Trauma and Coaching Series Part One
What is Trauma?
In general, trauma occurs when a person is overwhelmed by events or circumstances and responds with intense fear, horror, and helplessness. Extreme stress overwhelms the person’s capacity to cope. There is a direct correlation between trauma and physical health conditions such as diabetes, COPD, heart disease, cancer, and high blood pressure.
Relational trauma is an aftereffect of abuse, neglect, and suffering. Those whose are betrayed by people they loved, trusted, or relied on may encounter enormous mental and behavioral health challenges, as they attempt to forge interpersonal connections and cope with life’s many challenges.
Why Focus on Relational Trauma?
At BEabove Leadership, we have chosen to focus on training coaches to work specifically with relational trauma rather than trauma in general for a couple of compelling reasons. One, it is the most pervasive, insidious and under-recognized form of trauma, impacting a stunning number of our coaching clients, and two, it has a set of perpetrator and target behaviors and impacts that are somewhat different than other forms of trauma (such as that experienced in war, famine, or natural disasters).
But before we figure out how to coach people who are experiencing or have experienced relational trauma, it’s important to first be clear on both WHY coaching may be useful in this space. In subsequent posts we’ll look at WHO is appropriate to be coached (and who is not) and HOW and WHEN to use coaching strategies and tools.
Ten Reasons Why Coaching May be Useful in Relational Trauma
- It’s all around us. In the United States, 61 percent of men and 51 percent of women report exposure to at least one lifetime traumatic event. Most of these involve some form of relational trauma. Therefore, even the most self-actualized, aware, and even successful client may encounter trauma or have some degree of unresolved relational trauma in their lives.
- There are not nearly enough therapists working in this area, and surprisingly, most therapists have not actually received the necessary training to work with relational trauma and abuse unless they pursue advanced education (which all too few have).
- Research tracking the effectiveness of nontraditional treatments points to many things coaches do well, as well as areas where coaches have been pioneers (for example, equine-assisted coaching, nature coaching, various forms of energy processing).
- Coaching tends to lend itself to integrated modalities, and many coaches are lifelong learners committed to expanding their skillsets. Most coaches feel perfectly comfortable integrating multiple modalities into their work because there is less pressure in the industry to identify as a specific type of coach. Coaches are often less interested in labels and more interested in what works.
- The underlying mindset of coaching is that people are naturally creative, resourceful, and whole. For appropriate clients, it can be life-changing of be seen and held this way.
- Often clients some to coaching with a presenting concern that does not seem like a psychological issue. In other words, they come to coaching for help with something like dating or career change. Then the trauma is unearthed in the coaching and it becomes apparent that the client can’t move on powerfully unless it is addressed. Depending on the client and whether or not the coach is trauma trained, it may well be appropriate to continue the exploration in the trusting coaching relationship that has already been established.
- Coaching is well-suited to help appropriate clients mine the learning from their experiences and take it forward as a reflection of their growth, something that we might think of as Post Traumatic Growth Syndrome.
- Coaches focus on making things applicable in life. There is a dance between what we call forwarding the action and deepening the learning. Both are critical for effective coaching and can help someone in their process of moving forward.
- Coaches can work across state and country boundaries, whereas therapists generally need to be licensed in a specific state or country.
- Even the International Coach Federation, in their white paper on when to refer clients to therapy acknowledges that for many issues either a therapist or a coach with specialized training can be effective.
Check out our neuroscience-based trauma coaching certification program: https://www.beaboveleadership.com/neuroscience-coaching-and-relational-trauma/
 The National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare
 BrightQuest Treatment Centers
 SAMHSA-HRSA Center for Integrated Studies
 See https://coachingfederation.org/research/academic-research and scroll to “Referring a Client to Therapy.” Note that this paper does not make specific reference to relational trauma (a huge oversight on their part in our opinion).