Saturday 3 November 2018

On Self-Disclosure

I am currently reading Behind Closed Doors: Stories from the coaching room. It is a collection of essays introduced by Eric de Haan, and as its title suggests, reflecting on the experiences of coaches working with their clients.

It is fascinating and thought provoking. The essay I have just finished reading is Does Self-Disclosure By Me Help My Clients? It describes the journey of a coach from being very client-focused (and non-self-disclosing) through experimenting with slightly clunky self-disclosure (sharing commonalities etc), and then progressing to a rather more sophisticated 'self-as-tool' style of self-disclosure - reflecting to the client what is going on for her in the session in live-time.

The coach is clear that this is proving very beneficial; and (not surprisingly, for someone who has been studying with De Haan) sees the relational aspect of coaching as extremely important.

I can relate to all of that, and I can think of occasions when I have used 'self-as-tool' types of disclosure in ways that have seemed very beneficial to the client (and also gratifying to me: the client typically valuing my insight and occasionally my courage on such occasions).

That, of course, sits in marked contrast to the Time to Think approach to coaching, in which I have recently qualified, and with which I have been experimenting for some time now. In that model, the goal always is to keep the client doing his or her own independent thinking. Self-disclosure would be a wholly inappropriate intervention in that model (unless explicitly invited by the client, and even then, only after the client had got as far as he or she possibly could on his or her own.)

The question, then, is whether the self-as-tool disclosure is more useful for the client than interventions designed to keep the client thinking for him- or herself. And finally, the answer is that we don't know: it's a philosophical decision - what is one's coaching philosophy?

So as I muse on this, I reflect that there are many considerations. In the first place, it is about contracting: what kind of coaching have I contracted to deliver to this client? Beyond that, there is a judgement in the moment (or on reflection pre- or post-session) about what will be most valuable. And that is based on that difficult-to-pin-down quality of intuition. 

And even as I write this, I remember my earlier concerns about collusion in the Time to Think model, and the fact that the criterion of Information in the Thinking Environment not only gives permission, but also places an obligation, on the coach to provide necessary information; is self-as-tool disclosure such information?  But perhaps that is just to re-state the problem in other words. 

For the moment, then, I will hold this as a question under consideration; notice when (if) it arises in my coaching practice, and discuss it with my coaching supervisor.  And I may report back on this blog in due course.

And in the meantime, I will continue to read Behind Closed Doors: the next chapter is on humour, which is the reason I bought the book in the first place.

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