A Research Paper By Ana Kardonski, Conscious Living Coach, EL SALVADOR
Understanding The Different Types of Coaching
Coaching is a very new field. It was only in 1992 that Thomas Leonard established the first school for Coaching and since then the field has grown exponentially. In 1995, Thomas Leonard started the International Coach Federation, in 2003, the International Association of Coaching was born, and a multitude of other schools and programs have sprouted in the last 20 years. As the meaning behind “professional” coach continues evolving, the industry is making every effort to set standards of excellence in this valuable field. In this continued evolution of Coaching, Coaching methodologies have been difficult to pin down. They vary because each Coach guides his practice based on his educational background, areas of study, and influences. Coaches might adopt Coaching Models already created, yet they can also create their own to reflect their methods, goals, and values. To add to the multitude of options, the Coaching field has been segmented into small niches or areas of focus that cover very specific client needs. In the following paper, I will dissect the many avenues that a Coach can take in his path to expertise. I will then zoom in on Somatic, Ontological, and Transformational Coaching, three types of Coaching styles within the Holistic Life Coaching branch, that see and work with the client as a whole person. My goal is to begin to grasp the common thread between these branches of Coaching to understand them more deeply, and in turn, understand and pin down with greater accuracy my Coaching path when I graduated ICA.
In the past 30 years, the field of Coaching has continued segmenting into smaller and smaller areas of expertise in which Coaches can perfect their craft and home in on their target audience. In the business world, for example, Business, Executive, and Team Coaches have surfaced with the goals of helping companies and their workers get to the next level, helping executives within those businesses find better work-life integration and become better leaders, and support teams to build trust and increase productivity.
On the personal side, the variety of Coaches increases exponentially! There are Relationship and Family Coaches, Divorce Coaches, Parenting and Positive Discipline Coaches, ADHD Coaches, Personal Development Coaches, Personal Empowerment Coaches, Emotional Intelligence Coaches, and Health and Wellness Coaches. There are Sports Coaches (not the same as Team Coaches) who focus on athletes’ state of mind, body, and spirit, Grief Coaches, Recovery Coaches, and Spiritual Coaches. Then, some Coaches focus on stages of life such as Transitional Coaches.
The variety of Coach training programs is also quite large. There are universities, such as ICA, with year-long programs, there are short coaching certifications and then there are programs developed by Coaches who have come up with their models and methodologies and have set up schools to train future professionals at their craft using their methodologies. Master Certified Coach Brooke Castillo, for example, founded The Life Coach School, proposing her system to help others work through their struggles. Martha Beck also has the Wayfinder Life Coach Training. Bob Proctor is another key player in the Coaching field, with programs such as Thinking Into Results imparted by the Proctor Gallagher Institute. Some of these work side by side with the International Coach Federation (ICF), the International Association of Coaches (IAC), and other organizations that aim to regulate the industry, while others have divergent ways of seeing the Coaching profession and prefer to utilize their frameworks for coaching excellence.
Some coaches may adopt a style of coaching in which they focus on goal achievement and change in performance; they focus on external symptoms or problems. These types of coaches are called Transactional Coaches. Other coaches adopt a style whose aim is to change or transform the coachee. They not only focus on individual performance, but on the whole person, including their beliefs, behaviors, habits, and postures to create a deeper, more pronounced transformation in their clients.
Life Coaches focus on helping people develop a plan to reach their goals through directed conversation and can adopt a transactional or a transformational approach. Their goal is to help their coachee in their personal development, helping them find the motivation to reach new possibilities.
Within the Life Coaching branch of Coaching, some refer to themselves as Holistic Coaches who adopt a strictly Transformational style of coaching. Holistic health “is a field of study and philosophy that considers every part of a human being – including the mind, body, emotional state, and spirit. It considers each piece to be essential because the connections between them can significantly affect your daily life.” In the same way, Holistic Life Coaches move beyond just using directed conversation and incorporate other tools that bring in the body and spirit into sessions. (What is Holistic Coaching and What Can It Teach Us? n.d.)
This integrative approach that focuses on the body, mind, and spirit allows the Holistic Coach to “create transformative change in his clients, activate their power, and fulfill their true potential.” (Estelle Gibson-CPA, n.d.) This type of Coach approaches the body or the physical by working with what is going on in the client’s life and creating the necessary conditions and action plans for them to reach their goals. When it comes to the mind, this approach focuses on revealing and reframing underlying limiting beliefs. The holistic view of spirit is one in which the client accesses a Higher Power at a religious or spiritual level to move beyond their narrow view of the world to something greater, and therefore enable the change they want.
Holistic, Somatic, Transformational, and Ontological Coaches all share the same philosophy; to work on the whole person with the understanding that true change comes about with an integral approach to addressing individual needs. Although this is the uniting factor, each style of coaching does have its differences.
Somatic Coaching, for example, also focuses on the “belief that the mind, spirit, and emotions affect the body.” The Greek word ‘somatikos’, the living body in its wholeness, refers to this trifecta, so a Somatic Coach “makes you aware of how the mind affects the body, and vice versa” (Clare Myatt Somatic Coach & Psychotherapist, n.d.). This is where the Somatic Coach’s methodology varies from a Holistic Coach. The coach works with the client “as a whole, vital, interactive, living being; acknowledging we have been shaped over time, from birth (even before) onwards (Clare Myatt Somatic Coach & Psychotherapist, n.d.).”
Somatic Coaching involves working with expanding awareness, practicing new ways of being in your body, and prompting a Somatic Opening in the client. Somatic awareness includes noticing what you feel in your body and paying attention to your whole organism, including your brain, heart, gut, breathing, and muscles. Once you become aware of your body, the coach can work with you to create a new shape (what is embodied in someone, including their habits, emotions, belief systems, actions, and sites of shaping; family, community, institutions, social and historical norms, and forces beyond us) for his/her client by transforming how they breathe, position their bodies, their mindset, and their context. This leads to the somatic opening which is the transformation from one “shape” to another, shifting our musculature and neuronal pathways, thus allowing a full transformation (Strozzi Institute).
Exercises within the Somatic Coaching space include conscious breathing, somatic resonance (listening to our bodies to better understand our emotions), mindful movement, meditation, and attuned touch (Coaching Online, n.d.). For example, your coach could instruct you to practice certain movements and notice how your emotional state changes when you are in them, notice points of tension and move a certain way to remove the tension, and notice how your body positions itself when in different emotional states so you can actively access these states through your posture.
Transformational Coaching also requires that one “examine everything that could be in the service of that transformation”, including examining “cultural identity, influencers, and messaging that may be a catalyst or hindrance to significant change (Wilson, n.d.).” The coach uses direct communication to partner with his client to help them examine their life, become aware of how they interact with it by understanding the thoughts and assumptions they have around a topic, and then help them transition to creating a new reality for themselves by creating a shift in perspective. The transformational approach “is a reflective way of coaching that aims to explore a client’s cognitive, emotional, sensory and relational patterns to create a more complete understanding of their perspective on the world (Animas Center for Coaching, n.d.).”
As I mentioned earlier, a Life Coach focuses on a client’s goals and objectives, examines possible blockers and ways to achieve them, then moves the client towards creating a realistic plan to get to his/her desired result. This type of coaching helps clients discover, clarify, and achieve their goals. On the other hand, although a Transformational Coach will begin with goal setting, he/she will continue to explore the client’s way of being, including his/her “view of the world, self, and his relationships.” This deep dive will allow him to understand his/her “underlying beliefs, values, language and what all of these together reveal around his view of the world, the stories he has created and how all this affects how he lives (Animas Center for Coaching, n.d.).” This type of coaching will bring a deep awareness to the client and will allow that person to understand the causes of his problems and how to shift to his desired state of being. As in Somatic Coaching, the Transformational Coach will also aim at rewiring any thoughts or beliefs that are holding the client back from their goals and purpose. The Coach will focus on the question: “Who do you choose to be?” then go through a process in which their client learns how to grow into the embodiment of that new version of themselves (VanderPol, n.d.).
“The intent of Transformational Coaching is to get to the heart of the matter and explore the ground of being. This is a space of light and shadow, of fear and joy, of limitations and grand possibilities. All coaching approaches foster self-awareness, but Transformational Coaching goes beyond that—it enables people to attend to the structures which underlie their sense of self (who they believe they are) and then, through an exploration of being, to assume higher than realized levels of existence (who they desire to be) ’ (VanderPol, n.d.).”
Ontological Coaching, in my view, is a subset of Transformational Coaching and has assumed its place in the coaching world. It was born in Chile, where a book titled: The Ontology of Language was published. Although Transformational coaching uses an ‘ontological approach’ because it is about ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’, Ontological Coaching on its own has its particular methodology which focuses on coaching into a Way of Being, since it is “the underlying driver of communication and behavior, since our subconscious perceptions and attitudes exist in our Way of Being.” According to this branch, when we change our perceptions and attitudes, we can remove important barriers to learning, and “we more easily develop effective patterns of communication and behavior (Newfield Institute, n.d.).” This directly affects our personal and professional lives as well as the quality of our existence.
In Ontological Coaching, the Way of Being is defined as “a dynamic interrelationship between three areas of human existence – language, emotions, and body ( (Newfield Institute, n.d.).” According to this approach, coaching all three of these areas has the potential to be transformative, for it can generate profound learning and deep constructive change. The methodology focuses on observing language, linguistics, emotional states, and conversations for transformation in conduct and culture. Its focus is on realizing that reality is the creation of the observer. This type of coaching helps individuals become aware of how they are interpreting their lives intending to identify their possibilities for moving forward towards their goals. It takes its clients on a journey for them to decide who they want to be and where they want to go, thus coming up with their definition of happiness. To achieve this, coaches are led to understand that their actions define their current Way of Being, so if they want to create change, they must also transform their actions.
Life Coaching Styles
In summary, all Life Coaching styles defined within this document, including Holistic, Somatic, Transformational, and Ontological Coaching focus on the connection and interaction between the mind, body, emotional state, and spirit. Somatic Coaching, though, adds a few components to this idea. It first acknowledges that we have been shaped over time, and it is essential to review people’s historical, social, and cultural contexts. Somatic Coaching also places great importance on the body as a mechanism for change and this type of Coach will spend a significant time on body and breathwork. Ontological Coaching focuses on the idea that reality is the creation of the observer, and that becoming aware of how you interpret your life will allow you to move towards your goals. It aims at helping the client become more aware of his/her behaviors, and a more flexible thinker and communicator.
Types of Coaching to Transform Client
In all these types of Coaching, a Coach might focus on a specific area of need for the client and not necessarily on their entire life. On the other hand, a Transformational Coach looks at the entire person, the context they live in, and their story, so that they can help their client transform themselves and their lives.
The World of Coaching and Its Branches
To conclude, the world of Coaching and its branches has expanded immensely in the past 20 years, and with that expansion, many methodologies and schools of thought have been born. There are many avenues to take to become a trained, professional coach. As I navigate this exciting new space in which I get to explore my path, the variety of options at first seems overwhelming, but then becomes rather exciting as each life coaching branch contains within it the same main ideas and reaches similar conclusions. We are complex beings made up of mind (including language), emotions, and body, and these three components are a trifecta; each one affects and interacts with the other directly. The historical, social, and cultural context in which we live also plays a key role in our lives and is an integral component to look at within a holistic approach to Life Coaching.
Although the world of Coaching continues to segment itself into smaller niches and branches, the basic structures and philosophies all have a point in which they intersect to form a coherent vision of the human experience. What is evident is that Coaching is a masterful tool that allows each person to become more aware of themselves, the context in which they live, and it is also a tool to find ways to become more authentic, more coherent between mind, body, and emotion, and to move beyond one’s social and historical context to find their unique path in this life.
Clare Myatt Somatic Coach & Psychotherapist
Animas Center for Coaching
Coaching Online Somatic Coaching - 9 Facts Checklist
Estelle Gibson-CPA, A Journey to Freedom
Newfield Institute What is Ontological Coaching
VanderPol, L. Center for Transformational Coaching. Book: A Shift in Being: The Art and Practices of Deep Transformational Coaching
What is Holistic Coaching and What Can It Teach Us? Upskill Coach
Wilson, V Exceptional Futures Transformational Coaching