What is the Coaching and Consulting Process?
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 consulting and coaching; 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.
Although the process is often organic and non-linear, categorizing the change process into the following phases might help clarify what happens:
Getting to know your blockages
To begin our journey, our focus will be on understanding the challenges that prevent you from fully embracing your best self. Together, we will work towards identifying old survival strategies, behaviors, and thinking patterns that no longer serve you. These patterns may exist in your subconscious, manifesting as mind-imagery, specific memories, and deep-seated feelings associated with certain beliefs such as, ‘People will always betray me in the end,’ ‘I can never trust anyone,’ or ‘I do not fit in anywhere.’ It’s possible that you have developed destructive habits or self-sabotaging patterns as a way to cope with the wound of being told you are ‘too much’ all your life.
You might have encountered terms like ‘Defenses,’ ‘Negative Automatic Thoughts,’ ‘Life Traps,’ ‘Maladaptive Schema,’ ‘Inner Critic,’ or ‘Negative self-talk’ in previous therapy or counseling experiences. To keep things simple, I refer to them as ‘Blockages.’ These blockages come in various forms, shaped by your unique personal history. Together, we will design and prioritize your goals based on your individual needs.
During this phase, we will work collaboratively to gain a better understanding of the aspects of yourself that you dislike or wish to change. As we progress, you will begin to experience a softening of inner tension and conflict. For example, I may invite you to envision your inner critic as a person—describing their appearance, voice, or mannerisms. We may explore how your inner criticism takes shape, size, form, or color. Additionally, we might explore the bodily sensations associated with feelings of shame and even consider visualizing and drawing them on paper.
By delving into these aspects, we aim to bring clarity and awareness to the inner dynamics that contribute to your challenges. Together, we will gradually unravel the hold these blockages have on you, paving the way for transformation and growth.
Bouncing Back and Integrating
Once we have identified your blockages, our focus will shift towards managing and, in some cases, transforming these challenging aspects of yourself. Our goal is to reduce instances where you feel overwhelmed, eliminating the need for avoidance or compensatory behaviors like overeating, overspending, or other destructive habits. Instead, we aim to integrate the more vulnerable parts of ourselves rather than rejecting them. Simultaneously, we recognize the importance of addressing the undisciplined, rageful, and destructive aspects within us, working towards taming or transforming our inner critic.
Lasting change requires more than just intellectual understanding; it necessitates a relational experience. To access and work through your blockages, we may employ experiential processes such as visual imagery or homework assignments. This step has the potential to be life-changing, but it can also be quite challenging. Rest assured, I will prioritize your well-being and ensure that you have full control over the process, proceeding at a pace that feels safe and comfortable for you.
Building Your Internal Strengths to Sustain Lasting Changes
Our primary goal is to help you develop a strong sense of self that will provide lasting resilience in all areas of your life. Through a series of solution-focused questions and explorations, we will examine how you can cultivate inner strength and self-care on practical, emotional, interpersonal, and spiritual levels. Our intention is for you to fully internalize and integrate these newfound capacities, enabling you to effectively manage your emotions, behaviors, and relationships long after our coaching sessions have concluded.
– Practical: Balancing burnout and boredom, learning self-soothing techniques, providing support for your lifestyle, structuring your life effectively, establishing healthy boundaries, navigating workplace dynamics, managing procrastination, changing your relationship with money and assertiveness, and developing strategies for building a congruent career.
– Emotional: Developing a positive relationship with your emotions, learning to navigate emotional storms, and effectively managing destructive behaviors.
– Interpersonal: Living authentically, honoring your values, assertively communicating your needs, having your deepest desires acknowledged and respected, and being seen and accepted for your true self.
– Spiritual: Cultivating trust in life, accessing your creative resources, and discovering your unique place in the world.
Moving Towards Your Full Potential
I hope you can find a place in the world where you are tolerated and 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 to find the right stage for your audience, and 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 toward 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.
My Style of Communication
As I continue to grow in my practice and move away from the medical model, I’ve noticed a shift in my communication style that is more in line with my values. When working with my clients, I tend to be direct, honest, and occasionally challenge them to consider things they may not have before.
I believe in the power of our relational space. Whilst you may initially find ‘taking up space’ challenging, I still hope you can eventually use our time together to freely express yourself freely and safely without overly editing yourself- something you may not have been able to do in other areas of your life or during your childhood. I know it can be hard to step outside of your comfort zone, but it may be necessary to break through the barriers that have been holding you back.
I may ask thought-provoking questions or point out certain blindspots and shadows. My aim is to help you make progress and gain new insights, perspectives, and strategies to achieve lasting changes.
My role is that of a guide and partner on your journey. Together, we’ll share ideas and knowledge, but you’ll always be in control of the direction we take. My ultimate goal is to empower you with the skills and confidence to take charge of your life.
Please note that while coaching can be a powerful tool, it’s not a substitute for professional mental health care. If you’re struggling with severe mental illness, feeling suicidal, or require significant psychiatric input, it’s essential to have the necessary support in place.
Philosophy and Theories
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 behaviors 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 I may use psychodynamic theories to understand your past and present, but I do not practice 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 benefit you, I may disclose something about myself, and you will get to know more about me.
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 your ability to achieve happiness and success today.
Taking on a system theory perspective, we will identify deeply entrenched patterns in your relationships and the role you have taken on within systems. Usually, we 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 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 behaviors 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 is how we are always eerily attracted to people who resemble our parents or treat us like our parents. 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 of being hurt and the anxieties we have when opening up to someone new)
Changing through experience is essential and powerful because intellectual insight alone is often not enough. This is something that underlies whatever it is that we ‘do.’ Essentially, having a relational experience can rewire hardwired neuropathways in our brains. This has now been validated by research.
In a nutshell, a productive and solution-oriented experience can give you a powerful, first-hand experience that challenges distorted self-beliefs and behavioral patterns that were residual from 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 practicing 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 behavioral change strategies), Mentalization-based Treatment Practitioner (which brings together aspects of psychodynamic, cognitive-behavioral, 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).
I have also received training in Jungian Psychology, EMDR (a classic, evidence-based trauma treatment), Sandtray therapy, and The Enneagram.
(For more about my training and background, please see here)
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
What Happens in These Sessions?
Before I lay out any ‘steps’, it is important to note that our coaching journey will be tailored specifically to your unique needs and goals. I do not have a ‘standardised protocal’ that applies to everyone. Your individuality lies at the heart of our work together.
The best way is to get to know you and find out what best resonates with you. For example, if you tend to intellectualize 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.
With that caveat in mind, I would be glad to share with you how I approach our coaching journey together and give you a glimpse into what lies ahead.
Getting to Know You: Our journey begins by delving deep into your unique experiences, beliefs, and perceptions. Through close collaboration, we will work together to identify and assess the emotional and behavioral patterns that have shaped your self-perception, relationships, and worldview.
Discovering Triggers and Patterns: Once we uncover these patterns, our focus will shift towards recognizing the triggers and situations in your daily life that may present challenges. This increased awareness will provide valuable insights into how these patterns influence your life, work, and relationships.
Empowering Cognitive Shifts: We will challenge negative patterns, facilitating a shift towards empowering and positive perspectives.
Emotional Shifts: Acknowledging the significance of addressing deep emotional experiences, we will delve into the emotions associated with your patterns. Utilizing techniques such as imagery, role-playing, and experiential exercises, we will create a safe space for exploring and understanding these emotions. This process promotes emotional regulation, healing, and the overall nurturing of your well-being.
Building New Behaviors: Our focus will extend to implementing new behaviors that align with your healthy needs and goals. Together, we will identify and practice alternative ways of behaving and relating to yourself and others. By reinforcing positive changes, we will help you build healthier habits and enhance your relationships, fostering personal growth.
Value-Coaching: In addition to the approaches we discussed, our coaching journey will incorporate elements of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). We will explore your deeply held values and utilize them as a compass for making meaningful choices and decisions. Value-coaching empowers you to align your actions with what truly matters to you, providing a sense of fulfillment and purpose in your life.
The Power of Our Relationship: Recognizing the profound impact of early life experiences and interpersonal relationships, I place great emphasis on the deep and safe connection we will build. This process may feel intimidating at times, but it is also incredibly powerful. Our coaching relationship will challenge negative patterns and provide a solid foundation for healing and transformation.
Homework and Integration: To reinforce the progress made during our sessions, I may give you creative homework and reflective exercises designed to help you consolidate the insights and progress we make within the sessions. These exercises are designed to help you integrate new insights, coping strategies, and behaviors into your daily life. By actively participating in these practices, you will experience lasting change and growth. I may ask you to bring photographs, doodles or some diary notes. Nothing is mandatory, however. 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 synthesize Eastern and Western philosophies and spiritual modalities such as Stoicism, Taoism, Buddhism, Enneagram, and 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. Even though I no longer offer traditional therapy, I integrate the things I have learned through the years into our coaching process.
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 emotional roots.
Our focus is on helping you move towards living a full life. Alongside discussions about your inner world, we will also talk pragmatically about optimizing your day-to-day lives, finding clarity and fulfillment in your career path, identifying congruent life goals, and making your relationships work.
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.
How Often Do We Meet?
When it comes to the frequency of our coaching sessions, it can be likened to going to the gym for a physical workout. Just as we train our muscles regularly at the gym, the effects are not immediate. It takes time, typically around a month or so, to feel the benefits and witness changes from within. The frequency of sessions varies from client to client, depending on various factors such as their goals, available resources, and personal functioning.
There is no set rule for session frequency. Some clients choose to have two sessions per week, while others prefer a monthly arrangement. It ultimately depends on what ithey hope to achieve through coaching and how they prefer to work.
In the initial stages, many find it beneficial to have sessions every two weeks or weekly as it helps build trust and deepen the understanding between us. However, this frequency can be adjusted as we progress in the coaching journey.
I trust my clients to find their own pace and determine what works best for them. I encourage people to explore different options, listen to their internal compass, and find a rhythm that resonates with them. Additionally, I am always open to evaluating the coaching process together, ensuring that we are continuously aligned and making progress.
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.
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 behaviors (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.
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