Shining a Beacon of Hope: The Vital Role of Helping Professionals

Previously, I wrote a blog post, Coaches as Hope Warriors, to underscore how important it is to create positive expectancy for our clients. Coaching clients come from all walks of life, cultures, and backgrounds. They seek services to solve their problems or meet their goals. Most suffer from some degree of imposture syndrome—the deep feeling that they aren’t good enough and don’t deserve the acquisition of their dreams. Given the statistics of childhood sexual abuse and the nature of the counseling field, it is likely that a number of your clients will have traumatic experiences in their history.

Given the current state of the medical/disease model of mental health, many people are trained to believe trauma is forever, altering people in ways that are permanent and require psychiatric care for the rest of their lives. After all, how could one expect to live a normal life after living through trauma?

The worst thing a provider can do is practice this way of thinking. Coaches, counselors, therapists, and social workers need to stop believing there is something fundamentally wrong with their clients. No one is permanently broken. Instead, the process should be to find out what happened to the client while fiercely communicating your belief that they will get better by gaining information and translating that information into new skills.

Of course, they have been affected by what’s happened to them. People don’t live through trauma without changing, but the response to trauma is biological, not psychological. If you’ve lived through something so extraordinary that the experience is surreal and terrifying—in many cases, people believe they will not leave the experience alive—the body undergoes some temporary changes, including huge dumps of chemicals designed to help the person fight or flee. When neither of those options is available, people can develop the behavior of dissociation or fawning over their perpetrator for their own protection. These are normal responses to the abnormal situations they find themselves in. Recovery requires learning how to stay vigilant for threats in the environment while maintaining a relaxed body. It is impossible to have a trauma response in a relaxed body. No one is broken; they have simply developed compensatory responses to keep themselves alive in desperate circumstances.

Clients typically hire coaches to help them accomplish their goals and dreams faster than they would on their own. When talking about big goals and dreams, the client may have already tried and failed, or the process might be taking way longer than expected. This can be due to subconscious sabotage rooted in the four things Gay Hendricks writes about in his book, The Big Leap:

  1. Feeling fundamentally flawed
  2. Disloyalty and abandonment
  3. Believing that more success brings a bigger burden
  4. The crime of outshining

None of these are forever obstacles. They simply need to be brought from the subconscious to the conscious to be examined with intention, all while the client works to develop alternative thoughts or behaviors that can replace the ones they want to change.

Hal Lindsey said, “Man can live about 40 days without food, about three days without water, about eight minutes without air…but only for one second without hope.” The medical/disease model of mental illness does not provide the kind of hope most people need. People may feel happy with a diagnosis because it gives them a reason why they aren’t like everyone else. Psychiatric medication can provide relief in the short term, but the side effects and consequences of withdrawal can be unbearable. There is also the common situation where the person needs a higher dosage of the drug to maintain the benefits they experienced with their initial dosage or an additional medication.

People need hope from their practitioners—hope that they have the self-efficacy to heal themselves once they have the information—but they need to develop the skills to help themselves. If you’re a human service provider who cannot provide clients with genuine, passionate, unshakeable hope that they have the capacity to improve and recover, you are doing a disservice to your client. They need to borrow your belief of hope until they can develop hope for themselves.

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