I attended a presentation on Integral Coaching, delivered by an important member of the coaching community in Romania.
I find it useful to present some reflections on that brief workshop.
Why Integral Coaching? Because – says the presenter – of two important reasons: one, dissatisfaction may occur in connection with the classic model of coaching, with its limitations (for instance, you cannot get feedback (?!)) and two, the combination with mentoring is more efficient for the customer. The term ”integral” has a nice sound to it in English because it defines a method that addresses all aspects of a customer’s life, treats the customer as a “whole” – the term is being connected with the verb “to integrate” – and this is an essential feature of this type of coaching. In Romanian language, the term “integral” tends to send us more to a panacea, to a universal term, perception that the presenter wanted to dismantle from the beginning.
Basically, the method starts with the customer evaluation. The customer is asked to answer several questions regarding all the aspects of their life, and the dialogue is based on introspection and awareness. Later on, the coach (based on this “information” and by understanding the customer and their situation), creates and presents the customer a metaphor-story. Resonating (or not!) with the story, the client may change perspective, may have clarifications or even revealing breakthroughs. Furthermore, the coach may counsel the customer how to change their life and career or how to dedicate to hobbies that can balance or fulfill their life, as a whole. The ultimate goal of the coach is to “minimize the distress/suffering of the customer”.
The premise looks extraordinary and genuinely altruistic. But, if we go beyond intention, I do have some blurring.
First of all, the name, Integral Coaching. There are many other expressions of the same type (Life Coaching, Executive Coaching, Parental Coaching, Career Coaching, Spiritual Coaching, Wellness Coaching, etc.) actually specifying the category of clients to whom it addresses or that clarify the approached topic area that the client is interested in. They are all subsumed to “Coaching”. However, even in those cases the names of such categories are under the stress of market’s perception and marketing in general, since an experimented professional coach may practice Executive, Parental or who-knows-what-other-kind-of coaching equally efficient. In this context, Integral Coaching appears to intend to simply be above Coaching.
How is Integral Coaching different, what else does it bring along? Among other things, it sets up the following statements:
– The main objective of the coach is to fully know the clients (integral);
– Based on this knowledge, the coach directs the clients to a tailored model designed by the coach and invites/counsel the clients to resonate with it;
– The coach judges the clients, starting from the premise that they are either not capable to clarify situations or even find a way in life, or they are not efficient in their actions; even more, the coach believes the clients are suffering and, consequently, they have to be comforted (as a matter of fact, what makes the coach assume a client wants his suffering to be soothed, or think that this would be the most appropriate thing for the client?).
Each of these three issues is in contradiction with the fundamental principles of coaching (I will not use the term “classic” since the various definitions of coaching state unanimously that the coach can never really know the client and it is not recommendable and efficient to give directions and much less to judge them). It is these features that individualize this profession in the diverse palette (often with diffuse boundaries) of the domains from the field of personal development. By its guiding approach Integral Coaching seems to be rather close to mentoring – along with its well-known suite of proven benefits for the client. Along this process, the coach uses tools like active listening, dialogue, creating rapport, etc. that are common instruments both to coaching and other domains of personal development. As for the intention to soothe/diminish the client’s suffering, Integral Coaching gets closer to therapy than to coaching.
Somehow born on the border of several areas – coaching, mentoring, therapy, NLP, consultancy – and aspiring to a higher standard, the fact that the school (see: www.newventureswest.com) that promotes Integral Coaching and has its training program accredited by ICF (ACTP – Accredited Coaching Training Program) tangles things even more.
I do not wish to confuse anybody: I hereby declare that mentoring, counselling, therapy, NLP, and the like, are useful domains, with clear advantages, in specific situations. Still, which is the reason a method that dynamites the foundation of coaching wishes to be called “coaching”? There are loads of assumptions that can be made. Is it very likely that its efficiency in meeting the immediate needs of the client is notable. But I find more appropriate to look for explanations in the writings of the creator of the Integral Coaching – James Flaherty and of one of his promoters (who has visited Romania) – David Clutterbuck, an international authority of mentoring.
N.B. When two well-known coaches make public the fact that along their careers they felt thwarted/limited by the requirements of good practice of some respectable coaching schools – perspective shared by other participants in the workshop – that is a sign it is about time the professional associations of the domain should revise or maybe rethink the status of the coaching profession.