I have long been interested in how moving our bodies physically and a change in physical environment, can really create a much needed shift and evoke different insights during coaching. (There are examples of this in my Coaching Creativity book and elsewhere). Whilst coaching professes to shift outside of the medicalisation of other “helping” therapies, its practice often mirrors the medical model: Pre-planned 1 hour sit down sessions, “see” your coach, leave, come back at regular intervals. Nothing wrong with that, but coaching occurs in between sessions and carries on in all sorts of ways: mulling things over, creative insights whilst showering, chatting with people, daydreaming, reflective writing etc etc. Anyway, that’s not what this post is about…
I can’t coach my daughter… I can’t really be her OT either and being a parent of a child with extra challenges really sucks during these times – I feel so helpless on a daily basis and she can spot my “coach” persona a mile off….
The saving grace in the last two years or so have been our “drives” together. Usually prompted by her getting into a pickle (“pickle” is professional term which includes many different states including anger, low mood, low arousal and just needing to get out of the house) It’s worth mentioning at this point that she is suffering from occupational deprivation, isolation and exclusion from most activities that a 16 year old girl would be participating in. She has some sensory processing problems and a mix of learning, attentional and mood stuff rumbling around her system. She struggles with friendships massively.
These “drives”, the car sort I mean, not the psychological ones, are usually required in the evening or late at night, often when I have run out of energy and really need to recharge and sleep, but I have come to realise that they are a crucial part of her “therapy” for want of a better word and here’s why:
- She gets in such a pickle that she often becomes mute and she hasn’t found away to shift this herself yet. Bundling her into the car when other things have failed, provides a natural shift as she moves her body, gets her bag, has a wee etc
- The vibration of the car (and by god does my 17 year old Golf, vibrate) seems to help her sensory system somehow : I expect those of you with the gen on SPDcan explain this to me, but it does help
- She starts to breathe differently and looks around the countryside, motorway and then around the city. This seems to help her expand her internal horizons away from what can become a very stifling environment in our house, small parochial town and the awful “school” unit she is at which is like being in prison
- She faces forward and we don’t need to make eye contact. This is really helpful in terms of freeing up our brains to do their own sorting and regulating and so helpful in coaching, which is why I enjoy telephone coaching so much.
- Her state starts to shift and loosens grip on whatever has gotten stuck. Sometimes I bring up something random but more often or not she starts to bring up stuff that has been bothering her. I get a chance to practice the following….open-hearted, non-reactive (lol), curious attending…. “oh I wonder what that’s about then?”, “what sense do you make of that?”, ”that’s odd, I wonder what he was thinking of when he said that?” (please know that I have to fight the urge to give advice and over talk and try and keep clear of well-intentioned but often overbearing motherly rants….)
- We drive usually for at least an hour. My environmental hat, struggles with this as I think of the carbon the Golf is producing, but after 2 years of watching her capacities and her world shrink, it is a small price to pay. I can see her spirit clearing and energy lifting. She starts to self-regulate and the “drive” has done its job. My OT and coach are still squirming with so many thoughts, ideas and advice, but for me, the drive is also a place to let go of trying too hard to “fix” her. She doesn’t need fixing – she is beautiful, bright and a unique individual who will ultimately find her own way.
So outside of my personal reflections, please think about taking your clients for walks, chat during drives etc – this is the place where a massive part of our work can take place and should not be undervalued.