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Somatic Coaching

Rhonda G Hess

One of the reasons coaching is so effective is that it supports the client to be guided by their own wisdom. An often overlooked source of wisdom is the sensations in the client's body. Somatic coaching is about noticing and utilizing this source of wisdom.

Bodies Don't Lie

Amazing repositories of memory and keen response, our bodies are always trying to tell us something, if only we will listen. After years of ignoring the messages, many of us experience this the hard way in the wake up call of illness. We can start now to tap into the every day messages. Somatic coaching is a valuable tool you can bring out with clients when the occasion is right.

A Different Kind of Feelings

When a client expresses a desire to make a change in thought or behavior, and strong feelings are causing resistance, help them to shift away from analytical thought and emotional feelings to body awareness. Here's an 8-step process:

1. Start by telling your client you'd like to try an experiment that involves tapping into body wisdom. Ask their permission to proceed. Would you be willing to try an experiment right now that uses your body wisdom?

2. Then, ask them to describe the old behavior or thought. How would you describe in one sentence the old behavior/thought?

3. Ask them to articulate how they'd like to think and behave from now on. Well said. Now, how would you describe the new behavior/thought you want to have now?

4. Ask them to recall one recent and specific circumstance where they have had the habitual thought/behavior. (Usually, they've just described this to you in session which brought this exercise to mind for you.) Think again about the circumstances you told me about earlier today. Do you have it fully in mind again?

5. Then, ask them to tune into their body as they recall the situation. Have them report any felt feelings in their body. Ask brief probing questions to encourage a thorough description of sensations such as temperature, tension, contraction and the specific locations in their body where they feel them. (You might hear something like "a tight, cold, contracted feeling in my solar plexus.") Now with that situation in mind, tell me what you notice right now in your body -- what are the exact sensations? Where do you feel them? Is there anything else you notice?

6. Ask them to describe their posture. As you notice these feelings, describe your posture -- how is your body holding these felt feelings?

7. Ask them to describe what their body wants to do to relieve that feeling. What would your body like to do right now to relieve or release this?

8. Encourage them to allow their body to respond. As they make the physical transformation, ask them to call to mind the new thoughts/behaviors they want now. Have them take a few deep breaths. When you're ready, go ahead and let your body do what you've just described. As you let your body do that, imagine yourself having the new thoughts/behaviors you want. Take a few deep breaths. How do you feel now?

A Few Cautions:

- If your client has little body awareness this exercise might be a hard sell or produce more subtle results. Let go of attachment if it doesn't seem to work well. Know when to let it go. Be sure you do not make the client wrong in any way.

- Keep the pace of your language slow and speak succinctly during this exercise. The focus is non-verbal.

- Check your own breathing and posture.

- Echo the client's words back to them. Classic descriptions of felt feelings attached to unwanted thoughts are things like: "contracting in my belly" or "my shoulders are rounded in around my heart". Those are tender and personal expressions that deserve reverence even if you've heard them before.

- It's very important that you support the client to see the contrast between habitual body feelings attached to habitual thoughts and new desirable & released body feelings attached to new thoughts. They are usually opposites like contracted/expanded, cool/warm, closed/open, bent/straight, stuck/flowing, etc.).

- Do not overuse this exercise. Bring this tool out now and then when you have an intuitive hit that it fits the client and circumstances. Always ask permission.

- Do not use this as trauma therapy! Bodies hold powerful information, much of which is not coaching territory. Keep the use of this exercise to current thoughts/behaviors to transform and not to unlock historical core issues. When in doubt, don't use it.

This process can be incredibly transformational in the moment, and if further exercised by the client, out of session, it can be a powerful manifestor of new, more integrated ways of being.

The astounding thing about somatic coaching is that you can do it on the telephone. This is because you are relying solely on the client's own ability to tune into their own body and report feelings. No analysis is required!

Rhonda Hess is a business success mentor coach for professional coaches and other entrepreneurs. Her new business, Prosperous CoachTM -- a professional development resource for coaches -- launches early 2007. To learn more and receive special offers, subscribe to Coaching from Center ezine

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