6 Tips for working with your Coaching Client who has Depression or Anxiety

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

At Transformational Solutions, we specialize in working with coaching clients who struggle with lack of motivation, depression, anxiety, and substance use disorder. From the C-Suite to the college dorm, nearly all of our clients complain of a lack of purpose and meaning in their lives. 

For our college-age clients, comparison with peers, the idea that they are “supposed” to know what they will do with their lives (I’m still figuring out who I want to be when I grow up), and living for others is at the root of much of their internal struggle. Combine with this the conflicting value system of the 19-year-old to their wizen parents, fear of failure, the pressure of doing well in school—and for the last year, learning virtually from home—and you have the perfect storm for depression, anxiety, and substance use.

The coaches’ role is to help the client see the highest vision of themselves, help them to believe they are capable of achieving it, and help reframe temporary “defeat” as spiritual metal. Some clients need more handholding than others, but at all times through the journey up their personal mountain our coach is there to act as a guide. And our coach has done their job when our clients are empowered, skilled, and resilient. The better we do our job, the less our clients need us. 

We start by having our clients identify intrinsic motivations. They create their version of “Heaven on Earth” (See Mountain Method™) and do a personal assessment of their satisfaction levels in all of the areas of their lives (Wheel of Life). After that, they create realistic targets moving them in the direction of their vision (Goals). Our coach is there week after week helping them make follow-up calls for jobs, get through the college application process, and even accompanying them to the DMV to clear up the suspended license from too many parking tickets. My belief is that, if you can help the client see a future that they have believed impossible, and help them with the boots on the ground real life challenges, they will have a shot at success. It’s their “Heaven on earth” vision that should be motivating them. Sometimes clients don’t want to be a doctor; they don’t want to be a lawyer. Sometimes they want to own a security business or a grocery store. This is up to them. Who are we to say what they should want? 

My personal experience is that, in many cases—though not all of them—much of a client’s depression comes from not living in a way that is in line with their own ideals. Helping clients identify what a meaningful life would look like for them, and helping hands-on to move them toward it with practical goals that make sense, is a way for them to feel like they are “creating” their own lives instead of being a victim of circumstance. If they want to have a meaningful and purpose-filled life, they need to put that meaning into their actions; they need to consciously exhibit or manifest it into their daily life. Help your client to see how the minimum-wage job they are struggling to apply for will move them towards their ultimate goal. The universe conspires to help those who do things they “don’t want to do” when they are done with a positive attitude. Be honest with your client about the work that will be required to achieve their goals!  

Here are my 6 tips for working with clients with depression or anxiety:

  1. Have client identify intrinsic motivation and create a vision for their life.
    Meet your client where there are at, and whatever is motivating your client is where they are at. If they don’t want to patch up personal relationships or get a job, don’t tell them they should want that. You can still help clients “see” the value in such actions without attachment to the results. Have them do a “wheel of life” assessment and create their own goals. As coaches, we of course want the highest vision for our clients, because we care and want them to have a fulfilling and enriched life: Good, your heart is in the right place. However, if you need a client to do those things, it may be because it would make you feel or look good. There would be something in it for you, like looking good when your client does well. You need to let go of the results and instead be a loving support.  

  2. Have clients identify self-destructive behaviors that will block them from achieving their vision, and then visualize and work on opposite action. 
    This is why “manifestation” and vision boards don’t work for a lot of people. Without the willingness to face ourselves and our self-destructive behaviors, our visions will not come to fruition. Napoleon Hill said, “There is no such thing as something for nothing.” I know it sounds funny, but if your client is smoking marijuana—help them see how that could possibly effect motivation, or how frivolous spending could impact seed money for the business they want to start or the book they want to write. Simply, to have a different life they will have to be different people. “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

  3. Identify the skills your client will need to learn in order to achieve their vision.
    The first things that come to mind are effective communication and finances. Without the ability to communicate effectively (with both written and verbal communication), you don’t stand a chance. Clients who are passive become anxiety ridden and won’t advocate for themselves. Aggressive clients blow up at work and get fired, and passive-aggressive clients slash their bosses’ tires. It’s hard to have a healthy relationship with a significant other, make headway in your career, or develop new friendships without communication skills. Similarly, building credit, learning to budget, and learning about investing and increasing income are skills that are hard to do without as well.

  4. Have client visualize “things going right” instead of the worst-case scenario. 
    This is a great exercise I do all of the time that I heard first from Tony Robbins, but I believe goes back to Malcolm Maltz, Psycho-cybernetics. The idea is that our brains don’t know the difference between visualizing scoring a touchdown and actually scoring a touchdown. See it happen the way you want it to happen instead of dropping the ball in the end zone.

  5. Help clients create a weekly schedule with targets that move them in the direction of their vision.
    Now that clients have created a vision, help them break it down into small-and-easy, bite-sized portions. Here is where clients learn the importance of patience, follow through, and flexibility. “You know how to eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

  6. Coach any challenges that may arise for the client with empathy and compassion. 
    Know that clients are going to have weeks where they seem to make no “progress” towards their goals, or where they start to regress with self-destructive behaviors. This is totally normal and actually helps to normalize this with your client. Share how you yourself sometimes fail to follow through or how you have struggled in the past. Share how you got through it. Your vulnerability and honestly is a superpower and allows the client to feel safe and to be vulnerable with you. If you aren’t perfect, they don’t have to be either. I once heard a man say, “It’s okay to get off the path, just get back on it.” Leave room for the client to have compassion for themselves and the challenges of life.

    Here’s to your success!
Facebook Google LinkedIn Twitter Email Print

Inviting Authors, Companies and Professionals working in Addiction Recovery

To submit their profiles, events, articles on our website, To know about our all membership plans and features

Click here »