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Posted: Feb 19, 2007 08:20


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Five Critical Skills For Coaching Parents Of Struggling Teens And Young Adults
Bill Valentine PsyD, CC
Penelope Valentine, CC

[Bill and Penelope Valentine are the co-founders of Next Step for Success; a division of
Ever Higher LLC, Redmond, OR, 541-504-4748. Next Step is an adult and family coaching service.]

This 6-part series is directed at those individuals, practices and programs currently working with, or wishing to eventually work with, parents of struggling teens and young adults. The series reviews the differences between coaching and therapy and identifies specific skills the experienced coach brings to the coaching relationship.

Part I
Coaching Defined

Coaching and coaches first gained public attention a decade or so ago in the business community. Executive coaching provided organizational leaders with confidential access to experienced experts in leadership, management and personal growth. Utilizing many of the same inter-personal and managerial skills, coaches can now be found in nearly every area of personal and business development. Indeed, the International Coach Federation, one of two international bodies accrediting coaches and coach training bodies, has a membership of more than 11,000 members in 82 countries! Parent coaches make up a very small portion of that coaching universe, and coaches for parents of struggling teens and young adults are an even smaller sub-set. It is this very specialization that calls for specific skills training for the would-be coach of these needy parents.

Coaching is quite different from therapy and consulting. While many therapists have switched to or added coaching to their treatment modality, coaches are not therapists. Likewise, many consultants also coach individual clients. Coaches are not consultants. Let's explore the difference.

Coaching and consulting
Consultants are problem solvers, providers of solutions. In most consulting situations the consultant and client(s) have little personal interaction beyond their work on business model examination and troubleshooting. Consultants are focused on results, solutions, reengineering, time lines and bottom line improvement.

Coaching relationships are personal, often deeply so. Coaches and coaching are personal growth and process oriented. The client is viewed as having the ability to solve their own problems with the coach's support and guidance. Coaches are people-centered and support their client in establishing and reaching personal goals.
Parent coaching may contain some elements of consulting, as for instance when the parent is receiving specific instructions on setting boundaries or establishing performance contracts with their children. More so than parents with more compliant children, parents of struggling teens and young adults may need to make time-sensitive decisions and look to their coach for his/her experienced-based advice.

Coaching and Therapy
Therapists are generally working with less healthy individuals than coaches. The role of the therapist is to diagnose and prescribe treatment to bring about healing and resolution of issues often rooted in their clients' early years. The therapist is specifically trained in the mental health areas and is generally licensed by state boards of mental health or social services. Many therapists, especially those practicing brief-therapy modalities, are confrontative and directive.

The coach focuses on present situations and future action plans. Individual strength-based and forward-facing work is the hallmark of the coach. The coach is looking for those attributes of the client that can be built upon and client directed for personal growth and development.

Coaching and therapy have several common denominators; both adhere to personal confidentiality and the efficacy of both processes is heavily influenced by the quality of the personal relationship. Therapists and coaches have a real concern for the individual's inner needs and wants. Often, a parent coach will work on a parallel track with the child's therapist to ensure parent and family coherence with the child's work. Finally, professional certified coaches and therapists subscribe to the ethical codes and standards of their professions.

Why certified coaches?
Coaching, as a profession, is at a time of rapid expansion and widely varying standards of excellence. Without a single validating body, coaches of all levels of experience and abilities are 'hanging out their shingles'. Part of the difficulty in bringing specificity and rigor to the training and credentialing of coaches has been the attraction that coaching has to the individual who feels they 'have a gift' but are unwilling to put in the time and study required for formal therapeutic training. Currently, there are any number of individuals and programs calling themselves 'coaches' who have no formal preparation for the practice.

However, there are a number of legitimate training organizations for coaches wanting in-depth skill training and the credibility of recognition from an international body such as the International Coach Federation or the International Association of Coaching. At the very least, a coach who has received certification by an accredited program has demonstrated a commitment to a professional approach to coaching.

Future essays will explore five of the more important skills the experienced coach brings to the relationship with parents of struggling teens and young adults. As was mentioned, these parents have much different challenges and needs than parents of more positively functioning young people. They will benefit from a coach and coaching that encompasses the following:

  • Skill #1 - Recognizing the Human Condition in Every Client

  • Skill #2 - Clean, Clear, Concise Communication

  • Skill #3 - Revealing the Barriers to 'What Is'

  • Skill #4 - Identifying the Areas for Primary Focus

  • Skill #5 - Celebrating the Process

Recognizing the Human Condition in Every Client

Clean, Clear, Concise Communication

Revealing the Barriers to What Is

Identifying Areas for Primary Focus

Celebrating the Process

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