An unfolding approach to coaching with Steve March (Lab Report #50)

Yannick’s Coaching Lab features guest coaches from a broad variety of approaches, who showcase how they work as part of a live 45min coaching session, followed by reflections and Q&A with the audience.
Curious to know what this session was like? Have a peek at the Lab Report below or consider VIP membership to access the full recording of this and many more exciting sessions.

Yannick’s Coaching Lab #50 — Steve March
Lab Report by Natalie Fraser

Session Summary

Steve and his client know each other via Steve’s school. She is a student in his group coaching class. In a recent peer coaching session during training, his client experienced a breakthrough in alleviating her anxiety which built deep appreciation for this coaching approach. They have had one brief conversation 2 weeks prior to this meeting to get on the same page, during which the client named a few topics which Steve suggested she bring to the coaching space today. This will be their first one-on-one coaching session together.

The topics she wanted to discuss today were about the theme of transitioning:

· Professionally from working in law and working as a coach.

· Locationally around where she’d like to live having moved recently.

Through exploring “parts” of the client and trusting the “truth” that unfolded, the client experienced her original theme (transition) and the original pain related to this topic (feeling misunderstood and lacking self-compassion) shift towards increased self-compassion and opportunity for connection and authenticity.

Key Moments

Steve began by acknowledging the abnormal situation of coaching in a demo, then invited his client to share how she was feeling and what she’d like to bring. When his client shared the themes present for her, Steve asked how she felt them to be connected.

Internal or external? Steve invited his client to explore where the theme of transition existed within herself. This led to his client’s reflection on how childhood traumas were internalized and manifest in adulthood as feeling like she doesn’t fit in, is misunderstood, and that she misinterprets social interactions regardless of the setting. She recognized that her default perception is that people don’t like her.

Steve identified a protector part within her which may impact her behavior and interpretation of situations, and shared his curiosity about what it might be like to experience the world in this way, with themes of being confused and sad arising. Steve invited her to sit with these feelings and rather than correct them, let it feel seen invited his client to speak with this part. This brought a sense of relief to his client.

Steve suggested that the part cares about something and invited her to explore what this was, revealing that it wants to be understood and doesn’t like being misinterpreted. His client drew connection to the influence of her former career as a trial lawyer which reinforced unclear social relations and being misunderstood.

The transition was explored as a tug of war between the past and future, with Steve validating that familiarity and unfamiliarity is natural in her situation, enabling his client to have more space for self-compassion and grief.

Picking up on the sadness and grief, Steve invited his client to feel what it is like to be in relationship with these feelings which she was able to identify in her body and as voices of parts of herself.

Do you have an understanding of why this part is speaking up right now? Revealed that the messages of this part didn’t want the sad part to be found out. This revelation created a shift for the client related to being in more fulfilling relationships and her lawyer role feeling fake.

As his client explained her experience, Steve was transparent that he was struggling to understand/’track’ it, and in the meantime before summarizing what she had shared, invited her to just be present with the feeling that was coming up for her (relief).

Help me understand. When his client picked up in his summary that he wasn’t quite tracking her, Steve welcomed her to correct him, enhancing the client’s clarity, moving the session forward, and bringing them back in sync.

Steve’s client gained clarity of how the grief and relief were in relationship related to who she had to be in her old role as a lawyer, and this clarity made her energy feel bigger.

Steve noticed that when they explored the shift, the inner critic became activated, psycho-educating and validating that whenever we make a shift in life this activates the inner critic.

Steve invited his client to continue exploring the inner dynamics at play and asking what is it like to name that anxiety which emerged.

We’re kind of at a fork in the road here, is one of these parts speaking louder than others? As his client identified the part and the feeling (sadness, nauseous), Steve asked how she felt towards this and invited her to mirror her feelings back to the part.

What does the part really want you to know about it? Provoked an emotional reflection for his client that it never wanted to hurt her.

Steve’s client brought in colour imagery that she was seeing in relation to her part. Steve gave space to noticing that the colours were shifting and changing as her relationship to the part was shifting and changing.

Steve began closing the session by checking back in with the original theme of the session (transition) and the original pain related to this topic (lacking self-compassion) reflecting back that he was noticing that increased self-compassion had come through a deeper understanding of herself and the transition.

Is there any way you’d like to shift how you’re approaching this? [the transition and how she engages in relationships] offered discussions about new opportunities with an undertone of support and reassurance.

Steve closed the session by giving suggestions and practicing experientially what it would be like for his client to continue fostering these new relationships and connections with her parts moving forward.

Insights & Take-aways

Steve’s client reflected how valuable it was for Steve to make the invitation to re-direct her back into her inner world and her parts when she naturally attempted to return to the ‘comfort’ of the cognitive world. This was the most powerful part of the session to her. This is a typical direction for Steve, who notices that clients usually come in with external issues and exploring these rather than the inner world leads to problem solving rather than exploring what is unfolding in the inner world.

Spending a good amount of time at the start getting orientated before leaning in is an important feature of Steve’s first coaching sessions.

Steve works with an ‘unfolding’ rather than ‘self-improving’ coaching paradigm, from a place of seeing wholeness as an innate state and deficiency being a sense of deficiency rather than something to be improved. Steve’s approach works at four depths: parts, process, presence and absence, and nonduality which are at the heart of his coaching model.

Steve considers the importance and power of exploring experience together with the client, spotting and tracking ideas together. The client finding the words to express themselves to another person is valued as an important way of gaining clarity which may not be possible in solo work.

Having a facilitator holding her with the part she doesn’t feel comfortable with and being there with her was appreciated by the client who shared that if she had been allowed to drift off or left alone with it, she would have moved away from it and recognized that this is what the protectors were in place for.

When working with a clear goal rather than openly (in ‘pure unfolding’) Steve works within a frame to navigate the transitions by exploring what ‘inner impediments’ are in the way of the goal or ‘change agenda’.

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This Lab Report was authored by Natalie Fraser 

Natalie is an existential Counselling Psychologist, specialising in trauma and transformation, and curious about coaching. Interested in exploring life’s Big Questions? Find out more at: