Coaching World Issue 7: August 2013 - Page 38

Gestalt coaches serve as “awareness agents,” a role that calls for them to use their own awareness to catalyze clients’ self-awareness as the key asset for current and future goal attainment. To successfully use the self in coaching engagements, Gestalt coaches work in three ways: 1 2 3 Experientially, by inviting clients to become aware of their immediate contextual responses (e.g., physical, psychological, emotional, cognitive) Existentially, by encouraging clients’ awareness of self and others, which yields “data” that informs actions to achieve desired outcomes The heart of a Gestalt approach lies in internalizing and applying the power of awareness. The skills needed to track and heighten awareness are taught through the Cycle of Experience (COE), a conceptual model that illustrates how needs and desires are sensed, articulated, engaged with, acted upon and assimilated through meaningmaking processes. The Gestalt coach works with the COE to facilitate clients’ self-identification of habitual, unaware patterns of response, particularly those that interfere with their ability to gauge and appropriately act in changing situations. Gestalt coaching clients experience an energetic sense of “liberation” when they discern these patterns and understand how the patterns impact their decisions and behaviors. Gestalt coaches learn and practice embodied presence; i.e., one’s way of being and presenting oneself to the world. In turn, coaches help clients develop strategies for being centered in their own presence. Presence is uniquely manifested by each coach, but being in the relational field of a Gestalt coach’s authentic presence evokes clients’ trust and their hope for successful work. 38 Experimentally, by collaboratively and creatively supporting clients’ safe exploration of alternative perceptual and behavioral choices Gestalt coaches offer collaboratively and creatively structured experiments to strengthen clients’ awareness of themselves and to facilitate an aware use of their available resources. Experiments interrupt habitual perceptual or behavioral patterns and invite opportunity. Clients might be invited to act out real or imagined scenes from the past, present or future; to have a conversation between their perceived and ideal selves; or to describe and “inhabit” fantasy scenarios of peak experiences that have happened or that they hope will happen. Coach and client then debrief the experiment to see what new learning and alternative choices for action have emerged. The Gestalt coach keeps clients focused on whatever emerges in the moment, as this constitutes data that invariably connects to both short- and long-term professional and personal challenges and goals. A Gestalt approach uses whatever occurs in the moment as the experiential and existential ground for coach and client to explore and experiment with. If a client experiences discomfort with a powerful question, the existential imperative is to support the client to investigate that discomfort to see how it might relate to his or her ability to reach desired goals. Conditions and factors that make career derailment possible or imminent, for example, are often obscured by clients’ habituated or resistant ways of perceiving or behaving. These can only be changed by fully understanding what they are and what role they play for the client. For example, the client might state a goal of making her team more openly expressive and inclusive while she simultaneously engages in an unaware behavioral pattern of controlling and shutting down team members’ input. Once information about such behaviors surfaces, the question for the client becomes, “Do I still want or need to choose this response? What are my other options? ” The Gestalt coach encourages clients to explore, to experiment and to choose with awareness. Coaching World | August 2013