Psychodynamic Coaching: Focus and Depth

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In a postmodern age we all need a room of our own. A room - or space - where we can explore and reflect on how the rapidly changing world affects us. A room where it is possible to get a feeling of who we are, and wish to be, in the middle of the buzz of our everyday lives. Where it is possible to explore our challenges and possibilities and thus become a more robust human being. Where we can think of our relationships and interactions. Where we can have a break and some relief and where we can summon the energy to act - or not to act - in our lives.Coaching is way of providing the space for such thoughts, reflections, and insights into our possibilities. Most of the different coaching methods do not adhere to a specific psychological theory. However, in this book you will meet a coaching method that is based on a specific theory - psychodynamics. The main idea is to work with the coached person's past, present, and future in order to open up for a more integrated and fulfilling life.

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CHAPTER ONE: Psychodynamics and coaching: why?

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The purpose of this book is to put together an integrated picture of how it is possible to work through coaching based on a psychodynamic framework of understanding: psychodynamic coaching.

This book is for readers of three types:

•  the curious reader who wants to know what psychodynamic coaching is;

•  the reader who already knows a little, or perhaps more than just a little, about psychodynamic theory, and would like to know how it can be combined with coaching;

•  the reader who knows a little, or more than a little, about coaching, and would like to know how it can be combined with solid theory and a serious conceptual approach.

Any reader who expects a complete overview of psychodynamic theory or of applied coaching will be disappointed. The material has been researched, some of it selected for inclusion, and some rejected. Coaching and psychodynamics are both overwhelming fields, and it would be unrealistically ambitious to attempt to embrace “everything”. My choices were predominantly based on: (1) what I have gained many years of experience of through practising it; (2) what has worked and, thus, proved meaningful professionally; (3) what I have personally enjoyed, benefited from, and drawn satisfaction from working with; (4) what I believe others—students, participants on courses, colleagues, clients, and competitors—can benefit from.

 

CHAPTER TWO: Psychodynamic coaching

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In the following is a description of psychodynamic coaching in practice. The method consists of the following steps:

1.  The client’s first contact.

2.  The first coaching session: objectives and framework.

3.  The course of coaching.

4.  Conclusion: evaluation and leave-taking.

This chapter will show how psychodynamic coaching means working actively with a direct focus on the client’s business. The coach also carries out active, focused work indirectly, with him/herself as the receptive instrument for both conscious and unconscious processes that exist in the relationship, and in the parallel processes started up by what is told. It is through understanding these and working on the relationship that movement, change, and lasting development are created. When unconscious patterns and dynamics become conscious, it is possible to change them, or, if it is not possible to change them, it is possible to make adjustments in relation to them. When unconscious factors are made conscious, this is not purely due to cognitive insight or the establishment of understanding, but to a simultaneous, deeper, inner binding emotionally. Freud distinguishes between pre-conscious and unconscious, where the pre-conscious is what can become conscious only through an exertion of attention (Freud, 1915e). Even though Freud develops these concepts further to the actual hypothesis of psychic apparatus (Freud, 1923b), it is, in practice, meaningful to differentiate between the pre-conscious and the unconscious. The pre-conscious is less effectively repressed than the unconscious. Much personal development consists of making conscious what is pre-conscious. When there is no question of people suffering from actual dysfunction—or pathology—but from undesirable, frustrating, or unsatisfying situations within the normal range, uncovering pre-conscious factors can be very stimulating for development. It renders it possible to make conscious choices about changes in life. As defined in the introduction, the purpose of psycho-dynamic coaching is that the client, through acknowledgement and insight into his or her own history, personal patterns, inner structure, the present context and its dynamics, can combine past, present, and wishes for the future with realistic, feasible actions. The way to achieve this is a demanding process in which the pre-conscious and unconscious are awoken to consciousness.

 

CHAPTER THREE: Individual psychodynamic coaching

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We are conceived, and we emerge from our mothers into the world. Each of us is “someone” from the start of life. We consist of a number of biological possibilities and limitations. We meet the world on the outside. It is a world that partly determines who we will become. The environment inside our mothers has—in all probability—already played its part. Our personalities are forming. Personality is a central concept when we describe and comprehend a person. It is vital in psychodynamic coaching to under-stand—or comprehend—the client as an individual, as a person and as an entity. Understanding how personality is formed is an essential part of the background knowledge that coaching is based on. It is essential because people always have their childhood with them as a sounding board for later experiences and actions. The coach needs to take into serious consideration who it is who is sitting opposite him or her. One must not take a fixed or diagnostic view, but look in a way that embraces and attempts to accommodate the complexity comprised in the other person. There must be respect for the fact that the other person never can be completely understood, so the coach’s approach must be open and allow space. Experience can be both a help and an impediment. Experience can result in blindness to some of the facts, but also brings sense (or, rather, wisdom, which I define as experienced and repeated knowledge, experience-based evidence), so that the client is relatively quickly identified and “recognized” by the coach.

 

CHAPTER FOUR: Psychodynamic coaching for couples: the psychology of meeting

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We meet people constantly. We can long for a meeting, feel apprehensive about it, try to avoid a meeting, or try to arrange one. Some meetings are short, while others last a lifetime: from short seconds of eye contact with a stranger or a known other person to intense relationships where there might be moments that feel as if both were one and the same person. Twosomeness occurs in many places. It could be one’s love-life or at work. Two-someness—or the meeting—is one of the first things we experience: the meeting with the mother or the person in her place. In the vast majority of cases, and when things go well, the meeting of mother and child can be compared with a pair of lovers (Stern, 1991). Only couples in love look each other in the eyes for as long as a mother and a newborn baby. As we saw in Chapter Three, this meeting and its intensity are crucial for the developments that will follow. In rapid succession after this, the infant meets with the others: the family, and the group, whether it is large or small. These first meetings and the way they develop are fundamental from a psychological point of view, as the basis for all future meetings.

 

CHAPTER FIVE: Psychodynamic coaching of groups

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We are members of groups in our everyday lives and through the course of our lives. In most cases, the family is the first meeting with a group. At one time, the family would have been defined as people who were related by blood, but this definition is no longer sufficient for the families of today. Families can be categorized as the very close family: father, mother and children, or as the slightly extended family, with the mother’s and father’s parents and siblings. We can go even further, to include the parents’ cousins, and continue like that. A family can consist of two people, mother and child, or it can include more than two generations. Families can be large or small. Families need not be biologically related. All kinds of relationships and degrees of relationship are possible in families. Each family has its history, which, to a greater or lesser degree, defines the perception of the past and the interpretation of the present. Families can be different in all dimensions. What we have in common is that families are where most of us grow up, are formed, and form each other. The family is where we learn the fundamental things about being together with other people, for better or for worse. Anyone who has worked with people’s development for many years and heard large numbers of life stories will know that all of them are unique, and that there are more “abnormal” stories than normal ones. This should start us thinking and change our ideas of what is normal in ordinary everyday conversation.

 

CHAPTER SIX: Psychodynamic coaching in organizations

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Psychodynamic organizational psychology is a branch of the discipline of organizational psychology. At the same time, psychodynamic organizational psychology also includes elements from many psychodynamic branches of other disciplines in psychology, and these are the psychology of personality, developmental psychology, couple psychology, group psychology, social psychology, and parts of psychopathology. Figure 1 in Chapter One is an attempt to illustrate this, and is also the basis for the structure of this book. This arrangement gives an idea of fractal interrelationships, where the whole is found in the parts and the parts in the whole. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why it is so fascinating to work with psychodynamic organizational psychology. It is extensive, widely embracing, and multi-faceted, as opposed to fragmented and selective. This does not mean it is less deep, however. One could say, on the contrary. There are many specific and in-depth contributions in psychodynamic organizational psychology. When one has to grasp a particular phenomenon in organizational psychology, and is faced in practice with a problem in organizational psychology, the psychody-namic approach is highly suitable. The theory and concepts in themselves carry the inspiration for organizational psychological designs. In my experience, the psychodynamic approach is effective in the sense that with these interpretations at the back of one’s mind, it is possible to create solutions in organizations that can, in fact, promote mental health and sound growth. These solutions can be liberating and release tension, bringing qualitative development in both individuals and systems. The process might be difficult and frustrating, and will call for hard work, because it is difficult to develop oneself, abandoning long-held attitudes and points of view, or relinquishing well-known feelings, accepted facts, and familiar patterns. It can be difficult and painful to have to work at reassessing significant relationships and self-images, because reality does not always fit into our ideal wishes, but causes anxiety instead. Psychodynamic understanding can grasp the complexity and generate lasting solutions. Creating short-term success, euphoria, and enthusiasm does not require in-depth knowledge, only an ability to “sell ideas” and beguile others.

 

CHAPTER SEVEN: Psychodynamic practice

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The psychodynamic coaching described here has drawn its inspiration from other psychodynamic methods. Psycho-dynamic coaching is not a modern designation for psychotherapy, or the same as role analysis or supervision. Psychodynamic coaching is an independent method in its own right, drawing its theoretical base from the same fields of knowledge as the other psychodynamic methods. I would like to clarify and delimit psycho-dynamic coaching from other methods, and in this chapter I briefly describe psychodynamic coaching in comparison with other psycho-dynamic methods, to make the differences and similarities clear. The intention is to make it clear for those who want to make use of psychodynamic coaching where the borderlines are with other methods.

Psychoanalysis as a method

Psychoanalysis is the overall name for the extensive field of psychoanalytical theory that originated in Freud’s theory of drives, theory of personality, and development theory. Psychoanalysis is also the name of a method. The objective of psychoanalysis is to bring the unconscious to consciousness, so that inner tensions can be relieved or reorganized. Psychoanalysis has its origins in hypnotism. When the patient is under the influence of hypnosis, the psychoanalyst can gain insights into the patient’s unconscious, since hypnosis effectively opens the way. However, the difficulty with hypnosis proved to be that when the patient came out of hypnosis, there were no permanent changes in the inner states of tension. The original situation was recreated. Freud “invented” another method by which the unconscious could be “opened” while the patient was fully conscious. This technique consisted of an exchange of words between the patient and the analyst. Speech is the psychoanalyst’s most important tool. The patient does most of the talking, according to the principle of free associations and ideas. The analyst listens attentively and contributes interpretations. The setting for psychoanalysis is that the patient lies on a couch, with the analyst sitting in a chair a short distance from the patient’s headrest, beyond the view of the patient, because the patient must not be distracted by observing the analyst’s facial expressions or the like. The rule for what the patient says is that he or she must say whatever comes to mind, and express the associations that follow on.

 

APPENDIX 1: Psychodynamic coaching

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APPENDIX 2: Coaching

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APPENDIX 3

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APPENDIX 4: Drawing assignment

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APPENDIX 5: Work structure for the designer team

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