I didn’t know it yet, but my mindset was about to shift significantly into a coaching mindset. If you had asked me in 2014 what I would 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, my mother lived with us, and then his mom moved in with us also. Very turbulent waters indeed.

Getting Past Biases

In 2008, I took an initial coach training course with Results Coaching, the brainchild of David Rock, later to become the Neuroleadership Coaching Program. While I enjoyed the program, I still had a lot of Therapist bias… “I already do this! Why would I pay for more training than I already have?” Biases impact our mindsets. While I didn’t know it then, I was demonstrating a fixed mindset: “I already know what I am doing.” And, yes, this was partly true; I did know what I was doing as a therapist. Still, this bias slowed my willingness to be in a beginner’s mind and learn. Coaching was a new skill set, and I wasn’t even close to understanding the richness or possibilities available from a coaching framework. 

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, I didn’t know I was burned out at the time. For me, shutting down my private practice and moving up to the PNW gave me space, and in that space, I discovered burnout. Stepping back from everything allowed me to take a good hard look at my biases about coaching, so I could fully embrace some 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 lit me up was the idea of working with my clients on believing in themselves and supporting them to open up their mindsets and explore a space of curiosity. To support others, I was going to have to work on my stuff; I was going to have to start opening a space for curiosity. Basically, I was ready for my own 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 fits with my mindset of seeing people as whole, capable, resourceful, and creative human beings. As I regained my balance, I lept 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.

I can say enough about the power of self-reflection in your coaching. I record much of my coaching, so I can do transcript analysis. I love RaeNotes, and I highly recommend using them to start to do the work of improving your coaching.

The simple 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. If I think back on a coaching call, I remember it differently than I have discovered in reality, the call went. 

Transcripts allow you to highlight what your client offered in the conversation and your question in response to what they provided, which is golden. You have the objective lens to notice where your curiosity or bias got hooked. Were the questions focused on the situation or the client’s relationship to the situation? How concise were your questions? Were the questions relevant to the client’s stated goal? And, where were you leading the client versus inviting the client’s insights to come forward and guide you in 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 Jul 31, 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 massive part of a coaching mindset. Your clients who experience inside-out learning discover sustainable changes. The client owns the insights and they can dive deeper into their work between sessions from that place of ownership and autonomy. 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 but 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 my work with clients since the early 1990s. I wrote about rewriting your narrative in my book, StoryJacking. If you are looking for a reflective practice, my book, the Reflective Coach: a 12 month journal might support your exploration.

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 and the Reflective Coach, and the new book, Light Up: The Science of Coaching with Metaphors. Lyssa is a Confidence Coach, Certified Mentor Coach, Coaching Super-Vision Partner, ICF PCC Assessor, and coaching educator. Using her understanding of the ICF Core Competencies and her knowledge of Neuroscience, Lyssa works with Professional Coaches to expand the capacity to partner with their clients through how they show up and hold the space for those with whom they work.

Lyssa is the creator of the Power of Metaphor Certification Program. Giving coaches new ways to tune their ears to hear the powerful metaphors their clients bring forward and discovering how to leverage the important metaphors to create stronger agreements, build trust and safety, allow the client to lead, and ultimately evoke powerful embodied awareness.

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