I didn’t know it yet, but my mindset was about to take a big shift right into a coaching mindset. If you had asked me in 2014 what I was going to do after being a Therapist, I would have said, “I haven’t a clue.” I’d been a Therapist since 1995 when I graduated with my MSW. Starting my private practice part-time in 2004 and went full time in 2005. I loved my work; I loved my clients. Then life threw a curveball, and my husband had an opportunity within his organization, which took us from New Mexico to the Seattle area at the end of 2013.

Career-wise I was lost and alone upon very turbulent waters. My husband was supportive but very busy. And, I had to find my balance on my own, since it was my career and only I could decide what was next on my horizon. Plus, we had my mother living with us, and then his mom moved in with us also. Very turbulent waters indeed.

Getting Past Biases

Back in 2008, I had taken an initial coach training course with Results Coaching, the brainchild of David Rock, later to become the Neuroleadership Coaching Program. While I had enjoyed the program, I still had a lot of Therapist bias… “I already do this! Why would I pay for more training that I already have?” Biases impact our mindsets. While I didn’t know it at the time, I was coming from the fixed mindset of “I already know what I am doing.” And, yes, this was in part true, I did know what I was doing as a therapist. Still, this bias slowed down my willingness to be in beginner mind and learn. Coaching was a new skill set and I wasn’t an expert at that yet.

It took time to turn this ship. In my head I heard, “This is silly! I’m a Clinical Social Worker and on and on.” It was clear, in hindsight, I didn’t understand the power of coaching and I was pretty ego attached to what I had been doing. I wasn’t ready to adopt a coaching mindset… just yet.

Mindset Reset

In the years between 2008 and 2013 I had woven many of the coaching skills into my therapeutic approach. My work focused on Complex Trauma, PTSD, and Dissociative Disorders. And, I was passionate about my work, right until I found myself burned out at the end of 2013. Interestingly, at the time I didn’t know I was burned out. For me, shutting down my private practice and moving up to the PNW gave me space, and in the space, I discovered the burnout. The space also allowed me to take a good hard look at my biases, so that I could fully embrace a forward movement.  To read more about biases, you might enjoy, “If You Have a Brain, You’re Biased.”

I knew a few things to be true. One, I didn’t want to be a Therapist anymore. Finding myself tired of the medical model also had me rethinking insurance. Two, I was exhausted from holding the space of trauma. What was lighting me up was the idea of working with my clients on believing in themselves in a very direct manner. I was ready for a mindset reset! Coaching had started singing a song of possibilities and it was whispering loudly in my ear.

A Whole, Capable, Resourceful, Creative Mindset

Coaching fit with my mindset of seeing people as a whole, capable, resourceful, and creative human being. As I began to get my balance again, I leaped into coaching full bore. 

One of the most powerful strategies that I practiced was recording most of my coaching calls. I asked and received permission from my clients to use the recording to get mentoring and to develop my coaching skills. 

The act of reviewing your coaching, getting a transcript, then listening and reading through your coaching call, is a gift of self-reflection you give yourself. Highlighting what your client offered in the conversation, what your question was in response to what they provided, is gold. You have the objective lens to notice where your curiosity or bias got hooked. Were the questions focused on the situation, or the clients relationship to the situation? How concise were your questions? Were the questions relevant to the clients stated goal? And, were you were leading the client, versus inviting the client’s insights to come forward and lead the conversation? 

Developing a Self-Reflective Practice

I had 4 clients willing to play, and I recorded every session for 8 months. This process of reflection and attunement to my own coaching style allowed me to rapidly tune my ears to my growth edges. Learning to slow down, I was shifting from a consummate question stacker into a coach asking one question at a time. My questions became focused on being curious on my client’s behalf, rather than as rote questions or another way to direct a conversation where I thought the client might need to look. I was unhooking my curiosity from an outcome. 

Trust and Transparency

Another aspect of change came in the form of radical trust and transparency. I no longer operated on the fallacy that what I thought was necessary for the client was actually important to the client. Instead, I noticed what I thought might be of value and then transparently asked if it was. Letting my client lead me towards what was truly fundamental and of importance to them. This shift allowed my clients to teach me and in so doing, light up their brains with their insights, as they taught me about themselves. Understanding that the client’s self-awareness and willingness to be curious on their own behalf is where all “aha’s” come from.

With this trust in my clients, I also was learning to let go of needing to be “of value” by providing an outcome. Instead I found “my value” in my ability to use my external eyes to be curious about the client’s needs, experience, and then to get them to name their actions, accountability and do it from a non-judgmental and completely open space. 

Wrangling with the Core Competencies

By the end of 2014, I had applied for and reached my ACC with the International Coach Federation (ICF). I had begun taking coach training with inviteCHANGE. In 2016 I received my PCC certification. Early Feb 2018 I learned that the rules were changing with ICF for MCC applications and I decided to toss my hat in the ring and submitted my MCC paperwork before the rules changed on July 31st, 2018. In November 2018, I was notified I had passed my MCC coaching demonstrations. 

Wrangling with the core competencies meant considering the question that would, in fact, move the client forward. Learning to name observations without attachment, led to a transformation of the work that I was doing with people. The process of being curious is a huge part of a coaching mindset. Your clients having an inside out learning and this is what leads them to sustainable changes. They own the insights and are able to dive deeper into their work between sessions. No longer running in circles around the “why” that was steeped in the past. We instead shot forward into the realm of possibilities and clarity of vision for their life goals and how to manifest them.

The Journey is ON!

It was a fast and exciting transition. I learned a lot about being a better coach through my journey. Along the way, I discovered the power of the ICF Core Competencies to hold the space of change, while inviting the inside out wisdom of my clients to shine through. My mind was adopting a learner mindset, MCC wasn’t the end, it was only the next step in my growth arc.

I am a passionate coach. One core value of mine is that I have always believed in the power of people to change. Changing their stories and shifting their relationship to their stories has been most of the work I have done with clients since the early 1990s. I write about rewriting your narrative in my book, StoryJacking.

Your Turn...

I would LOVE to hear from YOU!

  • What self-reflective process do you use for you coaching growth?
  • Name a bias you had to look at, to grow as a coach?


Lyssa deHart, LICSW, MCC, author of StoryJacking: Change Your Dialogue, Transform Your Life, is a Leadership Confidence and Whole Life Coach. Lyssa works with coaches who are ready to apply for their ICF credential. Lyssa is an ICF Certified Mentor Coach and course leader with an international coaching school. She uses her understanding of the ICF Core Competencies, combined with her knowledge of Neuroscience, to work with Professional Coaches and support them in their coach development. If you would like to meet to see if we are a good fit, let's do it!

Complementary | Navigating the New 2021 ICF Core Competencies
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