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Set healthy coaching boundaries

by Srinivas Saripalli

In typical circumstances, properly trained life coaches know what coaching boundaries are. But even the most seasoned practitioners struggle with where to draw the line.

To avoid sticky situations, clients should be given some ground rules up front. This is why having coaching agreements in place is a great practise!

Examples of Coaching Boundaries:

  • Definable policies
  • Confidentiality and its restrictions
  • Practices to protect your client’s emotional safety, impartiality, and non-judgement
  • Honouring your time and expertise

Good Read: Steps to Improve Your Coaching Presence as a Coach

coaching boundaries
Coaching boundaries

Why Set Coaching Boundaries?

Boundaries in the coaching relationship are critical for our mental and emotional health as wellness practitioners. Without well-defined boundaries, we risk making an excessive amount of ourselves available to our clients.

Boundaries that are healthy are a critical component of self-care. That is because a lack of boundaries at work or in personal relationships results in resentment, rage, and burnout.

Additionally, it is critical to establish professional boundaries to ensure that neither party misunderstands or exploits the connection.

Boundaries assist to maintain the relationship with your client, ensuring that you are always your best, most present, and most true self during their coaching session with you.

Guidelines for Establishing Boundaries with Coaching Clients

Know your limits.

You should be conscious of your own capacity before beginning any coaching engagement,

You have how much time? Isn’t there more to do? How can you avoid overstretching yourself? What will you do if things get tough? Just what do you mean by that?

When it comes to knowing your limitations, there are many crucial questions to ask. Consult your personal coach or a trusted friend if necessary to verify you understand yours!

Good Read: Get Comfortable with Mindful Silence and used to the power of it

Have a contract

A solid coaching agreement puts you and your client on the same page right away. A good contract will also cover the frequency of sessions, desired goals, what happens if a session is missed, and other business standards.

Building safety and trust in your coaching interactions begins with communicating and agreeing on expectations which is one of an ICF core competency.

Be punctual.

Your time is your product. It is thus your most valuable asset. Time is money, so make the most of it. Keep appointments on time. Make late arrival and no-show policies explicit.

Assume that there is no scheduled coaching session and your client wants to talk for “for a few minutes.” Coaches differ in their attitudes toward intersession inquiries. Consider how available you want to be. Be considerate… and firm.

Remember, coaching is not therapy.

If your client has a lot of “emergencies,” it may be time to seek coaching.

Set clear coaching boundaries.

Clients will respect your directness. If something isn’t working, don’t wait for it to fix itself – fix it! Boundaries help us build trust and safety in our relationships.

Coaching boundaries are communicated in a professional and caring manner, which exhibits self-respect to our clients.

When to assert yourself

Many life coaches have convoluted schedules because to a genuine desire to help others. We excuse modest boundary transgressions by saying it’s a “one-time thing.” But before you know it, you’re abandoning family meals and family activities to accommodate your clients’ schedules.

Every life coach must learn to articulate their own demands and restrictions. Consider this: Communicating assertively is a must. Assertiveness can help you express yourself effectively while respecting others’ rights and beliefs. Being outspoken might also help you get respect from others. This can help with stress management, especially if you have a hard time saying no.

Say no!

No, you’re not alone. We’ve all said yes to things we’d rather turn down.

Some of us may have been socialised to accommodate others’ preferences and wants over our own. If I say no, would they still like me?

Getting used to the word ‘No’ takes time.

Coaching is not a therapeutic intervention. Refer Out.

When we work as coaches, we work with people who are at a baseline mental and emotional. When a client comes to you with unresolved trauma or is continuously rehashing the past, know when to recommend them to a skilled therapist.

It’s not kind nor ethical to handle wellness issues beyond your training.

Our struggle with boundaries stems from a number of factors.

We aim to please

Why do so many individuals (including life coaches!) struggle with limits?

Why is that? Why is that so? Some people could believe that setting limits is in opposition with their principles in addition to social conditioning. Setting a boundary on your availability can feel unusual and odd at first, especially if you appreciate assisting others.

Limits demand inner fortitude to be set. Remember that resolute is not the same as mean.

Avoid alienating clients.

In particular, new coaches have this worry. Just starting out, you’re hungry. You’re looking for clients to hire! There is a tendency to think that if you don’t offer the client everything they want, then they’ll go away.

Fear often manifests as follows:

  • Too many sessions for free
  • Charge less than you need to survive.
  • Inability to plan ahead for days off during the work week

You don’t want to alienate your clients by setting boundaries in the coaching relationship. As a result, they are there to protect you personally, and to ensure your business’s long term viability.

As a coach, part of your motivation was to be able to determine your own schedule. It is important not to undervalue yourself if you became a coach because you have valuable expertise and insights to offer with others.

We fear it will be too energy-intensive.

Setting personal and professional boundaries takes energy, especially if you’re just getting started. 

As a coach, you will be drained if you do not set clear boundaries.

Prioritise your limits to avoid pitfalls, unpleasantness, and uncomfortable talks. If you make a mistake, you can easily refer your client back to your joint commitments in the coaching contract. It’s merely the terms of interaction.

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