Spirituality in Coaching? Would you risk it?

Many coaches shy away from integrating SPIRITUALITY in their coaching practice. They probably feel that it has ‘religious’ overtones – and therefore, don’t want to risk the challenges of bringing religion into the conversation. More often than not, coaches may not be aware of what spirituality is, and how it can be used to work effectively with a client.

Emerging research demonstrates that spirituality is an essential element that needs to be addressed when seeking to understand human behavior. There is a growing interest in spirituality at the workplace and in coaching in the last few years because researches feel it provides (at an individual level) answers to complex, contemporary problems such as downsizing, reengineering, and layoffs. These changes leave employees feeling like expendable resources; and, having lost trust in the organization, they seek a deeper meaning and connection in life – moving towards an integrated spiritual-work identity.

Let’s first understand the meaning of spirituality in the context of the workplace and coaching. Spirituality (in coaching and the workplace) is understood as thoughts, feelings and behaviors related to a concern, a search, a striving to understand, and relate to the transcendent. Spirituality is the journey that people take to discover and realize their essential selves and higher aspirations. In contrast, religion is the search for significance that occurs within the context of established institutions (and belief systems) designed to facilitate spirituality. This distinction is important because emerging research states that 72% of millennials (18-29 year olds), in the West, identify themselves as spiritual but not religious.

Research shows that spirituality (and for many individuals, their religious beliefs) contributes to identity and worldview development, avoidance of risky scenarios, ability to cope with difficulties, and meaning and support in times of stress. Furthermore, spirituality is recognized as a core component of recovery from substance use disorders, and is linked to an increase in a sense of meaning, purpose, resilience, satisfaction, and happiness. In addition, interventions that have their roots in spiritual traditions are increasingly used for treatment of depression and anxiety, enhancing psychological well-being, and improving anxiety and mood symptoms.

Therefore, coaches must understand how to integrate spirituality in their practice, and develop the competencies and tools to do so. Spirituality is the foundation source for values for many coaches and clients. Interventions that have their source in spirituality include practices such as meditation, prayer, religious practices, yoga, journaling, walking in nature (all examples of individual practices) and in the organizational context, rooms for inner silence and reflection, to help individuals become more self-aware and draw strengths from their religious or spiritual beliefs.

However, before a coach starts looking at spirituality with his/her own clients, a self-assessment is recommended. Ask yourself: How aware am I of my own bias and prejudices? What available resources can I draw on? Am I willing to consult colleagues (including clerics, pastoral resources and so on)? Where am I and how am I doing on my own spiritual journey?

As a coach, you can improve your own effectiveness by working with a coaching supervisor who can help you think through your cases, provide additional perspectives, knowledge, tools, and resources. And help you manage your own feelings and anxieties – all in confidence. Connect with us on ajayglobalcoach@gmail.com for details.

References

Benefiel, M., Fry, L. W., & Geigle, D. (2014). Spirituality and religion in the workplace: History, theory, and research. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 6(3), 175-187. doi: 10.1037/a0036597

Plante, T. G. (2014). Four steps to improve religious/spiritual cultural competence in professional psychology. Spirituality in Clinical Practice, 1(4), 288-292. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/scp0000047

Vieten, C., Scammell, S., Pilato, R., & Ammondson, I. (2013). Spiritual and religious competencies for psychologists. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 5(3), 129-144. doi:10.1037/a0032699

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2 Responses to Spirituality in Coaching? Would you risk it?

  1. Paul Dass says:

    Very interesting topic and most don’t think in this direction.

    Like

  2. Rachel Gojer says:

    Spot on Ajay! Reading this I do admit that I have a bias against using spirituality in my sessions. Definitely food for thought!

    Like

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