Use the COACH Model to Work Through Your Struggles with Clients

A really common problem that coaches talk to me about is their struggle with certain kinds of clients. Some coaches struggle with clients who fail to take action, some with clients who are ambivalent about taking action, and some with clients who want you to do it for them. You may even share some of these struggles.

What is common with all of these clients is that they prompt feelings in us. Usually those feelings are difficult to be with, such as irritation, helplessness, frustration or even anger. Though the specific emotions may differ, what is often consistent from coach to coach is the difficulty we experience with such feelings. So what’s the solution?

One potential and powerful solution is to learn how to be with our own uncomfortable feelings. For this, I would like to offer a model from the work of Robert Dilts and his wife Deborah. It’s called the “COACH” model.

Understanding the COACH Model

COACH is an acronym for Centered, Open-minded attitude and state, Aware (alert and awake), Connected and Holding space. Let’s look at each of these.

What happens when you are centered? When you talk about being centered, you’re usually referring to a state of solidness and confidence, an overall sense of being at peace with yourself. In all of the martial arts, being centered is a prerequisite to being able to do the practice. It is usually felt in the muscles and in the belly. Being centered allows you to operate from your power.

An open-minded attitude makes possible curiosity and understanding. It means you’re able to suspend your own idea of what is so, focusing instead on what is so for your client. Your questions are intended to gather information so you can understand what is going on in your client’s life. Curiosity goes hand-in-hand with this state.

Awareness is a state that goes hand-in-hand with open-mindedness. Awareness requires a focus both inward and outward. It is the ability to notice and track what is going on with you. It is also linked to the state of being centered because centering itself requires setting an intent and having an awareness of how to achieve it. Awareness makes possible connection.

Connection is required to do your best work with your clients. Connection makes possible deep understanding and profound change. Connection is what makes NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) possible, and what makes NLP great is high-level connecting. Without a relationship and without connecting, coaching will suffer and might even be ineffective.

Holding refers to holding a space in which change becomes possible or likely. How many times have you said or heard it said, “I just want to hold a space for them”? You may have also heard clients say, “She held space for me so I was able to look at painful truths.” So there is recognition of the importance of “holding space.”

So what does all of this actually mean? It means that when you learn how to provide the four prerequisites: centered, open, aware and connected, you can create the prime conditions to hold space for your clients, enabling them to explore and discover their own truths, which makes change possible.

This is just an overview of the COACH model. There are some specific exercises and processes that can help you master this more easily. Notice that as your ability to manage your own state increases, change becomes more possible for your clients.

Are you ready to learn to use the COACH model for the sake of your clients?

I would love to hear how well the COACH Model works for you. Share your feedback and comments below.

P.S. Do you want to share this post? Please do. Just be sure that it remains intact and includes the following bio.

About Terry: Terry Hickey, M.S., is a Certified NLP Professional Coach, Business Trainer and Consultant, a Certified Master Practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming and the co-owner of NLP Advantage Group. Originator of the Belief Breakthrough Method™, Terry specializes in teaching coaches and entrepreneurs how to rapidly resolve limiting beliefs about wealth and success. His tips and strategies can help you launch yourself into the future you want… NOW. http://terryhickey.com/

Categories : Coaching Tips


  1. Nice and interesting acronym for coach, thank you for this great article.
    One of the biggest challenges I have had as a coach is helping my clients understand the importance of taking action in their homework and being consistent is measuring their results.
    Whats helped me is the basic question everyone knows: What will be the cost of you NOT taking action and the advantages of you doing so.
    There are many beliefs that arise, a way to go deep and restructure their map. Change is then automatic.
    Thanks for the sharing of this blog post, I’ll be back to read more;)

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