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Here at the-Coaching Blog-run by Gerard O’Donovan, our aim is to constantly bring value to those seeking to improve their lives. Therefore we have a policy of publishing articles and materials by guest authors whom we value and appreciate. Today’s guest author is Michael de Val (United Kingdom).
“It made me feel a lot more confident. I can now say to myself you’re not that bad a parent,” (Sam, a single mum, Rhondda Valley South Wales)
Sam, along with forty others, had joined a personal development project, which used NLP Techniques in a context far removed from that of a traditional coaching relationship. This was a group coaching and mentoring in a project based in The Rhondda Valley, South Wales a historic heartland of mining and heavy industry.
The Rhondda has changed. The Office of National Statistics in a 2012 survey found 34.4 % of adults here have low or very low levels of life satisfaction. The ‘Genesis’ project for young unemployed single mothers focused on addressing their ‘disconnection’ from mainstream life and work and the accompanying depression. It also addressed the practical steps needed to get back into education and employment. NLP provided invaluable tools for the task.
The starting point for all the clients was the need to build, or restore, their confidence. They were encouraged to understand when it was that they had felt confident in their lives before. Where and why had they felt that way and what were the assumptions they had then? Anchoring techniques to make those positive and confident emotions more accessible had a big effect. From creating their own anchors they were then able to practice their confidence by doing more of the things that boosted it.
Past experiences, for many, proved to be a stumbling block, whether a bad school experience, unemployment or a relationship breakdown. Developing a personal Time Line offered clients an opportunity to detach themselves from those past unhelpful experiences through ‘Dissociation’. After laying out a timeline spatially on the floor with pieces of paper to indicate ‘past’, ‘present’, ‘future’, clients were invited to ‘walk the line’. This identified ‘sticking’ points in their lives, but then also gave them the opportunity to identify the personal resources they needed, and could call on, to make progress. Many clients gained a perspective from this activity that they had never managed to achieve before. Asked to describe how they wanted their life to be in one, two or three years from now they shared their pictures of their preferred futures. This enabled work on strengthening the Sub Modalities of what that future would look like, sound like and feel like; a powerful motivator. The clients wrote themselves a short letter from the future; “Looking back at the journey you travelled tell yourself about what the challenges were and how you overcame them.”
Values Work provided an important starting point for developing a sense of personal purpose. An exercise taking them through establishing a ‘values list’ was the starting point. In pairs they asked each other in rapid succession, eight or ten times, ‘What is important to you?’ “What do you need in your life?”- making a list of the answers. Then they asked “If it were missing from the list, which one would make the others irrelevant?” They prioritised them and asked of each value “What does this give you?” The end point was a list of core values that they could then use to plan, set goals and make decisions. As one participant put it; “I realised how important my child’s education was to me so when my daughter’s school asked for parent volunteers, I offered to do a reading with juniors. I would not have done that before.”
Focusing too intently on a goal can be counter- productive. Chunking it down to manageable steps which focus on the process, the stepping stone activities that move you forward, is better than the frustration and tension of striving to get to an outcome in a hurry. Trying hard can be pretty trying! So we focused on enabling. One useful tool for this purpose was Metaphor. At the end of each session music or a predesigned script brought everyone to a relaxed and more suggestible state. The right kind of metaphor story helped them see their situation in a new way. Don’t underestimate the power of stories which can provide a framework where the participants can see the specifics of their situation in a different and a new context. Milton Erikson’s Teaching Tales and other collections of metaphors proved an invaluable resource.
‘Perceptual Positions’ work produced results too. Two chairs were placed opposite each other and a client sat in one while the other empty chair was ‘occupied’ by a virtual friend, family member or relevant other. They explained a particular problem, then assumed the ‘chair’ of the friend or relative whose response they imagined and articulated as though inside the other’s viewpoint. This provided some common sense advice, but given in a way they found easier to accept. Strikingly, when this involved facing a relationship which had become negative, it led to a re-evaluation, signalling for one participant the need to change.
Skills for resilience were a priority, because, as one put it, “mums are often at rock bottom after having children, especially if they are single parents, it’s the isolation which often leads to depression.” Reframing involves having a conversation which puts a different context around the client’s experience in order to change the way they think and experience a situation. Questions were asked which allowed clients to explore future situations as if they were already happening – The As If Frame-” “Let’s act ‘as if’ you have already achieved something important to you; looking back, what did you do to get it?” Another ‘frame’ focused on the outcome they wanted ‘The Outcome Frame’- “What do you want?” “What will that do for you?” These frames created conversations which moved the clients to a more positive place with a bias for action. Subtle changes in the use of Language to describe people’s experience is a powerful tool.
Another exercise involved developing the T.E.A. Model. Clients worked in pairs around structured questioning starting with a problem or situation one of them faced. Starting with T= Thoughts; “What do you currently believe about this situation?” “What would be a more useful belief?” Moving on to E= emotions; “How do you feel about this situation?” “What’s important about this?” “Is there another value that would be more helpful in this situation?” And then to A=actions; “What are you currently doing?” “How does this help?” “What other behaviours are there which could be more helpful?” In this way they formulated advice for themselves from the answers gathered and, importantly, this was followed by a commitment to do something to achieve it.
The clients from a post-industrial, disadvantaged community were probably more resistant than most to encroachment on their affective and internal lives. This was not one to one coaching! Valleys Wales prides itself on community and tradition and yet these can sometimes be inhibiting forces. NLP enabled the Genesis team to see the structure of their clients’ experience- the way they thought and felt – as well as understanding the content. NLP was one key to unlocking their experiences and to influencing and shaping the way they saw themselves and their future.
About Micahel de Val
Michael have thirty years working with young people and the professionals. He is passionate about supporting young people and the professionals and parents who care about them to improve outcomes well being and confidence. He also provide skills for better teaching and learning ,a whole person approach and a belief in the resourcefulness of each client.
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