What is the Coaching and Consulting Process?
In regard to the process, I will first formulate an understanding of your difficulties through an integrative model. This involves 1. An organic conversation, 2. Asking you structured questions, and 3. If applicable or preferred, standardised questionnaires.
Once we have identified the themes we would like to work on, we will dissect these issues deeper— into their historical roots, coping skills that no longer work (in an archaic term, psychological defences), relationship patterns that may be involved, what has helped so far, and more.
Various things happen on multiple levels in coaching and consulting. There is the relational aspect— being in a relational space with me and having the experience of being listened to, accepted and seen non-judgementally. Then, the ‘cognitive insights’ will bring you new perspectives and ‘aha’ moments.
There are experiential activities that we do, like visualisation, role play, ‘empty chair’, etc. These exercises change things not just on an intellectual level but deeply and emotionally.
I may give you creative homework and reflective exercises designed to help you consolidate the insights and progress we make within the sessions. For example, I may ask you to bring photographs, doodles or some diary notes. Nothing is mandatory, however. It all depends on what you are comfortable with. For more information on some of these activities, please see the portal that is created for this purpose.
Apart from being informed by psychoanalysis, I synthesise Eastern and Western philosophies and spiritual modalities such as Stoicism, Taoism, Buddhism, and the Enneagram, as well as well-founded psychology tools like Schema. We can also use creative and intuitive methods such as Art and Poetry, Jungian Coaching, Dream Analysis, and Shadow Work.
Still, the best way is to get to know you and find out what best resonates with you. For example, if you tend to intellectualise a lot and tend to be a rational thinker, you may prefer to be convinced by logic. But you may also want to explore something more intuitive, creative and poetic.
But coaching and consulting is not just about these techniques. If it’s all just theories and techniques, you can read them in a book! It is about the relational space we create together and giving you an embodied experience of something new. There is a difference between ‘downloading’ skills and theories versus learning and growing in a relationship.
On top of ‘fire-fighting’ imminent issues, the aim of this work is to make changes to the deep-seated life patterns that cause similar problems to come up again and again in your life. This process can create lasting change because it looks below the surface and addresses core psychological and emotional roots.
Our focus is on helping you move towards living a full life. Alongside discussions about your inner psychology, we will also talk pragmatically about optimising your day-to-day lives, finding clarity and fulfillment in your career path, identifying congruent life goals, and making your relationships work.
Sharing ideas and knowledge with you is a core part of our journey, but you are in the driver’s seat. Ultimately, I hope that you will be equipped with the necessary skills and capacity that will allow you to take charge.
Please note though, that if you are struggling with severe mental illnesses, are suicidal, or require significant psychiatric input, please make sure you have support in place and know that coaching could not replace your major mental health care.
Philosophy and Theories
My career in mental health started in 2009 as a suicide counsellor. After having accumulated more than a decade of experience, I feel the call towards something more spiritual, creative and holistic. That was when I decided to step away from traditional psychotherapy and evolve my practice into something not confined by the medical model, which often focuses on what is “wrong” with a person rather than what they actually need. I don’t believe there is anything inherently problematic with anyone, but their neurodivergent trait or trauma may cause them to be a misfit within the environment they are in.
Being ‘psychodynamic in my thinking’, means I believe in getting to the roots of your current challenges and the power of insights as a proponent for change. We want to create a safe and non-judgmental space for you to explore how you might be projecting ideas from the past onto your current relationships and how that affects how others relate to you. We will look at some survival strategies you have adopted and see how they have served you and how they may hold you back. For example, do you sabotage relationships so others can’t abandon you? Do you tend to withdraw and disengage when there is conflict? Do you suppress certain feelings and use self-numbing or addictive behaviours to cope? Do you act in an extra people-pleasing way when you are angry? By freeing you from emotional burdens from the past, it is hoped that you will free up energy that can be used to reach your creative potential in the future.
Please note that whilst I may use psychodynamic theories to understand your past and present, I do not practise classical psychoanalysis. It will not be a ‘blank-slate approach. (This is when the therapist holds back from facial expressions or saying anything in order to encourage projections from the client) I will provide feedback and insights, and we will have a back-and-forth. Sometimes, if I think it would be beneficial to you, I may disclose something about myself, and you will get to know more about me as a person.
Jungian theories also inform a big part of my thinking; ideas such as the Persona, Shadow, and Individuation help me understand your challenges and how to move forward. We may also employ creative techniques to explore your unconscious and look at the symbolic meaning of your dreams and emotional landscape. (For more on Jung, here are my interviews with Jungian Analyst James Hollis and Gary Trosclair.)
Systemic and Family System Theories
Psychodynamic theories help us understand what is happening inside of us, but we deal not only with the intra-psychic but also the interpersonal. This is when System theories come in. The fact is that we do live amongst others, so how relationships play out in different groups (family, friendship groups, workplace, political and cultural systems) will inevitably have an impact.
For example, as a sensitive and intense person, you might have been unconsciously ‘elected’ by your family to take on the role of a caretaker, the ‘capable one” who is not allowed to break down. Or, on the contrary, you were framed as the family scapegoat or black sheep. These roles would have impacted your view of yourself, and subsequently, your ability to achieve happiness and success today.
Taking on a system theory perspective, we will identify deeply entrenched patterns in your relationships, as well as the role you have taken on within systems. Usually, we tend to carry one set of patterns and apply that to most aspects of our lives, so understanding your family dynamic, for example, may help us resolve problems in your work and in your marriage.
Sometimes, talking through things is enough, but certain experiential exercises can reinforce our insights and hopefully help you shift on an emotional, embodied level. Activities such as visual imagery, journaling, and role-play may be used. The goals of them are to allow you to get to know different parts of yourself and integrate them so you feel fewer inner conflicts. I may give you homework with the same goal of helping you to integrate your shadows and become more self-actualized.
Using Our Relationship
It turns out, that many of us often repeat dysfunctional relational patterns from the past. You may notice yourself repeating specific behaviours or emotional patterns in many of your relationships, such as being a people-pleaser, being competitive, having the tendency to ‘push-pull’, idealizing others initially, then being disappointed later, etc. You may also have specific life scripts (e.g. ‘I am not lovable’, ‘people eventually get annoyed with me as I am too much’) that pervasively affect how you interact with others. This tendency is known as repetition compulsion.
People often feel an inner compulsion, bypassing logic, to repeatedly expose themselves to conditions reminiscent of the original hurt. A cliche example would be how we are always eerily attracted to people who resemble our parents or treat us like our parents do. This happens partly because, as humans, we all seek familiarity. We may also repeat the same pattern because we have internalized ideas about how we deserve to be treated. At the core of this repetition is actually your deep desire to thrive— you want to repeat the same beginning but have a better ending.
One of the biggest goals of our relationship is to offer you a safe place to discuss what keeps you stuck and how to help you move forward. In an ideal situation, through authentic exchange and even a few ruptures and repairs, you get to internalize a new experience about who you are and how others see you. This process requires commitment on both parts and is not easy. After all, if you have been hurt or betrayed, feeling raw again with another person is exactly what frightens you. But what is the most bitter is also the best medicine. When done well, this is one of the most potent change agents. (If you are interested in this subject, here is a conversation I had with Psychologist Jon Frederickson about the fear about being hurt and the anxieties we have when opening up to someone new)
Changing through experience is essential and powerful because, often, intellectual insight alone is not enough. This is something that underlies whatever it is that we ‘do.’ Essentially, by having a relational experience, hardwired neuropathways in our brains can be rewired. This has now been validated by research.
In a nutshell, a productive and solution-oriented experience can potentially you a powerful, first-hand experience that challenges distorted self-beliefs and behavioural patterns that were residual of your past hurts and limitations. It opens the doorway to building secure and stable relationships with people in your life and more peace and freedom.
There will be days when you feel too alone, your baggage feels too heavy, and the journey seems too long.
These are the times to focus on nothing but the next smallest step, simply putting one foot in front of the other.
More than a decade ago, I received a Master in Mental Health from The School of Medicine at the University of Queensland, Australia; through this training, I understood most mental health diagnoses and how to work with them. Although I am no longer working within the mental health system, this training has been invaluable in helping me understand human psychology. Later, I wished to add a spiritual dimension to my work and understanding of the work, so I pursued a Master in Buddhist Studies. It was not an easy journey but I am glad to have dabbled in this school of ancient wisdom. It has given me an enriched understanding of human suffering and ways to alleviate it. After Buddhism, I pursued a Certificate in Jungian Studies and continued to integrate what I have learned to add a spiritual dimension to my work.
In my years of practising as a therapist, I have pursued training in various modalities, many of which are integrative and highly adaptable. Mainly, I am trained in Schema Therapy (which combines psychodynamic thinking with gestalt technique and behavioural change strategies), Mentalization-based Treatment Practitioner (which brings together aspects of psychodynamic, cognitive-behavioural, systemic and ecological approaches), Philosophical Counselling (I am trained in Logic-based Therapy, a philosophical variant of rational emotive behaviour therapy), and Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (combining Buddhist wisdom with somatic elements and cognitive therapy).
(For more about my training and background, please see here)
What Happens in These Sessions?
Although the process is often organic and non-linear, categorizing the change process into the following phases might help clarify what happens:
Phase 1: Getting to know your blockages
To start, we will try to understand what troubles you and stops you from being your best self. We will work towards identifying some of your old survival strategies, behaviours, or thinking patterns that no longer serve you. For example, in your subconscious, there might be mind-imagery, specific memories, and deep feelings around certain beliefs: ‘People will always betray me in the end,’ ‘I can never trust anyone,’ ‘I do not fit in anywhere.’ You might have developed destructive habits or self-sabotaging patterns in your attempts to lessen your pain.
If you have been through therapy or counselling before, you may have come across references to them as ‘Defences’, ‘Negative Automatic Thoughts’, ‘Life Traps’, ‘Maladaptive Schema’, ‘Inner Critic’, ‘Negative self-talk’ etc. To keep things simple, I call them ‘Blockages’. And since they take various forms based on who you are and your personal history, I will work with you to design and prioritize your goals.
During this phase, we shall work together to understand the parts of you better that you do not like or want, and you will begin to feel your inner tension and conflict softening. For example, I might start by asking you to make more concrete this internal destructive force: If your inner critic were a person, what would they be like (man/woman, what would they sound like, look like)? Does your inner criticism come in a particular shape, size, form, or colour? What bodily sensations do you get when feeling shame? Could you draw it on a piece of paper?
Phase 2: Bouncing Back and Integrating
Once we have identified your blockages, we will learn how to manage and, in some cases, transform these challenging parts of you. We aim to lessen the times you feel overwhelmed so you do not have to resort to avoidance or compensatory behaviours (overeating, overspending, and other destructive habits). We want to integrate the more vulnerable parts of ourselves, rather than to reject them, and at the same time, mind the undisciplined, rageful, and destructive part of ourselves and tame or transform our inner critic.
Lasting change requires not only an intellectual understanding but also a relational experience. We will try to access some of your blockages through experiential processes such as visual imagery or homework assignments. This step is potentially life-changing but can also be the most challenging. I will do my best to ensure that you have full control over the process and go at a safe pace.
Phase 3: Building Your Internal Strengths to Sustain Lasting Changes
Our biggest goal is to build a solid sense of self for lasting resilience in all aspects of your life. Through a series of solution-focused questions and exploration, we may look at how you can gain inner strength and take care of yourself — Practically, Emotionally, Interpersonally, and Spiritually. By fully internalizing and integrating these new capacities, we hope you will be able to manage your emotions, behaviours and relationships over the long run, even after finishing coaching.
– Practical: Managing the balance between burn-out and bore-out; Learning to self-soothe; Lifestyle support; Life structuring; Learning to say no; Navigating work politics; Strategies on building your career in a congruent way.
– Emotional: Befriending different emotions; Riding emotional storms, and Managing destructive behaviours
– Interpersonal: Living authentically; Honouring your values; Communicating your needs assertively; Having your deep desires heard, Being seen and received as your true self.
– Spiritual: Learning to trust life; Tapping into your creative resource; Finding your place in the world.
Phase 4: Moving Towards Your Full Potential
I hope that you can find a place in the world where you are not just tolerated but celebrated. Remember, you are highly, but not overly intense and sensitive. By this phase, I should know you well enough to work with you to find your strengths based on your personality and unique personal story. We can work towards maximizing your potential by getting in touch with your gifts.
I deeply honour your deep yearning to be seen and heard as who you are and by finding the right stage for your audience, the right channel for your gifts. We do this by tapping into the seed of your creativity and channelling your existential angst into a sense of mission and purpose.
As you embrace your unique qualities, I hope you can learn to trust your unique ways of relating to the world and connect to what you have to offer. Themes such as authentic existence, the meaning of life, and the purpose of being come to the foreground of awareness as you embark on the journey towards self-actualization. Furthermore, I want you to build a life around your values, so you do not struggle with inner conflicts that pain your soul. The work in this aspect may also include practical ways to increase productivity and optimize your health to facilitate your creativity. This may involve learning from artists and others who have achieved success.
In a Nutshell
To recap, our goals include, but are not restricted to, the following:
1. Knowing your personal history and patterns well enough that when you fall back to old survival strategies or mind traps, you can wake up in reactivity and not let it run the show.
2. Knowing your emotions well enough that when they come up, you can recognize, name, and know what to do with them.
3. Stay connected with others whilst being true to yourself.
4. Being empathic with others without losing your boundaries.
5. Knowing your unique strengths and gifts to live a fuller life.
We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us
– Joseph Campbell
The Path from Healing to Thriving
People who identify as being emotionally intense and sensitive tend to experience their day-to-day life more vividly and intensely.
As an intense person, you face a set of unique challenges. New research has recognized the differences in how intense people perceive and process information. They tend to react more strongly to physical and emotional pain in themselves and others and can quickly become stressed or tired due to sensory and emotional overload. Apart from your struggle with regulating feelings, you might have also been misunderstood and stigmatized for years. However, you can come to learn about and accept your unique qualities.
The following Roadmap illustrates some potential milestones or markers you will hit on the journey from healing to thriving. They serve as a guideline for our coaching process. These are not steps to be achieved in a linear sequence – after all, the process is cyclical, back-and-forth, and unique to you.
1. Addressing the Past that Holds you Back
- Heal the wounds of being told that you were ‘too much’, ‘too dramatic’, ‘too intense’, ‘too sensitive’, ‘too…’
- Acknowledge the unmet needs in your early years.
- Identify self-sabotaging behaviours (e.g. overeating/ ‘lashing out’) and beliefs that no longer serve you (e.g. ‘People will leave me when they see the real me’).
- Deal with overwhelming sadness, rage, and other reactivity triggered by those who are close to you.
- Healthily mourning the lack/ loss of the ‘what might have been’: Letting go of the resentment about not having the perfect childhood, the ideal parents…, and being at peace with your family as they are now.
- Identify if you have ever been ‘parentified’ – Were you put into the role of being a parent to your own parents, instrumentally or emotionally?
- Manage the voice of your inner critic and the internalized sense of shame.
- Be able to express and assert your needs and wants in the world.
2. Becoming Emotionally Resilient
- Locate or develop a sense of safety within yourself.
- Understand the values and functions of intense emotions, and honour them.
- Dance with impermanence in life: Knowing that pain is inevitable in life and that it is human to be thrown off course sometimes. When that happens, rest in faith that you will be able to bounce back.
- Have an expanded ‘window of tolerance’ for feelings, so you are not triggered into states of hyper-arousal (acute stress, rage, tension, and panic) or under-arousal (dissociating, disconnecting, feeling empty and depressed).
- Come to terms with the unavoidable ‘givens’ of human existence; That things are constantly changing, life is not always fair, losses and death are part of life, and we cannot control everything.
3. Finding Authenticity and Power in the World
- Explore your values and beliefs, and craft out what ‘living in alignment’ looks like for you.
- Reconnect with your sense of power, heal from the Imposter Syndrome or the fear of success.
- Let go of who you think you should be and embrace who you are.
- Optimize your creativity and work performance.
- Being ‘skillfully authentic’ in groups and relationships: Allowing your real self to be seen and accepted without prematurely exposing yourself when it is not safe/ appropriate to do so.
- Find and go where you are celebrated, not just tolerated.
- Understand and recognize human dynamics such as toxic envy and passive aggression.
- Become aware of and find ways to preserve your personal, emotional, and energetic boundaries.
4. Bringing Passion and Vitality Back Into Your Heart
- Address the chronic disconnection, numbness, and emptiness you feel.
- Allow yourself to be emotionally moved and impacted, rather than being cut off and disconnected.
- Have the courage to feel, to love, without getting caught up in emotional storms or excessive fear of abandonment and losses
- Come to experience relationships as enriching rather than tiring or threatening.
- Be aware of compromised and dysfunctional relationship patterns.
- Trust the natural expression of your ‘unedited self’, preserving your natural playfulness and spontaneity.
5. Actualising Your Creative Potential
- Express yourself creatively in a chosen vocation that is aligned with your values, beliefs, and talents.
- Transform your existential angst into a sense of mission and purpose.
- Find your diverse and multiple callings, without feeling like you have to ‘focus’ or restrict yourself.
- Relinquish the need to have life pan out exactly the way you wish it to be, and tune into your intuitive wisdom.
- Alleviate the endless sense of urgency and restlessness, and trust that your life is unfolding in the perfect order.
- Have a sense of trust in something bigger than yourself. Develop a spiritual understanding that the work is being done not ‘by you’, but ‘through you’, and have fun and enjoy the ride.
There is no need to feel deflated if some of these themes seem unreachable to you right now. Emotional healing and spiritual maturity are lifelong paths that each of us can achieve through commitment and continuous practices. People’s lives change as they progress in their own stages of self-realization.
How Often Do We Meet?
Regarding frequency, it can be like going to the gym for a physical workout. We may go to the gym and train our muscles every week, but the effect is not immediate- it is only after some time, say a month or so, that we feel the benefits and changes from within. Everyone uses these sessions differently; I have clients who do two sessions weekly, and some come once a month. It all depends on many factors, from what they hope to get from coaching to their existing resources and ways of functioning.
There is no ‘rule’, but for most people, in the beginning, fortnightly or weekly is good to build trust and understanding in the relationship. It can then be changed in the future.
I trust my clients to find their own pace. I encourage people to look around, shop around, and become in tune with their internal compass. And of course, I am always happy to evaluate the process with you along the way.
If you are contemplating doing the work to look inside, work through past wounds and address deep existential issues, I must congratulate you on your courage and commitment to reaching your thriving potential. You deserve to live a life where you don’t have to carry your emotional burdens for life or deal with everything on your own without help.
I hope the above helps and clarify what the process looks like.
I look forward to hearing from you!
I know but one freedom, and that is the freedom of the mind.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery