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Are you thriving or just surviving?

Back when I first started counselling and had no idea I would evolve into a therapeutic coach, I created a kind of swing o meter for clients. It was very Heath Robinson and often made people smile as it was actually made out of an old Kellogg's cornflakes packet!


However, it turned out to be a really powerful intervention. The shortest distance between two people is humour and the exercise was helpful both in embedding the therapeutic alliance and encouraging clients to take themselves seriously through laughter. It was divided into three areas headed 'surviving, reviving and thriving' and was designed to help people focus on improvements and a preferred future.


I would introduce the exercise by describing how, when things are at their worst, life can feel like you're walking through treacle and it can be difficult to drag yourself through the other words you are just surviving.As things improve, however, you can move into the area of 'reviving' where you are aware things are improving but you are not yet where you want to be.Finally, and happily, you enter the 'thriving' zone and life feels good again.


I would begin the exercise by asking clients to consider where they would have been on the swing o meter when things were at their worst or when they first came to see me. Very often they would put themselves into the lowest area of 'surviving' and describe deep depression or high anxiety and the symptoms or circumstances which had made life miserable for them.


I would then ask 'Where are you now that we have had x sessions and what is different now?'


This was designed to draw attention to the fact that things were improving and moving in the right direction. It encouraged clients that the therapeutic process was having a helpful impact and challenged negative perceptions, restoring hope.


Client would move the pointer into another area…for many it would be the reviving zone where they could really notice all the things that were now improved. Finally, I would ask them to consider where they would like the pointer to be and what would life look like then? What would they be doing different from now? How would they feel?


Effectively, it was a combination of magic question, timeline and wheel of life.

I think this may be a useful metaphor for the coach- counselling integration debate and whether coaching or counselling comes first within the session.


Those who enter the therapeutic alliance in the ‘survivng’ zone are often at the ‘pulling weeds phase and counselling interventions may be most appropriate. If however an executive client enters the professional relationship already in the thriving zone, they are ‘sowing seeds’ and other skills are now the appropriate fit for the client’s needs.I find ‘What are your goals for our work together’ is the most useful indicator of the range of skills required for that particular client along with the mantra


What is the essence of the problem?

What is the essence of the solution?

What needs to be the focus of my work?

Frances Masters MBACP accred GHGI FRTC


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