I just happened across this article on "Coaching with Compassion" (gotta love the internet, because there is no way I would have seen it otherwise) and it clicked with another idea I've been rolling around in my head these last few months...
First I should be clear. I am first and foremost an acupuncturist and traditional Chinese herbalist. It is my training, it is my passion, it is the lens through which I see the world of holistic health. There are many many other holistic forms of healing that are awesome, there are also some forms of allopathic (traditional western) medicine which are also potentially awesome (I know it saved my life!) but Chinese medicine is MY bag.
And I LOVE chinese medicine, the acupuncture, herbs, food therapy, qi gong, etc. etc. etc.... but to be honest, much of my practice is something more than what I learned in TCM (traditional chinese medical) school where I spent roughly 3,000 hours learning this craft. And that's what I've been stewing over lately...
You see, I do a LOT of talking and encouraging and emotional processing with my patients. This is an honor, a privilege and incredibly humbling for me. And I know that it is KEY to health in TCM because in my hours and hours of training I learned all about how it takes energy to hold onto unhealthy emotions, it causes patterns of imbalance to sustain prolonged, extreme or constrained emotional states, it can literally undo much of the work I do with herbs and needles to leave the emotional side of a person's holistic health untouched. But the funny thing is, aside from learning that these things were facts in school, we NEVER learned much in the way of working on it! And going into seven years of working in my private practice and going on nine years total working with patients... this happens to have become my particular area (aside from the technical ins and outs of fertility & obstetrics) of expertise.
Of course, there are acupuncture points to help ease emotional strain, to support a person who is grieving, or to help people unwind and there are herbs to calm anxiety, reduce irritability, and nourish the spirit, but what about addressing the actual source, talking about life (and sometimes death), talking about stressors and strains and things too heavy to carry alone. Did I learn that in school? Nope, ZIP on that. Zero. Nada. And it is a HUGE aspect of what I do (and love doing)!
I guess it has unfolded in such an organic way in my style of practice that I haven't taken a step back to analyze exactly what I'd call it. Holistic Healing - for sure. Therapy - definitely NOT! This is not my scope of practice OR my training. Coaching... well.... maybe....
So I read this article and it really resonated with me. Turns out research (and here's another area I LOVE western medicine - I'm a total research geek) is showing some pretty interesting stuff when it comes to what kind of coaching works.
The article makes two points that I found especially interesting:
1) When a person is "coached" by someone who is compassionate and encouraging (vs. someone who is critical and points out their failings) they do better AND (on fMRI imaging) 'researchers found parts of the brain associated with visioning—a critical process for motivating learning and behavioral change—quite literally “lit up.”'
2) When a person is "coaching" in a compassionate way, the person who is doing the coaching has less risk of burning out or feeling stressed and overwhelmed than if he or she were being demanding and critical.
I love when research shows something in a more concrete way that seems intuitive. It is cool to me that there is a way to look at the brain's activity and actually see why being caring and supportive and cheering a person on for what they are doing and what they hope to achieve vs. what they should be doing and what they have not achieved is a good thing. It also happens to very much be the style of my approach with patients. In my experience women (especially those struggling with infertility) are already doing more than enough judging and criticizing for the both of us. I love helping them see where they are doing things well, where they are on the right track, and where I see the good in them that they may be unable to see from their vantage point.
I also feel like although my work is intense and demanding on an emotional level I could never imagine burning out or feeling stressed out or overwhelmed by my patient interactions. I typically attribute this to the fact that I love what I do and am passionate about my work, but here's one more thing in my favor!
So, what's the take-a-way from this for you? I guess it depends on what role you find yourself in! If you are on the receiving end of some "coaching" and it is leaving you feel judged, lacking and criticized think again about who you want to work with and the results you've gotten so far and hope to get in the future. If you are "coaching" someone else (whether it's your significant other, someone else in your life or in a more formal situation like me) think about the ways you can help encourage and applaud the efforts, even if the results aren't there yet and know that not only will you make the other person feel cared for, but that you may very well have a better chance of helping them reach the goal!
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