Happy And Angry Faces On Wooden Blocks
Tips & Training

How to work with strong emotions in career coaching (Part 2)

In Part 1, I explored seven common myths with the intent of bringing awareness to the importance and function of strong emotions in career coaching.

Acknowledging that strong emotions come up in coaching sessions, this article (Part 2) will look at a few ways to approach emotions you or your client might experience. This enables you to support the client to work together toward their goals, while practising in a safe way that supports your emotional well-being and that of the client.

Below are seven tips to navigate strong emotions in career coaching. All of the points I will cover are linked to Emotional Intelligence, so the first tip is:

1. Sharpen your Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

Daniel Goleman coined this term that refers to essential skills in understanding and managing your emotions and the emotions of others.

By understanding your own emotional reactions (self-awareness) and the emotional reactions of your client (social awareness), you are then able to work on managing your own emotions (self-management) and the relationship (relationship management), which is imperative to your client’s success and your well-being

Read more about this in the following articles on emotional intelligence skills and improving EQ.

2. Do not make assumptions or judge the emotion

There is no wrong, right or inappropriate emotion. If you catch yourself judging the client’s emotion, make a note to yourself. Catch and then release the judgment.

Instead of judging the client’s emotion, try to: Lean into it. Be curious. Acknowledge it. Validate it. Show compassion and empathy. What is it telling you? What is it telling the client? How can you use this information to help the client towards their goal? Ask the client, “What is going on for you right now?”

You can also use these questions to explore your own emotions outside of the session.

3. Work on your emotional self-regulation

Regulating your emotions does not mean ignoring or minimizing them. It is the ability to control and manage the emotions that come up for you in session so that you can be present with your client. This may mean you make note of your emotion but are able to postpone or inhibit it temporarily and not let it affect your current ability to do your job. You can then revisit the emotion that came up for you on your own time out of session.

Four ways to increase your tolerance of distress AND regulate your emotions include:

  • Increase your Distress Tolerance. This term refers the ability to tolerate strong emotions, so that they do not overpower your ability to move forward and perform (to learn more, see Leyro, Zvolensky & Bernstein, 2011).
  • Practise: You may find that the more experience you have in working with strong emotions (your clients’ and your own, in and out of work), the more tolerance you will have for distressful emotional experiences.
  • Keep a reflection journal to prompt reflection and self-awareness. Questions may include: What emotion were you experiencing? Were there any triggers you could identify? What is the emotion telling you? How will you work with it the next time it arises?
  • Shift your mindset and perspective: Instead of interpreting the emotion as something to fear or stifle, or a sign that things aren’t going well, you can view it as a source of information and a tool.
Illustration of woman with thought bubbles around her showing her imagining different emotional states
iStock
4. Hold space for your client’s emotion. Then let it go

Although it is essential to acknowledge, validate and empathize with your client, this does not mean taking on your client’s emotions. This can happen during session or out of session, which, over time and left unchecked, can impact your mental health and lead to compassion fatigue, distress and burnout. There are many ways to help you process your own emotions out of session without breaching confidentiality including journalling, practising mindfulness, meditations and debrief sessions with trusted colleagues.

5. Have some tools and techniques ready

When the emotional distress of your client is very high, you can use distress tolerance, self-soothing behaviours and grounding techniques as well as coregulation during session. Coregulation involves a two-person approach to regulating emotions, helping to stabilize the emotion and distress experienced by your client. When used effectively, it can provide your client with a sense of safety, stability and trust enhancing the coaching relationship, conversation and process. As it is a two-person process, it may also help you regulate any distressing emotions that come up for you, too.

6. Take care of YOU, in and out of sessions

This includes:

a. Having a self-care and well-being plan in place

Working with strong emotions affects everyone differently and can change depending on your life situation and state of well-being. Ensure you have a solid self-care and well-being plan in place to support you alongside your role with clients.

Aside from the physiological basics (good sleep, exercise, eating right, social interaction), this includes attending to your own emotions and getting professional support as needed, as well as other measures listed under “Hold space for your client’s emotion.” Then, let it go.

b. Setting boundaries to ensure your emotional well-being, not just the client’s

Setting effective boundaries can help better prepare you for handling strong emotions and also help you reduce the harm of compassion fatigue and burnout. Boundaries can include staying within your professional scope, ensuring good time management in and between sessions, having a door-open policy if you feel unsafe, referral if there is a conflict of interest or bias you feel is getting in the way of helping your client and not taking a client’s issues home with you.

7. Check in with your current capacity

If you feel that you are not prepared to support the client emotionally and that your emotions may get in the way of the coaching process (e.g. due to triggers, conflict of interest, your health status, certain biases, current life situation), then the client’s best interest needs to be handled appropriately, as do yours. Usually, a referral and consultation with a mentor or your employer is a helpful step.

I hope this article provides you with some tools and strategies to enhance your career coaching by helping you feel more comfortable working with your client’s emotions and your own.

Lastly, I would like to leave you with two phrases that I go to for reassurance when strong emotions are expressed by the client.

The client does not need to feel better. They need to see better.

The client does not need to leave the session happy. They just need to be safe.

Fanie Zis Author
Fanie Zis, PCC, CCDP, CWS, CES, CCS. Coming from a background in Psychology, Counselling, and Career Development, Fanie is a Professional Certified Coach with the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and a Certified Career Development Practitioner with the BCCDA. Fanie works as a Life Smart Coach for EFAP program through Homewood Health in the areas of career coaching, career counselling, relationship coaching, family support, grief and loss, stress management and pre-retirement planning. Fanie also works as a freelance Life and Career Coach, supporting clients through personal and professional development and life enhancement processes in a variety of sectors in their lives depending on their situation and life goals.
follow me
×
Fanie Zis Author
Fanie Zis, PCC, CCDP, CWS, CES, CCS. Coming from a background in Psychology, Counselling, and Career Development, Fanie is a Professional Certified Coach with the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and a Certified Career Development Practitioner with the BCCDA. Fanie works as a Life Smart Coach for EFAP program through Homewood Health in the areas of career coaching, career counselling, relationship coaching, family support, grief and loss, stress management and pre-retirement planning. Fanie also works as a freelance Life and Career Coach, supporting clients through personal and professional development and life enhancement processes in a variety of sectors in their lives depending on their situation and life goals.