What to do when you get stuck?

It is not unusual for life and executive coaches to refer their clients to a counsellor or therapist for help in moving the client on into realising their goals and ambitions.

Coaches, especially those working in the organisational setting (executive coaches) are often surprised that competent and engaging clients, with hereto successful personal and professional development can suddenly become stuck. The management speak for this is called the ‘Peter Principle’ which in essence means people are promoted up to the point of their limitations.

What surprises the coaches most is that their clients are normally able to clearly articulate what is important to their success, what their values and purposes are. Their clients may even have created a bright vision for their future. The surprise is that the clients just seem irrationally stuck and can’t seem to move beyond that, despite the cajoling and action planning established with their coach.

The role of the therapist in this case is to work on identifying what the irrational and self-limiting beliefs are that are preventing progress from being made. In these kinds of situations these might include:

  • A high demand for approval (putting your head above the parapet can be daunting!).
  • A high self-expectation (self-doubt might for the first time have crept it).

Both of which can lead to:

  • Problem avoidance (which may never have been experienced by a proactive manager before). 

And result in:

  • A low frustration tolerance with having reached a plateau and not being able to move on.

All of these can lead to a set of thoughts, emotions, sensations and behaviours that make it seem as if the client has ‘lost the plot’!

Of course they haven’t what the Rational Emotive Behavioural Therapist (REBT) understands is, not only how the mix of thinking, emotions, feelings and actions interlink with each other to keep clients stuck, but also that irrational beliefs can develop slowly over time. They can then sit in the unconscious mind of the client, like the bulk of an iceberg below the surface of the sea, driving on the client’s actions (or inactions).

And that can be the dilemma sometimes; irrational beliefs may have been useful and purposeful at some time, contributing to the clients past success – it is that experience that can encourage clients to hold fast to their beliefs!   

That is why the REBT approach is to calm the client, to review, debate and discover the irrational beliefs and to begin to dispute and reshape them. The process is effective in that it is psycho-educational, which means the client learns techniques to use in managing themselves and it can be done efficiently in a few sessions.

The client can then get on with delivering their vision.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Stevenage SG1 & London W1G
Written by Keith Abrahams, MBA, MHGDip
Stevenage SG1 & London W1G

Keith Abrahams is widely experienced and trained in psychology. He has practiced as a therapist both privately and as a volunteer, with a specialism in working with trauma.

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