Coaching and Mental Health: What is Normal?

I am currently reading A Guide to Coaching and Mental Health by Andrew and Carole Buckley. The first chapter discussed the question of what is normal. It is aiming to explain to coaches what to do if you come for coaching but also have a mental health issue or psychological abnormality.
Now life coaching is not counselling or therapy. It focuses on the positive. Coaching enables you to find your talents achieve your goals and so find meaning and purpose to your life that result in true happiness. It does not focus on the negative. It is not about overcoming what gone wrong psychologically.

The Buckleys are very clear that coaching is designed for people who are well and want to achieve their goals. Its purpose is not to deal with a psychological abnormality. However you may have such issues which you may or may not be aware of these.

How might your coach detect abnormality?

Most are normal as shown by this normal distribution curve

Most are normal as shown by this normal distribution curve

Most people are normal and your coach will start with the assumption that you are psychologically healthy and lack any abnormality unless they observe signs that indicate otherwise. But as the relationship develops they may see clues in your appearance, your behaviour and how you express your thoughts and emotions.

Of course you are unique

Have you always felt you were different? I have. I think most people do. Everyone has their own idiosyncrasies and if you are deviating from the expected social norms it may just be your own style.

A coach should be accepting of people and such little eccentricities should not in themselves necessarily indicate psychological abnormality. I think the Buckley’s would actually agree with this.

Are you functioning well despite circumstances?

They discuss that life can involve distressing situations and overcoming such suffering can be a normal part of life. You may be dealing with stress at work, bereavement or other major life changes. If your responses to these are typical then a coach may provide support as you work on your goals and overcome these problems.

Are you showing signs of dysfunction?

If your distress is greater than might be normally expected then your day-to-day functioning may become impaired. Such dysfunction may alert your coach to a psychological abnormality. A coach will need to take care as if you are failing to function adequately coaching may be ineffective or even harmful.

Are you lacking mental health?

We all may deviate to some degree from ideal metal health. The aim of coaching is to enable you to be fulfilled. So you may need to build your self esteem or work on coping well with stress. But if you are deviating so far from this that there are signs of a psychological abnormality it may not be safe to continue until this is dealt with.

Your coach may get it wrong!

They explain well that such observations are by their very nature subjective. They depend on the social context and the specific environment. Your coach will be affected by his own background when making such observations and will need to be aware of any misunderstanding due to cultural differences.

When might these issues arise?

As your coaching progresses and you begin to move out of your comfort zone to tackle your goals it may be that your coach comes to feel that a psychological abnormality is impacting on your coaching.

You may hit a barrier in your coaching, be trapped by psychological pain, become unbalanced by emotional turbulence or begin show clear signs of a recognisable condition.

How might your coach deal with these issues?

Your coach will probably get you to seek advice from someone who is qualified in a relevant field. You will be better off with a referral to the relevant specialist. There may be little that the coach can do for any condition that may have come to light especially if it has a biological basis.

However while you are undergoing therapy such as medication prescribed by your GP you still may want to talk to a coach. For instance, you may want to work on reducing your stressors, especially if you are on medication that will be reduced after a short period. Hopefully they will have familiarity with your condition and still help.

What do you think?

I am still reading this book. But what I have read so far I have really enjoyed. I hope to post some insights from A Guide to Coaching and Mental Health again. Please let me know what you think about these ideas.

Related Post

What is a Life Coach?

Further Reading

A Guide to Coaching and Mental Health is available from and