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Life coaching: the missing link?


Frustrated by the limits of her effectiveness as a speech and language therapist, Catherine Williamson gave up her fulltime post and sold her house to train as a Life Coach. Here she explains how this has enhanced what she can offer and brought particular benefits to people who stammer.
says, If we want changes in our lives, we have to make the changes. It may be changes in style, shape, situation or attitude. We can choose the easy route or the hard one but choose we must (2006, p.23). Five years ago my personal circumstances were not good and I wanted to make changes. At the Vitality Show in London I came across Life Coaching and developed my interest through self-help books. I finally took the plunge, gave up my full-time job and put my house on the market. With support from my parents, I started work as a locum and used the profit from the house to train as a Life Coach. In 2006 I qualified through NobleManhattan Coaching. This inspired me to re-vamp my own life and start up my business Meet The Real You.

and self awareness. Martin (2001) says, The Life Coach uses the power of commitment to enable their clients to achieve beneficial and measurable results in all areas of their lives. Life Coaching is a holistic process that has the power to balance and harmonise life. My training was very poignant as it became so apparent that this could be the missing link in my work with people who stammer. Perhaps Life Coaching could take away the frustration I had begun to associate with speech and language therapy?

A wall of ash
Who benefits most from a Life Coaching approach? This puzzled me until one of my clients came to the realisation that what happened to her speech was not an act of random chance. It was related to what she did and she was the one in control. This client made the analogy that at one time she viewed her speech as a huge wall to climb over. (In my experience this is a common theme.) With the realisation that she was in control, her view changed to the image of a wall made of ash that she could actually walk right through. For the client - and me - this was a revelation. She knew that her stammer was not something she had to get over or indeed accept. She was going through that wall on her terms and she was going to set the standard. The key turning point was that she knew she could do it. In my opinion, that self-belief is what allows a client to benefit from Life Coaching. Perhaps you have understood this to be the case for many years of practice. I guess I knew this too - but the training allowed me to let the client uncover this for themselves. That is the true value of Life Coaching. All my years of experience, supposed wisdom and knowledge count for nothing unless the client comes to their own conclusions. This process can take a long time. Sadly, in NHS therapy provision, there is often not the time available to explore this. Or perhaps there is not enough evidence yet behind this approach? I hope that, by writing about it and evaluating outcomes, I can add to the evidence base. Inside each and every one of us we have the capacity to be brilliant but sometimes things get in the way, steer us off course and before we know it we are on the treadmill of life, bored, stuck in a rut and feeling there is no way out. The common factor in my clients was their lack of self-belief and self-confidence. Once their fluency goal had been achieved they did not then change their beliefs about themselves to become a fluent speaker. They ended up speaking fluently but waiting for all of it

have been a speech and language therapist for over 11 years spending much of that time working with people who stammer. I have been repeatedly frustrated that therapy techniques only work to a certain point - then something happens, fluency is lost and the stammer comes back with a vengeance. In therapy I spent a lot of time teaching adults and children techniques to modify their speaking. Easy onset, block modification and voluntary stammering all help to change a clients spoken behaviour. The theory is that, if you change your behaviour to become more fluent, then your self-confidence will also rise and fluency will be extended. In addition to these techniques I incorporated a Personal Construct approach, whereby the client was encouraged to view themselves in a different light. Kelly (1991) wrote, We take the stand that there are always some alternative constructions available to choose among in dealing with the world. No one needs to paint himself into a corner; no one needs to be completely hemmed in by circumstances. Similar approaches include Solution Focused Brief Therapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and - perhaps more in vogue now - Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). All these tools offer the client a different way of overcoming or managing difficulties. Readers of Speech & Language Therapy in Practice are familiar with Life Coach Jo Middlemiss and her excellent series Winning Ways. Jos articles give a great insight into Life Coaching and how it pays to keep an open mind, to be positive and to make changes if we are not happy. Jo

All my years of experience, supposed wisdom and knowledge count for nothing unless the client comes to their own conclusions.
Life Coaching helps people to identify negative beliefs and work on changing them to more positive behaviour patterns. Coaching is normally a conversation, or series of conversations, which helps to create personal growth


Knowledge & Education Paradigm

Self Image:
No confidence, negative, frustrated, angry

Avoid words, look away, not speak, block, blush, mumble...

Personal Belief Attitude Feeling

Self Talk:
You are pathetic, See cant even spell your own name
Figure 1 My interpretation of The Loop

Action Results
Figure 2 Format for change

to come crashing down - which inevitably it did. One of my personal goals has been to look at why this happens and to see if Life Coaching can provide the answers. Life Coaching supports people in identifying what they truly want to get out of life. People who stammer often say, I just want my stammer to go away, but they have not perhaps really imagined how this will impact on their life and the lives of others around them. How will it change them as a person? If they change, what impact will it have on friends and family? If they do not stammer, what will they be doing instead? What will that feel like? Look like?

Visualisation is a powerful tool used in Life Coaching to imagine a different way of being. Pastor, author and teacher William Arthur Ward (1921-1994) said: If you can imagine it, you can achieve it. If you can dream it, you can become it. These empowering words suggest that we all have control over our lives. Once this new way of being can be visualised, in minute detail, the process of how to get from where you are now to where you want to be begins. According to Pieffer (2005), No matter where the origins of your problem habit lie, you will benefit from developing new resources. This is another great example of what Life Coaching can do. It can open up a new set of possibilities and options, a new way to look at a problem and a way to establish more productive ways to deal with it. Positive affirmations (self talk) is an excellent resource to develop as the impact can transform your whole life because Change your thoughts, and you change your destiny (Murphy, 1988). Peiffer says, what the mind can perceive, the mind can achieve (2005). The subconscious mind is the control centre of all our physical responses and of our emotional responses. If you have a problem that is emotion driven you need to access the subconscious level of your mind to bring about change. Logical thinking and logical solutions will not do the trick because the problem is not located in the rational level. In terms of people who stammer, working on fluent speech techniques alone will not help because quite often the problem has a much deeper emotional attachment. Strategies are needed which employ the subconscious level of the mind. Martin (2001) devised the idea of The Loop (figure 1) where, to make changes, you have to change each part of that loop not just one bit. In my speech and language therapy work I often focused on changing behavior (pro-

moting fluency), thus neglecting to change the internal chatter (self talk) and beliefs that go with the behaviour. When we consider change in any area of our lives there is an identified format to follow to ensure that it becomes longer lasting (figure 2). Knowledge & Education is all about looking at reality. How do other people speak? What do they do when they stumble over words? One hundred per cent fluency is perhaps not entirely realistic. Paradigm refers to making links with your own situation: How does this fit in with me? Changes in personal belief are essential as the person has to believe that they can become the kind of speaker they would like to be. When you change your beliefs then your attitude also changes, you become more positive, more confident, more willing to push out of your comfort zone. If our attitudes change then so do

Working on fluent speech techniques alone will not help. Strategies are needed which employ the subconscious level of the mind.
our feelings which results in a change in action and this in turn gives us the results we wanted. Such models are effective tools because they require the client to go right back to check that their own understanding is valid and correct before permanent changes can be made. Denise (43) has stammered since she was 7. Over the years she has managed to hide her dysfluency through a sophisticated method of avoidance to the point that no one knows she stammers. However the down side is that she can appear standoffish and withdrawn, two qualities which do not represent who she is. Denise described her main problem as being unable to say her name, especially when speaking on the telephone. So Denise tried some Life Coaching - with significant results: Knowledge & Education Denise worked out what actually happened when a phone call went right (10 out of 10 score). She could identify the features - shoulders relaxed, sit up straight, jaw and tongue relaxed - and she recognised she had the ability to do it.

Paradigm Denise did a mock call with me, which she executed perfectly for the first time ever and then asked, Can I really do this? She was able to see that things could be done in a different way; there was an alternative. If she could be that good with me, then she could with anyone. Personal Belief After multiple attempts ringing me, Denise was consistently able to achieve 10/10 and her belief started to change to I can do this. This is important because she started to see her success as something other than a fluke. Attitude Denise began to realise she could take control. Her performance was something she did, not something that just happened. Her attitude of Its just a fluke was being replaced by something more consistent; she was building up evidence to support her changing beliefs. Feeling How emotional was that session?! Denise broke down in tears when she realised this was within her grasp. She had never dared to believe it was possible. Action This prompted Denise to go out and test her theory. Although she may not have been 10/10 on every call she never went below her personal bench mark of 7/10. Increased action promoted increased belief that she could do this and do this well. Results Denise can now consistently call me up and say her name without getting stuck or worrying about it. She now knows that she can do it. These results are spilling over into her day to day life. She can do it. What was my role in this? Denise came up with all of the answers. I reflected back what she was saying, re-phrased with slightly different words which she then heard with new meaning. I didnt let her old beliefs undermine this new found evidence. I helped her to create a new understanding of her ability based on fact, not the negative beliefs which kept her locked in the past. Coaching conversations normally take place over the telephone. Speaking on the telephone can be very difficult for many people, including those who stammer. I have an underlying knowledge and education about stammering and over 11 years experience as a speech and language therapist conversing with people who stammer. From a clients perspective this possibly sets me apart and makes me more approachable than other Life Coaches.



In the same vein most speech and language therapists have many of the qualities required of a Life Coach good listening, empathy, the ability to reflect. The difference in Life Coaching is that the client has all of the answers, not the therapist. The coach is merely the facilitator who helps the expert the client - come to their own conclusions. I believe that Life Coaching works, but what do my clients think? Here are two examples: I decided to try life coaching after reading Catherines advert in the British Stammering Association Newsletter. I was at a stage where I knew I needed to go back into speech therapy to get a grip on my negative thinking patterns. I didnt know what to expect, I wasnt nervous, just apprehensive about how this would differ from normal speech therapy. Catherine has a very precise way of helping you to break things down and view them in a different way; she also has exercises which guide you to look at yourself. I had a really positive experience with life coaching and it helped me to think differently. Since I began my life coaching I have been raving about it to everyone, I can only say, give it a go and you will understand why.

Life coaching has allowed me to free myself from my self defeating thoughts and helped me to grow in self-confidence through challenging myself to change how I viewed myself. I had very little self-belief and lacked confidence in my abilities. By challenging these through life coaching I have been able to acknowledge my own self worth. These changes have had a huge impact on my life as I now believe in myself and I am also much happier. Catherine Williamson is a Qualified Life Coach and Speech & Language Therapist, www.meettherealu.co.uk, e-mail catherine@meettherealu.co.uk. She offers the first session free to new clients, and is happy to help people who want to make positive changes in areas of their life including speaking, weight loss, relationships and personal growth.

Murphy, J. (2000) The Power of Your Subconscious Mind. London: Pocket Books. Pieffer, V. (2005) Banish Bad Habits Forever. London: Piatkus Books.

Noble-Manhattan Coaching see www.noble-manhattan.com The Vitality Show see www.thevitalityshow.co.uk

Kelly, G.A. (1991) The Psychology of Personal Constructs. Oxford: Routledge. Martin, C. (2001) The Life Coaching Handbook. Carmarthen: Crown House Publishing. Middlemiss, J. (2006) Grey(ish) power, Speech & Language Therapy in Practice Autumn, pp. 22-23.


news extra

Speech in noise
The Royal National Institute for the Deaf has raised concerns that children with a developmental problem distinguishing speech in noise are not being detected or helped. Research had previously shown that some seven year olds cannot distinguish speech against background noise compared with adults but the new claim is based on the results of a self-selecting sample of over 2000 children aged 10-14. One in five of these young people had no problems with their ears as such but in a telephone hearing check were cognitively unable to distinguish speech sounds clearly in noisy environments. The government has introduced regulations relating to acoustic environments in new schools but the RNID is calling on all schools to ensure they have the best acoustic environment for children to hear properly to enable them to get the most benefit from their education. The charity says, The use of straightforward microphone and speaker systems or sound field systems could significantly address this problem in all schools and benefit teachers and pupils in all acoustic environments. The telephone hearing check can be taken by calling 0845 600 5555. RNID has tips for teachers on ways to communicate more clearly in the classroom, available on request. www.breakingthesoundbarrier.org.uk; www.rnid.org.uk

Post-16 provision assessed

A report into provision for 16-18 year olds with learning difficulties in post-16 settings in England has concluded that the better colleges have good links to specialist services such as speech and language therapy. One example highlighted is a speech and language therapist with an extended role as a pastoral teacher in personal, social and health education: This helped learners to develop an alignment of body language with speech in a range of teaching and learning activities other than in a therapeutic setting. (p.9) The report expresses serious concerns about the assessment process for such students, preparation for real-life work and support for transitions. However, the report is clear that all colleges surveyed made effective use of methods including supported communication systems to enable learners to express their views. Current provision and outcomes for 1618-year-old learners with learning difficulties and/ or disabilities in colleges. Ofsted January 2007 Ref HMI 2371 Crown copyright. www.ofsted. gov.uk

Walkie Talkie

In another practical move to promote good communication between parents and children, the Talk to Your Baby campaign is calling for manufacturers to make sociable buggies more widely available and affordable. The Walkie Talkie label is available from the National Literacy Trusts early language campaign for use by manufacturers and retailers. It can be used to promote buggies which have pusher-facing facilities. Speech and language therapist Professor James Law is supporting the campaign. He says, There is nothing sadder than watching parents pushing buggies, perhaps wearing headphones, completely cut off from their child. The buggy which faces towards the parent provides the parent with all sorts of opportunities for interaction, making the trip all the more enjoyable for both parties. www.talktoyourbaby.org.uk

Parkinsons research

The Parkinsons Disease Society has decided to fund an assessment of what speech and language therapy services are provided specifically for people with Parkinsons. Dr Nick Miller at the University of Newcastle has been funded for 18 months to conduct a national survey of speech and language therapy provision for people with Parkinsons Disease, to include therapists practice, and perceptions of patients and carers. Nick says, We are hoping to start getting the questionnaires out in April/May, with links from the websites of the Royal College of Speech & Language Therapists and the Parkinsons Disease Society. These links should be open for several months. Respondents will be able to return the questionnaire over the web, by e-mail or as a hard copy. The commitment is part of the Societys biggest ever investment in research. www.parkinsons.org.uk