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Heart Coach Institute

Heart Coach Institute Director of Education

Gaye Kuelsen, PCC • July 2, 2024 • 4 Minute Read

Meeting the Client Where They Are At: A Journey of Coaching

As coaches, our golden rule is to meet the client where they are. The client has the power to
choose the topic and direction of the conversation throughout the coaching session. Our
role is to provide support and guidance on their unique journey. Each client’s journey and
rate of progress may be different from our own, and we must be aware of that. Patience is
key, and it is important not to interpret or diagnose the client’s situation. Every individual
has their own pace and path, and our role is to honour that.


Balancing Stretch and Boundaries

Finding the balance between stretching the client and respecting their boundaries requires
finesse. We understand that clients may feel hesitant, reluctant, or even resistant to explore
certain areas. There are a number of techniques we can use to navigate complicated topics,

  • Using Scaling Questions
    Ask the client to rate their comfort level or readiness on a scale of 1 to 10. This can
    help gauge their willingness to explore certain areas.
  • Establishing Safe Words
    Create a system where clients can signal if a topic feels too uncomfortable, allowing
    them to control the pace of the conversation.
  • Reflective Listening
    Paraphrase and reflect back what the client says to ensure understanding and
    validate their feelings.

Creating a Safe Space

It is essential for us to stay curious and create a safe space that evokes awareness for both
ourselves and the client. By doing so, we ensure that we are on the same page and can
proceed in a way that aligns with their needs. Here are some effective tools:

  • Open-Ended Questions
    Use questions like “What else?” or “Can you tell me more about that?” to encourage
    deeper exploration.
  • Affirmations
    Regularly affirm the client’s strengths and achievements to build confidence and trust.
  • Mindfulness Practices
    Incorporate brief mindfulness exercises at the start of sessions to help clients feel centered and present.

Recognising When Therapy is Needed

Recognising signs of progress, even if they are slow, is an important aspect of coaching.
However, there may be times when a client is not currently coachable and may benefit
more from therapy. Below is a list of indicators that suggest a client might need to explore
therapy rather than coaching. As coaches, we can prompt our clients with questions and
scenarios to help them past these indicators, but if they are unable to reframe their
thinking, therapy may provide a more appropriate framework to work through their

  • Staying in victim mode
    Coach Approach: Use reflective questions to gently challenge this mindset, such as
    “What might taking ownership look like in this situation?”
    Therapy may be more appropriate: if a client consistently sees themselves as a
    victim, without taking ownership of their actions and choices. Therapy may provide a
    better framework to find a sense of authority over their lives.
  • Blaming others for their situation
    Coach Approach: Encourage clients to explore their own contributions by asking,
    “How do you think your actions influenced this outcome?
    Therapy may be more appropriate: when a client continuously places blame on
    external factors without considering their own contribution to the circumstances.
    Therapy can help them explore deeper underlying issues.
  • Expecting others to change as the only solution
    Coach Approach: Redirect focus by asking, “What changes can you make that are
    within your control?”
    Therapy may be more appropriate: if a client’s sole focus is on changing others,
    rather than reflecting on their own behaviours and beliefs. Therapy can offer insights
    into personal growth and self-awareness.
  • Inability to see other perspectives and feeling helpless
    Coach Approach: Introduce perspective-taking exercises, such as role-playing or
    imagining advice to a friend in a similar situation.
    Therapy may be more appropriate: when a client struggles to consider alternative
    viewpoints and feels trapped in helplessness. Therapy can provide a supportive
    environment for exploring and expanding their worldview.


Focus on ‘Who’ Goals

Coaching is highly personal, and our clients’ goals often centre around ‘who’ they are as a
person. They may be seeking clarity, confidence, or something else about themselves and
their lives. Unlike more tangible goals that follow the SMART framework, such as running a
marathon or achieving specific milestones, great coaching delves into the ‘who’ and ‘what’
of the client’s life. This can be achieved by fully exploring the client’s personal wants, needs,
and values. By encouraging clients to explore their values, and identify actions that align
with those values, coaches can propel their clients towards fulfilling goals that foster long-
term growth and success.

Evaluating Progress

At the end of each coaching session, it is important to ask the client about the value they
gained from the conversation. Their perspective is crucial in evaluating progress and
ensuring that the coaching relationship remains beneficial to them. As always, questions are
a great way to encourage reflection on the journey. Try asking:

  • “What was most valuable for you today?”
  • “How has today’s session moved you closer to your goals?”
  • “What insights have you gained today?”

Remember, our role is to support and empower clients on their journey. So, let us embark
on this transformative process together, meeting our clients where they are and creating
meaningful change in their lives.

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