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Coaching Teenagers

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A coaching client in his late teenage years approaches you with the following question: “I’d like to go to University, but I don’t think I could do the study. What should I do?” As his coach, what would you suggest? Zahava Starak, LCI Master Coach, answers…
Whether we are dealing with a young client fresh out of high school and ready to experience their next challenge or a mature age student who is pursuing studies after a stint in the workforce, the best place to start is by focusing on their reasons for wanting to go to university and how this studying will fit in with other activities in their life. With this information we can then devise the best strategies to enable them to start their studies with confidence and we can implement appropriate motivational tools to keep them focused.
Therefore, as with a majority of coaching clients, before we become too specific we will focus on our client’s big picture and ascertain which direction they are heading in and what their life will look like in the future, perhaps five years from now. To this end we could ask the client to write a letter to himself in the future, in which they actually describe what will be happening to them at this time. The letter serves as an impetus for our client to focus their thoughts on why they are seeking a university education and what the end goal is.
If we don’t want to use a tool we could just as easily sit comfortably with our client and ask them what they want to achieve with their studies and how their studies fit in with their life’s vision. Usually if clients have plans to study they have some idea of where they are heading and merely need a little encouragement to open up and share their dreams.
It might now also be advisable to explore what values our client holds to see if they will hinder or assist them in reaching their vision. A look at values will verify that the outcome goals that the client has in regards to their studies are in harmony with their personal values and will also determine what values the client has that could motivate them to study.
For example if the client’s top three values are fun, adventure and freedom they may experience some difficulty focusing on studies. If the client’s values include components such as discipline, hard work and personal growth it should be easier for the client to keep motivated once they start the process going. Either way this information can help us when motivating our client.
Throughout all our contacts and communications with our client we will always refer to their vision as it is the driving force. We know that our client wants to study – as their vision requires them to receive the knowledge, skill and competencies that a university education offers. Our role is to consistently keep this picture in our client’s mind as we work with them on overcoming the study barrier.
The client’s doubts about studying could be related to a number of factors – not having enough time to study, not knowing how to study or merely being in a state of procrastination.
To address the first case we need to find out what else is happening in our client’s life. Do they have a job and do they need to keep this job once they are studying? Do they have a social interest that requires regular attendance at meetings or events?
Are they a member of a sporting team and so are they committed to practice times and scheduled games? Are they in a relationship will they have further obligations and do they have the additional responsibilities of a parent?
Issues raised by these questions need to be carefully explored and it must be determined how realistic it is for our client to go to university. We might even need to consider part time studies or self paced studies if these options fit in better with the lifestyle of our client.
Once we are clear that our client’s goal to study at university is realistic and attainable, we can work with them in designing a timetable that will incorporate all aspects of their life while insuring enough time to attend classes and study. This timetable will clearly highlight specific timeslots and so if our client can stick to the plan they will not need to panic.
Next we can further assist our client in gaining the confidence to start university by providing them with some basic study hints. The timetable was a good starting point and now we can work on designating an area specifically for study. Everything that our client needs has to be easily accessible. Good lighting is important as is reduced distractions. If possible noise should be avoided. The study space need not be cold as a conducive ambience can go a long way in motivating our client.  
We can advise the client to have at hand highlighter pens and ‘post-it’ notes for highlighting key passages worth reviewing. They can record main points on an audio tape or digital file that can be replayed and listened to while doing household chores or driving. Summarising main points on a piece of paper or file card may also assist our client to retain key information.
We can further educate our client on the need to maintain good health habits while studying as this will keep their energy levels up and the adrenalin positively pumping. Relaxation and stretch exercises can be demonstrated as an accompaniment to regular physical exercise. Our client can be directed on healthy eating habits, specifically on appropriate snack foods to have at the ready while working on lengthy assignments.
Our client needs to be made aware that there is room for rewards and appropriate breaks in any study regime and that they can treat themselves to something special every now and them if they have maintained regular studies.
If our client is still hesitating to start their studies we can discuss with them any specific reasons they may have for procrastinating and we can explore the negative language that they are using to hold them back from taking up this challenge.
What is important now is to identify any doubts our client may have about their abilities and help them to change their perspective. “I can’t” language through NLP techniques and cognitive restructuring is changed to “I can” and “I want to”.
Our client is now empowered and we want to keep this motivation revving. In the long term our client needs to achieve their motivation internally and it is worth our while to discuss with them what they can do to keep their focus and remain motivated to achieve their goals. We can refer them back to their identified visions and goals as this can serve as a strong anchor whenever our client feels like they are getting lost. We can also help our client by explaining that goals are not set in stone and if they have to their goals can be modified or fine tuned – this might remove some unnecessary pressure.
We can also offer our client motivational resources in the form of tapes, books and screen savers with affirmations. If we have a favourite inspirational story or quote we can share it with our client while encouraging them to find messages that resonate with them. It is hoped that our client now knows what to do and will embark on their studies with a feeling of joy and excitement.

Relationship Coaching

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Becoming a couple is one of the most complex relationships in adulthood. It is also well known that being a couple can contribute to personal growth and self awareness (Long & Young, 2007). Romantic couples are a unique type of relationship that is different from friendships and family bonds because it is based on romantic love. The triangular love theory aims to define romantic love on the basis of three key characteristics being present. These three characteristics are: intimacy, passion and decision/commitment (Hendrick, 2004).
The intimacy component of the romantic relationship refers to feelings of closeness and connectedness. The passionate component refers to the drives that lead to romance, physical attraction, sexual consummation, and other such related phenomena in loving relationships. The decision–commitment component refers to, in the short term, the decision that one loves someone else, and in the long term, the commitment to maintain that love (Hendrick, 2004).
In today’s western based society there has been an ongoing increase in the freedom of choice in love and mate selection which has led to a diverse range of romantic couple formations (Long & Young, 2007). Economic and social changes also influence individuals on when, how and to whom they decide to become a romantic couple with. As a result, a traditional concept of marriage is no longer the only option of being a romantic couple. Some of the common categories of romantic couple relationships include:

  1. Defacto/ Cohabitating relationships
  2. Same sex relationships
  3. Dating
  4. Married  

In this article, we discuss some challenges romantic couples experience during the development of their relationship. Like most interpersonal relationships, most romantic couples experience some challenge at some point in their relationship.
Some of these common challenges may include infidelity, loss of intimacy, communication difficulties, coping with stress challenges, financial pressures, boundary violations, difficulty balancing individual and couple expectations, divorce, separation and breaking up.
Whatever the challenge, it is important to note that all dyadic relationships will experience some kind of distress at some point. For coaches providing relationship coaching services, it is useful to identify these common challenges when working with clients.
Infidelity is increasingly becoming one of the most common relationship challenges in romantic relationships. The acts of infidelity or cheating can have devastating consequences on those involved. Having been cheated on can result in anguish, depression, fury and humiliation (Brand, Markey, Mills & Hodges, 2007). It has been suggested that infidelity is one of the leading causes of divorce and romantic relationship breakdown (Brand, Markey, Mills & Hodges, 2007).
Generally, infidelity is a violation of trust by one or both members of a monogamous romantic relationship that involves a third party individual, with whom one member has an improper relationship. Zola (2007) defines infidelity as an act of emotional and/or physical betrayal characterised by behaviour that is not approved by the other partner and that has contributed to considerable ongoing distress in the non offending partner. Infidelity can be in the form of an emotional affair, a sexual affair or a combination of both. Traditionally, men are considered to be primarily interested in sexual infidelity and women are considered to be primarily interested in emotional infidelity (Zola, 2007).
Zola (2007) suggests that there has always been a greater emotional need or tie when it comes to women and affairs, while men tend to have an affair primarily for sex. One of the reasons given for women’s preference to emotional affairs is to “mate switch”. This refers to the quest of finding a partner without giving up the security derived from the current partner (Brand, Markey, Mills & Hodges, 2007). Infidelity prevalence rates vary according to gender with female incidents reported to be 10% to 15% lower than those of their male counterparts (Zola, 2007).
In resolving this matter, women are found to be more likely to forgive a sexual infidelity where as men find it the most difficult to forgive (Zola, 2007). In support for this argument, Long and Young (2007) suggest that men are more approving of affairs for sexual reasons where as women are more approving of affairs of emotional justification. It is not uncommon that couples who have experienced infidelity in their relationships experience challenges in their attempts to resolve relational problems associated with it. As such, infidelity is considered one of the most challenging issues to treat in couple therapy (Zola, 2007; Brand, Markey, Mills & Hodges, 2007).
The word intimacy has taken on sexual connotations. But it is much more than that. It includes all the different dimensions of our lives. It involves the physical, social, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects as well as sexual components that can enhance the feelings of togetherness between the romantic couple (Larson, Hammond & Harper, 1998). According to Sternberg’s theory of love, intimacy includes emotional bonding and feelings of connectedness. Sternberg suggests that intimacy develops during the course of the relationship and will usually include decisions of loyalty to the relationship (Long & Young, 2007).
Intimacy has also been conceptualised as a sense of self disclosure, sharing of one’s self and feeling closer to one’s partner. Intimacy is maintained by engagement in intimate conversation (Brunell, Pilkington & Webster, 2007; Kirby, Baucom & Peterman, 2005) and is considered a major part of romantic relationships. It is also an important factor for psychological wellbeing and is linked to positive and satisfying relationships (Brunell, Pilkington & Webster, 2007; Long & Young, 2007).
It is fair to assume that the quality of the romantic relationship will often be judged by the frequency of intimate interactions as perceived by each individual.  It is these unmet intimacy expectations that can often affect the relationship negatively and pose challenges for the couple (Kirby, Baucom & Peterman, 2005). Coaches dealing with loss of intimacy in romantic relationships should help clients develop trust and communication skills that can help to overcome barriers to intimacy.
Conflict is part of any interpersonal relationship and occurs as a result of differences in opinions. People differ in values, dreams, desires and perceptions. Therefore, we are all bound to encounter conflict at some point in our lives (Long & Young, 2007). Conflict can range from less serious mild disagreements to more intensely heated arguments. Previous research has found that marital conflict often stems from unmet needs, wants, and desires. From this perspective, marital conflict is defined as a process of interaction in which one or both partners feel discomfort about some aspect of their relationship and try to resolve it in some manner (Hamamci, 2005).
When one person needs or wants something badly enough, and the other person is unwilling or unable to meet that need, resentment will often grow. Then, if one were to add the power of an unruly tongue, the situation will usually become ripe for very destructive forms of conflict. To look at it pragmatically, romantic relationship conflict will often happen when one member of the couple perceives inequity or experiences an imbalance in rewards or benefits from being in the relationship whereby it is perceived by one member of the couple that the other only cares about his/ her individual needs (Long & Young, 2007).
The negative consequences of conflict are probably familiar to all of us. Conflict can cause psychological pain that manifests in withdrawal and distance, depression, anxiety and/or aggression. Not only between the couple but also with those who are living around them (Choi, 2008). However, there are also constructive outcomes to conflict in romantic relationships. For instance, people who continue to relate to one another despite their conflict may build greater trust and confidence in each another and become more apt in their ability to resolve their problems (Johnson, 2007).
However, reoccurring conflict is usually a symptom of a problem in the romantic relationship and therefore should be addressed intentionally by the couple. The role of the coach, when dealing with couples who are experiencing conflict, is to help them identify the source of such conflict and its style to assist them in implementing skills to resolve the disagreements (Relationships Australia, 2009).
A good healthy romantic relationship is often characterised by good communication. Healthy couples speak openly and directly with congruent non verbal cues allowing them to convey the intended message accurately. Communication in romantic relationships connects and reassures partners and allows them to discuss and solve problems and share important information and views (Long & Young, 2007). Challenges occur when the messages we send to the other are misunderstood or misinterpreted. It is not uncommon when a couple experiences problems in their relationship, communication becomes broken (Long & Young, 2007).
Healthy, productive and effective communication is viewed as the binding tool for any romantic relationship. Problems and challenges in intimate relationships are often resolved through developing healthy, productive and effective communication. Therefore, the goal of enhancing communication skills may be a great starting point for the relationship coach.
Sexual Problems
Sexual intimacy is one of the most important factors in romantic relationships. It is one of the factors that differentiate a romantic relationship from any other interpersonal relationship. Sexual problems like all other problems in romantic relationships often develop as a result of an imbalance in the partner’s styles of loving (Long & Young, 2007). In the early stages of the relationship, it is common for couples to experience intense feelings of love, affection and a strong desire for one another.
As the relationship grows, external factors such as children and busy schedules can begin to have an impact on the sexual intimacy of the couple, often resulting in frustrations experienced by at least one member of the relationship. As the frustrations develop over time, problems may begin to surface.
Sometimes sexual challenges may occur as a result of sexual dysfunction. Sexual dysfunctions are characterised by psychosocial disturbances in sexual desire resulting in distress and interpersonal difficulty (APA, 2000). According to the DSM- IV-TR, some of the common sexual dysfunction disorders include sexual desire disorder, sexual arousal disorder, and orgasmic disorders. It is crucial for the coach to differentiate sexual problems from sexual dysfunctions in order to determine the appropriate referral when necessary. If sexual problems are an issue the coach can help clients explore options for achieving emotional and sexual intimacy in their relationships.
Substance Abuse
While substance abuse, particularly alcohol, has been associated with financial problems and health problems that contribute to relational distress, many people use it as a way of coping with the problems in their relationships. The first issue, of course, is money. Alcohol is expensive. Spending a great deal of money each day on alcoholic beverages is a serious problem that can put a great deal of strain on relationships.
Alcohol can cause people to become less sensitive to the feelings of others too. Alcohol can make it difficult for people to distinguish between the other person’s emotions, and thus they may make incorrect judgments that negatively impact their relationship with their partner (Sharf, 2001).
Time is an issue as well. Drinking is not a “one and done” type of activity. It can take hours out of the day, hours that could have been spent as a couple. The imposition on couple time from excessive drinking can cause partners to emotionally drift apart often resulting in problems within the dyadic relationship. Because of these and other factors, alcohol abuse has been singled out as a contributing factor to divorce, physical abuse and lowered marital satisfaction (Long & Young, 2007).
Divorce and Breaking Up
Divorce rates are increasing at an alarming rate. In Australia, 40% of marriages end up in divorce where as in USA, 50% of marriages end up in divorce ( For romantic relationships that continuously experience high distress, low satisfaction and low relationship quality, at some point one partner or both come to a decision to end or terminate the relationship, if such challenges are not resolved.
According to ideas derived from social exchange theory, termination of marriages and romantic relationships will often occur as a result of costs exceeding rewards. If the individual perceives that they are not getting more than what they have invested in the relationship, this may lead to dissatisfaction with the relationship (Amato & Hohmann-Marriott, 2007).
Divorce and break up can be a difficult and painful experience for many. The termination of a relationship or divorce can affect an individual financially, socially, emotionally and psychologically (Long & Young, 2007). Feelings of depression, anxiety and other psychiatric disorders are often experienced during this time (Williams & Dunee-Bryant, 2006). The role of the coach is to assist and motivate clients through this life changing transition.