Introduction to the Foundations of Narrative Health Coaching
We’re here today to talk about our class, “The Foundations of Narrative Health Coaching.” Reggie, if I were to take this class, what would I be learning in the foundations class?
REGGIE MARA: There’s a variety of aspects of the program that we present. Probably the grounding aspect of it is the power of narrative as a coaching methodology and as a method to really help our clients heal. But beyond just the idea of narrative as a healing component, you’d also be learning about power of designing a client-specific coaching program and our belief that one of the ways we do that is to create practices that require a client to grow or develop. That was mouthful, I know, but those are some of the early elements in the class.
JOEL KREISBERG: What’s interesting because you used the word “power,” so how do I learn to tap into the power of narrative when I’m a health coach? So what specifically do I learn to do?
REGGIE MARA: A variety of skills. Probably the first one is to become aware of your own narrative. It doesn’t matter if it has to do with healing or not because we all have narratives. So the first thing you learn to do is become aware of narrative and the fact that everyone has a narrative. We all have stories to tell.
JOEL KREISBERG: Okay. And so I become aware of narrative, but then I take this forward, and I want to use this with my client. So awareness leads to what kind of behavior?
REGGIE MARA: Awareness leads to a very open, engaging, compassionate and empathic behavior with the client as I feel into his or her own story. I take steps to help him or her create their own awareness of their story in order to move themselves forward.
JOEL KREISBERG: So what you’re saying is that by becoming aware of my story, I can now help you become aware of your story in service of the health coaching. Right. So we actually teach techniques for this. In the class, we introduce you to the idea of what is a healing narrative, what is my story when I look at myself with a healing filter versus an illness filter. Then how do I facilitate you, the client, doing this similar work with the idea that if we do this kind of work, then that’s going to light a fire on our ability to reach our health goals.
REGGIE MARA: Yeah, for sure. Without the awareness of the story, the client will have a very hard time moving forward in any kind of a healing modality. Once the awareness is there, the client can begin to see his or her story as something that can be worked on as an object to be addressed and wonderful things happen then.
JOEL KREISBERG: Exactly. So when we say “worked on,” now you’re describing some of the key features of the Foundations class, which is for us to teach you the techniques of narrative health coaching. In narrative health coaching, we teach the creation of the healing topic and the use of this healing topic as a focal point in the coaching program. We also teach creating using learning objectives. What are learning objectives?
REGGIE MARA: So learning objectives, once we’ve established a healing topic, which is again, as you said, the focal point, learning objectives can be discussed several ways, one of which is they are stepping stones that a client will move through in order to attain success in the healing topic. They are muscles or capabilities or capacities that the client will attempt to build in order to succeed in the healing topic as well. In many ways, there’s a contextual foundation for the growth that the client would like to make.
JOEL KREISBERG: Exactly. And so they also allow us to help the client move through learning cycles. I have a quote here from one of the students in the class that describes this really, really well, this idea of the learning objectives become something that we use in learning cycles. Okay, so by creating a healing topic and learning objectives, I can then create a setup, a learning cycle for my client, for the clients to actually go through and actually kind of develop muscles. I’m going to read this quote. “I really appreciate there is a clearly defined learning cycle. Cycles have a natural ending which is very refreshing, and then there is the opportunity to reflect and reset. It is helpful to be reminded of incremental learning in the healing process.”
REGGIE MARA: Yes. I love hearing that, and I like reading that particular quote, the idea that cycles end. There’s a time for reflection and then a time to reset for the next cycle because learning doesn’t happen in one fell swoop; it happens in increments. So she did a wonderful job capturing that.
JOEL KREISBERG: And so narrative health coaching has a clear structure. That the structure includes a coaching plan which has a healing topic, learning objectives and then exercises. We call these exercises growth practices that are linked back to the assessment, and then each session becomes a learning cycle. When we’re with the client to coach, the client basically sets what’s supposed to happen, and then you go through a process of applying, becoming aware and really evaluating whether the practice is working on what you’re learning so that you can reset. That’s what a learning cycle is. And so we basically introduce this in the foundations class. We actually have you coach another person one on one and have you write your first plan.
REGGIE MARA: Yes
JOEL KREISBERG: So is it a hard class? I mean, tell us about how much work do we make folks do in this class.
REGGIE MARA: For anyone interested in learning about narrative health coaching, it’s not difficult at all. It may be very new in terms of the sensibilities that students come to it with. I find that most students who have taken it find it both challenging in good way and accessible. I think it’s both challenging and accessible.
JOEL KREISBERG: actually that was a great answer. It’s challenging and accessible, and so it gives us – if you’re at all interested in learning, a very articulated and clear sense of health coaching that involves clients getting in touch with the notion that we all have stories and that you can rewrite your stories in a nonjudgmental fashion. This is part of the coaching process. So distinguishing from a purely behavioral type of coaching intervention that really seeks to – do more push-ups or diet differently or how do you hold a person accountable, narrative health coaching is more how do you engage a broader set of developmental growth but in a very clear, specific way. So it’s not hard, but I love what you just said, Reggie, that there’s a challenge to it, so I would say students are asked to do a lot in our class. It’s not hard, but it takes some time.
REGGIE MARA: It definitely does, and I just want to riff a little bit on what you just said about the behavioral approach. We’re in no way deprecating the behavioral approach, but we encourage behavioral change but with new awareness, so there’s a balance of both awareness and behavior in the coaching methodology. Both have value, and where I mention that some folks will find it new is somehow coaching out there is just about, as you said, behavioral change, how to lose the extra pounds or change my eating habits, whatever it might be. And that’s great and important, but without the accompanying awareness, the pounds come back and the eating habits return. So we really want our students to become coaches who help their clients create awareness as well.
JOEL KREISBERG: Right, so it actually is a very useful weekend workshop. It is approved for continuing education for those who are ICF coaches. It is also the foundation course for our whole certificate program, and so at the end of the class if this is something that really feels right for you, you have an opportunity to enroll in the full program, but if it’s just something – an actual continuing ed skill development, you are given specific tools that you – can go right back and use in their offices with their coaching the next day. We offer a clear set of what we want you to learn, we let you practice it during the class, you learn how to create these particular plans and growth practices, and then basically you’re on your way.
REGGIE MARA: Yeah, the class is offered online over four three-hour sessions, and it’s also offered in person in two days in a weekend format.
JOEL KREISBERG: Right. So several times a year we offer this class, and so if you would like to learn more about the foundations of narrative health coaching class, feel free to contact us at teleosis.org or perhaps you’ll come check out one of our classes. Thanks for listening.