What is relationship coaching?
According to the Relationship Coaching Institute, "Relationship coaching is a professional client-focused service where an individual or couple is assumed to be healthy, powerful, and able to achieve relationship goals with effective support, information, and guidance. There are significant and sometimes contrasting differences between therapy and coaching, and these differences in and of themselves better highlight the strengths of coaching."
In my work with perpatrators of domestic violence, whether male or female, I hear some interesting takes on what relationship is.
Seldom do they subscribe entirely to the traditional model of domestic violence, and often what they want is a deep and rich relationship, but have learned early in life, usually from their parents, that trust is not something to volunteer.
Many of my clients have had no training in communication skills, including the steps of listening, or assertive communication, or anger management, or an understanding of negotiation, so it is amazing for them to experience any kind of coaching about how to deal with a relationship.
Early in my work, peers recommended the relationship coaching model of John and Julie Schwartz Gottman, and I discovered that John Gottman had done some excellent research into the physiology of domestic violence, so I was very curious about his relationship coaching model.
Then I began to use The Art and Science of Love with my domestic violence clients to demonstrate that relationship has discrete skills that can be learned and practiced, that it is possible to repeat the behaviors of what the Gottman's call the Master's of Marriage.
There are a couple of very basic things the Gottman's advocate, one is nurturing positive emotions, and the other is the quick "repair" of disagreements and spats, using repair phrases from a list supplied.
So I take my clients through the worksheets and videos that come with the Gottman's home study course, and they usually have a good time doing them.
The need for coaching however becomes readily apparent when I ask my clients to repeat the "turning toward" behaviors, for example, on a several times a day schedule, and to practice nurturing positive feelings frequently.
My clients just do not get it that they can do those internal cognitive processes on a schedule, so here is where I usually begin to teach about HeartMath or heart rate variability biofeedback.
HeartMath practice teaches that I can manage the time between my heart beats (that is all of your heart beats) with a few hours practice using a program on my PC, with excellent emotional, cognitive, and physical side effects.
So I have both folks learn the HeartMath and then I hook them up to separate computers while holding hands so they get the experience of how they move into and out of coherence individually while holding hands, and that the relationship has a heart beat of its own, and that they can cue that relationship coherence, which feels good by the way, on demand when they need to negotiate about that 69% of issues that the Gottman's say will not be resolved in any relationship.
So folks get a sense of practicing an inner coherence and how easy it is to move into and out of it and they also experience the need for regular practice literally heart beat by heart beat.
That experience of HeartMath helps folks understand that relationship coaching is a dynamic process evolving thought by thought actually, and needs to be managed thought by thought and heart beat by heart beat.
Want some information about HeartMath for your own home, marriage, and did you know it is a great tool for kids taking the SAT or ACT?
Relationship coaching involves a mindful awareness of internal and external experiences and the very speedy impact of thoughts and perceptions on that internal chemistry.
Michael Merzenich,Ph.D., one of the worlds leading researchers on neuroplasticity, says that Senior Drives need to be prepared to react to changing road conditions in 1/45th second, which is about 4.5 times as fast as I can blink my eyes.
In other words, I can go from "Hi honey, what's for dinner?" to a more dangerous physiology, from an internal chemistry of calmness to an internal chemistry of danger and fight of flight in 1/45th second, and I need to be prepared to calm down just as fast.
John Gottman calls that Diffuse Physiological Arousal or PDA, and when I flood with stress hormones, they demand an action. I may move my body faster than I can create cautionary words in my brain, so my recovery tools had better be online and available quickly.
That is why I really like the HeartMath. It gives me practice in seeing how my thoughts impact my physiology and how fast that happens.
(Does HeartMath impact brain fitness? Does it open higher perceptual centers?) You should read
Brainfit for Life
What is Next in Relationship Coaching?
Once couples or peers, anybody in relationship actually, begin to understand that their goals in relationship take regular cognitive practice, then we can begin to teach basic communication skills, like the discreet steps of listening, and assertive communication.
Like any other skill, folks get better with practice, and suddenly they find themselves communicating respectfully and offering choice and negotiating frequent compromise about issues important to any relationship, like parenting, finances, sex, holiday schedules, vacations, education, ect.
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