Is it Better to Coach using Models or Techniques? (or do you focus on the Coach-Client Relationship?)

Joseph Grech smiling at camera

In this blog post we explore contrasting coaching approaches: structured frameworks and organic unfolding. While structures offer clarity and purpose, they can limit outcomes and attachment. Embracing natural awareness, we trust clients' innate wisdom. Advocating for tailored approaches, some benefit from structure, while others prefer exploration. Effective coaching means meeting clients without imposition, fostering empathy and acceptance.

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A question that I get a lot from prospective trainees on our Level 1 Diploma in Integrative Coaching is about models.
 
Do I need to learn models (e.g. GROW, CLEAR, Co-Active) for my coaching to be transformational? 
 
On one hand, coaching can provide structured frameworks and techniques designed to systematically guide clients through a process of self-exploration and reflection. These approaches often involve specific exercises or interventions aimed at uncovering covered spots, challenging limiting beliefs, and promoting self-awareness. Although the main awarding body (the ICF) is aware how models are supportive of a client, they also provide a lens of exploration where models can actually get in the way of client progress.
 
This is because awareness can emerge organically through the coaching process itself. By creating a supportive space for open dialogue and introspection, clients may naturally become more attuned to their thoughts, emotions, and behaviours. 
 
In this approach, my role of the coach is less about directing the client towards awareness and more about facilitating an environment conducive to its emergence. What I focus on in cultivating the right conditions for change rather than following a prescriptive (often linear) model.
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It’s important to note that both approaches have their merits (although I do lean a bit more [it’s a bias!] into creating the conditions for a conducive environment rather than following strict models). 
 
Structured frameworks can provide a roadmap for clients who may be feeling overwhelmed or directionless, offering a sense of clarity and purpose. However structured models can be limiting, whereby the client could enter a process where the tool or technique becomes more important than the outcome (and also, as coaches we might get too attached to the client finding an outcome!) 
 
There’s in fact beauty in allowing awareness to unfold organically, trusting in the innate wisdom of the client to navigate their own path towards transformation and this is mostly where I find myself working as a coaching psychologist. 
 
Ultimately, I believe that the most effective approach to fostering awareness in coaching is one that is tailored to the individual needs and preferences of the client. Some clients may benefit from a more structured approach with clear goals and milestones, while others may thrive in a more open-ended and exploratory environment.
 
As coaches, our role is not to impose our own agenda or assumptions onto our clients, but rather to meet them where they are and support them in their journey towards self-discovery and growth. 
 
By embodying qualities of empathy, curiosity, and non-judgmental acceptance, we create a space where clients feel seen, heard, and valued—a space where genuine transformation can take root and flourish.
 
After all, it’s in the moments of profound self-awareness that true magic happens, and genuine transformation becomes possible.

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