In coaching, the only true ‘expert’ is – yourself!

The traditional definition of an ‘expert’ is someone who can help the client to deal practically with difficulties in the real world – who has specialised knowledge of a particular aspect of that world, and therefore is able to identify and help to resolve the practical difficulties that arise from the client’s lack of expertise in that particular field of endeavour. By virtue of the fact that he knows more about a particular subject than the person who is asking for help, he (or she) therefore has the power to resolve the client’s difficulties – power that the client doesn’t possess. That’s what the client pays for. You go to a dentist, for example, and you ask for his expert, professional help. You have pain that you can’t do anything about, but he knows about teeth and he can do things to your teeth that you can’t do. So we can define an expert as someone who has a practical set of skills which you need but don’t intrinsically possess.

If we as coaches put ourselves up to ‘help’ someone, then what we’re doing is, we’re saying in effect that we’ve got some kind of intrinsic expertise, some special procedures which we’ve acquired as the result of some previously purchased training programme, that our clients need to be subjected to before they can come to terms with their problems. But any tuition that fails to take account of the fact that the coach, too, needs first to explore and then to accept his or her own imperfections, is bound to be more than just ineffective – it’s downright dangerous!

It’s really disingenuous to believe that a coach can ‘help’ the client by assuming the inappropriate role of an expert if in fact he hasn’t first done the necessary homework on his own problematic stuff. When you think about it, that really doesn’t make sense. In unitive coaching, we never lose sight of the basic fact that problems don’t exist in the real world, but only in the way we’ve been conditioned to perceive that world. The client actually has everything he needs to live an authentic life. His problem is, that he’s been programmed not to accept it. The whole point of the unitive approach to coaching is not to offer help, but to facilitate the client to help himself. The unitive coach works with the client on a level playing field – faces the client as another vulnerable human being – and accepts without question the client’s humanity as being intrinsically the same as his own

Truly life-changing and effective coaching is concerned with what the philosopher Heidegger called Dasein -‘being-in-the world’ – that is, the fact that we are not separated from the physical world in which we find ourselves at any given moment but an integral part of it – dissolved in it, of the same substance. There is actually no need to resist it, fight it, or to try to change it. There’s no ‘it’ out there. That’s why unitive coaching appeals to individuals who, although they may have achieved many of their material goals, need to re-establish an enduring sense of fulfilment, calm and joie-de-vivre. It understands that problems do not exist ‘out there’, but are internalised within each of us. It knows that once we get in touch with who we really are, we don’t have to worry about what we should do, ought to do, must do. It’s only then that our activities will become free of conflict – spontaneous, and authentic: valid responses to the real, presenting world.