A Long-Term Coaching Process: Differentiation for Client and Coach
This chapter describes a long-term coaching relationship between a client and a coach, the author of the chapter, as each of us worked toward higher levels of differentiation of self over a 29-year period, 1984 to 2014. For the purposes of the chapter, a “coach” is deﬁ ned as someone who offers oneon-one consultation to a client while he or she works to enhance his or her functioning in close relationships, at work, and in the wider community. The goal of therapeutic work with a Bowen trained coach, in the most general sense, is that clients learn to reduce their anxiety and reactivity while raising their level of differentiation of self in their closest relationships. They are also coached to reduce triangling, overfunctioning and underfunctioning, and cutoff as responses to anxiety in their most signiﬁ cant relationships. A corollary to these goals is that the coach, without discussing the details of his or her own life, must manage his or her own anxiety, maintain neutrality, stay detriangled, and keep clear interpersonal boundaries in order to be effective in facilitating the client’s ability to realize his or her goals. The reciprocity between coach and client over time requires that they both work on self in the context of an exploration of the client’s emotional functioning. Unlike more traditional, individually focused therapies, the emphasis is not on the relationship between the client and the coach, nor on the client’s potential emotional dependence on the coach, but rather on their ability to maintain separate, autonomous, though still connected selves during their work together. The real changes in the client’s life happen outside the sessions, but the planning and strategizing about change and its effects happen in the sessions.