I wrote Coaching and Trauma as I felt an urge to apply my learning from the therapeutic field to coaching. I thought coaches could benefit from understanding more about trauma and how it shows up in the coaching space. I had been committed to exploring and understanding trauma in the previous eight years, as a practising psychotherapist, and had been bringing aspects of my learning into my coaching practice as well. My colleague Jenny Rogers and I talked a lot about what was emerging for me, and in her role as editor for the Coaching in Practice series, she encouraged me to put forward a proposal to McGraw Hill/Open University Press, who agreed to publish this book. I began writing it during a writers’ retreat in Portugal and after eighteen months I had a final draft.
At the time, coaching seemed to assume that trauma only belonged in therapy, and to me that clearly wasn’t the case, since the lasting effects are so widespread. While many of us need therapy to help us digest and integrate traumatising experience there is much that coaching can contribute. To ignore it in coaching felt as if a large part of human experience was being left out. The word trauma seemed to generate a lot of concern and I wanted to normalise it and enable coaches to engage with the ideas around trauma without anxiety. At times I had been encouraged to find a different word to avoid using ‘trauma’. This seemed like an invitation to collude with the idea that it is shameful or anxiety-provoking. I wanted to make this complex topic accessible to all readers, and for trauma to be seen as part of the human condition and something that we can engage with.
My book provides coaches with a framework for understanding the psycho-emotional impact of trauma, an opportunity to recognise symptoms both in themselves and clients, and how to respond within a coaching frame. My focus isn’t just on our clients but on us too, as coaches. I am told that readers find it practical and valuable to their work, which is very gratifying. My aim was to enable coaching to be as effective as it can be through widening our perspective and field of understanding.
Coaching is a wide-ranging practice, and coaches have very different types and levels of training and continuing professional development (CPD). I was, therefore, aiming at ‘everyday coaching’, not specialist work with particular client groups, and not for dual-trained practitioners, although some readers from those latter groups have said they found my book helpful. I am also clear that being trauma-informed isn’t about becoming more like therapists, but remaining as coaches, and that coaches need to take their understanding of trauma into their own modality of working. We all benefit in this through supervision, the opportunity to reflect on ourselves with our clients, and to help us ensure we are providing a safe environment for our clients.
I used the split in the psyche model developed by Professor Franz Ruppert, a German professor of organisational psychology and psychotherapist, as a theme for the book. I find it a helpful model in understanding and working with the psycho-emotional aspects of trauma. It is a simple description that captures much of the complexity of trauma dynamics. It is also congruent with others in the field who talk about the lasting impact of trauma, such as Gabor Maté and Richard Schwartz. Over time I have continued my own learning from both of them, and with Thomas Hübl and others, deepening my learning about the psycho-emotional impact of trauma.
The emphasis in the book is on the lasting impact of developmental trauma and how the ‘there and then’ trauma responses continue to live through the ‘here and now’. We mostly meet these survival symptoms of trauma in the coaching space; often they can contribute to coaching getting stuck or going nowhere, or to other factors that limit the impact coaching might have. Shock trauma as adults, and the impact of some trauma from childhood may need more specialist support, and working within our competence is essential to provide safety for clients. I also talk in the book a bit about traumatised leadership and groups. It was written before Covid so I was unable to deal with the issues that this provoked. I hope others will write about coaching and trauma and add to our field of understanding, as I certainly do not see my book as the definitive account of it. It is just where my thinking was four years ago.
Coaching and Trauma is available from online book sellers or directly from McGraw Hill
A discount is available through is link using the code OPEN20
My new book, aimed at a more general readership, awaits a publisher. It is for daughters who have difficulties in relating to their mothers and want to untangle themselves. Emotional trauma is invariably at the heart of such relationships. I hope it will be out next year.