Coaching and mental health at work

The life of a professional coach is varied, sometimes our services are called on to develop leadership, to guide career transition, to encourage and support career progression, sometimes we work with people who are about to retire so we facilitate succession and talent management within an organisation, and we are even called upon to work with people who are facing redundancy, so that the step change in their lives remains a positive one. Coaching practice is built upon positive psychology, and  in my case is also underpinned by wellbeing theories and pedagogy.  Because of my recent research interests (see http://ijebcm.brookes.ac.uk/view.asp?issue=vol12issue2 ) I find that more than ever I am concerned with ensuring whoever I work with gains an improved sense of wellbeing, and is better equipped to face workplace challenges when our coaching relationship is done. I guess you could say that this provides clients with a rather good return on investment, as the people I coach are coached to use wellbeing tools that will help them in future.

Due to the many years I have spent working in research, I find that my antennae for identifying something ‘interesting’ usually leads me to asking lots of questions, and often in conducting some study or other. The study conducted with my colleagues Dr. Ambra Burls and Marina Kogan to develop and test a wellbeing model for coaching practice, is now integral to my coaching practice and the more I use it the more my research antennae says ‘Dee …..this is interesting’.  Today though, rather than dash off like some excited boffin I thought I would share my thoughts and ask for yours.

The model that I now use in my coaching practice is ‘Coaching for Wellbeing at Work’, a significant part of the model requires the coach and client to identify what lies at the periphery of their best self. In the last year or so when I have gone through this process with clients their peripheral statements have included, anger, fatigue, sadness, venting, distraction, loss of concentration, poor memory, feeling low, insomnia, backache, shoulder/neck problems, fearful, lost……the list is a long one.

I read a lot, today I have been reading ‘Common mental health disorders :The nice guideline on identification and pathways of care (2011)‘, and not for the first time while reading this I considered the peripheral statements I gather during coaching are akin to those identified with people who are experiencing mental ill-health. The connection has not surprised me, we know that many workplaces are stressful environments and in themselves cause employees to experience anxiety and become absent from work.  The impact of workplace mental ill health is big, the document I read today informed me that,

The experience of people with a common mental health disorder can affect the whole family and often the community….

and

Even before the recent expansion of the European Union, it was estimated that work-related stress affected at least 40 million workers in its then 15 member states and that it cost at least €20 billion annually. In the UK, it has been suggested that over 40 million working days are lost each year due to stress-related disorders.

European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, 2000

We all need to find ways to address these issues, and because the peripheral position statements and descriptions of mental ill health are similar, the question I am asking myself and you today is this. What role does the coach and coaching have on improving the mental health of clients and returning them to being their best selves in the workplace?

I would really like to know your thoughts….