will stop anyone from achieving a goal. The 6th benefit is goal setting. Dr. Indrasenan says “A well-formed, positive, specific, realistic and time-specific goal is essential to the success of coaching”. Students must have goals. This is why coaching can be such a powerful mode of assistance because it can open the doors to limitless opportunities a student can come up with to get to their goal. Finally, The GROW model is an example of a method that coaches can use towards clients to assist them to achieve what they desire. Dr. Indrasenan’s seven remarkable benefits fit in line with desired outcomes for students who want to move forward and are ready to do so.
Some of the challenges that may arise when coaching students can be concerning especially if students are not in sync with the coaching experience. According to Diane Brennan, former ICF president, the three most challenges in coaching any client are “Consumers confusing coaching with counseling and raising questions with regulators; Clients experiencing a less than desirable interaction with a ‘coach’; and changes in existing regulations within Mental Health/Behavioral Health Statutes” (Brennan, D., 1989, p.189). As mentioned earlier, it may be easy for a student to confuse a coach with a counselor as an example, so it is very important to delineate the difference and confirm the session as a coaching session and not a counseling session. Students may also experience a negative and undesirable reaction to a coach which may impair the relationship and hinder the coaching session. Students who may also have mental and behavioral issues may potentially not be in a state where they can be coached and may need other resources before coaching can take place.
One additional challenge as described by Lindgrem is boundaries. She says “Youth coaches need to create and maintain clear boundaries while coaching adolescents. It is the responsibility of the coach to clarify and maintain healthy boundaries” (Lindgrem, S., 2011, p. 21). Furthermore, Brennan and Lindgrem’s work exemplify the importance of establishing boundaries as not having them could lead to the possibility of misconstrued roles, which would put the coaching session in a dangerous arena.
Tools for Coaching Adolescent Students
Coaches have the option to use a variety of tools for optimal coaching sessions with students. Utilizing tools is an enhancement to assisting students to maximize their potential as clients. The following are two tools that could potentially be used with students.
Wheel of Life:
Utilizing the Wheel of Life on students can be a great tool as it can help balance lives. The tool can assist students in beginning to reframe their thoughts and actions as to what aspects of life need change. “The Wheel of Life is a tool for visualizing all areas of your life at once to see where you most need improvement” (Paircoach Enterprises, 2015). According to the Youth Empower Program which is an organization based out of the United Kingdom, “the Wheel of Life helps children and young people (and adults) to reflect on how they feel about different areas of their life. The Wheel of Life is designed to increase one’s awareness of what is working and what isn’t so that GOALS can be set. This helps to improve overall happiness and life satisfaction”.
The GROW model is an acronym standing for (G)oals, (R)eality,(O)ptions, and (W)ill (Whitmore, 1992). By working through these four key steps, individuals can gain clarity about their aspirations, understand the current situation, identify possibilities, and take targeted action toward achieving goals” (Whitmore, SJ., Kauffman, C., &Davis, S. 2013, P.245). The GROW model can be used for students as a way for them to talk about their situation and the goals they would like to attain. Attaining what the student would like to achieve, the GROW model breaks it down in bite sizes and each step is meant to be a powerful ongoing process to reach the end; to reach the desired outcome.
Utilizing Coaching as a Continuous Resource for Adolescent Students in the Future
In general, coaching continues to rise daily. ICF offers three tends that are paving and shaping the way for coaching in the future. The first trend is the “Increased demand for coaching services”. The second trend is the “great coaching opportunities for niche sectors” and the third sector is the confirmation of the qualifications” of coaching (International Coaching Federation, 2021). Students may benefit from coaching especially when they are aligned to their coaching session. “There is an emerging evidence-base that coaching is a powerful tool to support learning and development for students, teachers, school leaders, and their educational establishments. As more coaching research comes to light, so too will coaching in educational settings to help students move forward in life (Devine, M, Meyers, R., Houssemand, C., 2013, p. 1).
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