Coaching and Creativity
“The soul speaks in image.” — Carl Jung
As someone deeply embedded in adult learning and the field of coaching, it’s exciting to see the way coaching is growing and the many positive changes it’s making in people’s lives.
A study by Paul Bernard & Associates recently showed that the return on investment for anyone who works with a coach is 50:1, with organizations seeing a 10:1 ROI for their employees. What an exciting time to be a coach!
When looking for a coach, you’re primarily searching for a coach they can trust to deliver the results they’re seeking.
But this transformation can seem so elusive. What is the difference between the coaching relationship where the client gets the 50:1 result and clients who get fewer results?
As coaches, we’ve been trained in the core competencies of coaching, and many coaches also have advanced degrees.
One of those core coaching competencies is asking powerful questions. But for questioning to be effective, it has to be deeply embedded in the context that the client has brought to the coaching conversation. No matter how many ready-made questions you learn, your entire list will never be as powerful as the single creative question you ask at the client’s growing edge.
Another concept coaching schools teach is that clients are fully resourced and have everything they need to get what they want. While I find this to be true, I also find that we can oversimplify the process needed to help clients work through the many layers needed to access those “inner resources.”
We have been trained in many tools to help clients, whether by identifying strengths or moving through blocks. Yet, how often are you still working at the surface level of change?
To get to the deeper transformation, we need to help clients get out of the logical, highly articulated world in which they operate day-to-day and into the body mind where the stories that drive their life are unconsciously operating.
These stories are often invisible and outside of awareness. As coaches, if we’re trained in methodologies like narrative coaching or NLP, we’ve learned to listen for patterns, and we may be able to hear the client’s story and reflect it to them.
The challenge is even when the coach can see the story pattern, the client may not see it, believe it, or wish to address it. Unlayering stories require clients to dig deep within themselves, and a coach’s “questions” may even add to a feeling of intrusiveness and lack of safety.
However, without getting to the heart of the stories that drive our clients’ behavior, we can not truly tap into their inner resourcefulness, “everything they need to get what they want,” as this resource is often trapped within those stories.
I learned to do “parts work,” design Gestalt experiments, incorporate mindfulness, and dig into competing commitments. These are powerful tools for transformation. But yet, I kept bumping into the limitation of what the conscious mind could articulate and what was gentle enough to create complete safety for the client.
Then I discovered how the power of Visual (Art) Journaling. This process bypasses the filtering and rationalizing of the language-oriented part of the brain, taps directly into the stories that drive our behavior, and because it is client-directed, provides the level of safety and pacing that the client needs.
Why a Visual (Art) Journal Process?
Did you know that of the four primary learning styles (auditory, kinesthetic, interactive, and visual), 65% of the population prefers the visual learning style?
Now consider the most common approach to coaching. It’s a conversation, which relies heavily on auditory. It’s interactive, yes, and if you design experiments, it can also be kinesthetic. But we’re usually leaving the 65% of visual learners to experience coaching through their non-preferred learning styles.
Visual (art) journaling is a powerful way to solve problems and gain insights that the linear, non-visual approaches to thinking and learning don’t access. Art journaling helps us go beyond what we know in our rational mind, so we can access other ways of knowing – the knowing that results in original thinking, new ideas, healing, and breakthroughs.
This process is neither touchy-feely nor an academic dump. It is a heart-mind-body-soul experience that can be accessed by everyone and integrates all the learning styles. Moreso, it allows the coaching client to tap into the “inner resourcefulness” that is often deeply buried within and beneath their stories.
As a student of adult learning, I have also been fascinated by the way Visual Journaling supports the principles of adult learning and coaching:
- Adults must self-direct their own learning.
- Adults must have opportunities for self-reflection when learning something new.
- Adults must be able to access their own experiences when learning something new for the learn to stick.
- Adults need a purpose for learning – not just learning for learning’s sake.
- Adults must learn to learn.
Almost two years ago, I began integrating art journaling into my coaching business. I created a right-brain business plan that went far beyond a vision board. I crafted the vision and values for my Women Connected company. Through this process, my website was intentionally designed to be highly visual. I looked at the business landscape for my offerings and created a visual SWOT analysis. But this was just the jumping-off point.
I was so energized by the level of breakthroughs I was having by applying this visual process to my business that I began to apply it to one of my online group coaching programs.
In 2016, I was launching my first cohort of Women Connected circles. The program has six modules, and I began adding creative exercises into each of the modules. I learned that insight was accelerated by tapping directly into the subjective experience using symbols, color, and metaphor. Members of the circle were accessing information about themselves that was deeply meaningful to them. These learnings were not rationalized stories but emotional, body-based, healing insights that led to greater clarity and more aligned actions.
As I have continued to work with this creative approach, I have learned techniques and tools that help bring these inner symbols and metaphors to life on paper where they can be reflected upon and we can take action. This work has been deeply wholing in my own personal journey, and I am now beginning to offer new programs to clients and coaches who are ready for this deeper access to “our inner resources.”