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Only One?

Why I Recommend a Series of Coaching Sessions

“I think we can cover this in one session.”


It depends.

Perhaps you're very close to your goal and just need a nudge for one more step.

Or perhaps, as in the puzzle pictured, there are multiple steps involved to reach the desired result.

Are you already in a coaching relationship? If so, then, you’re probably correct about the one session. You’re familiar with coaching and have an idea of what you can accomplish in a session. You know how to set a session goal, which is usually a step towards your overall goal(s).

If you’re new to coaching or new to a particular coach, however, one session is likely not enough for you to truly achieve your goal. Let me explain why.

The ideal number of coaching sessions for you depends on a lot of factors. The factors include, but aren’t limited to, your goal(s); the depth of the coaching topic(s); your levels of honesty, openness, and awareness; your commitment to contemplation and completing actions outside of the coaching sessions.

There are some light topics that can be handled in fewer sessions. But while you may feel that you’ve been helped in a session or two, a true shift or transformation only happens after a series of sessions. Meaningful self-awareness and understanding of what needs to change comes over a period of time and a number of conversations.

To frame this in a way that’s more accessible, imagine that you engage a personal trainer to increase your level of physical fitness. You can learn a lot from a trainer in a single session about dietary changes you can make and recommended exercise plans. But you will not suddenly be fit after just one session with the trainer, nor will you suddenly be an expert in strength training, building cardiac and muscle endurance, avoiding injury, tweaking macronutrients for the type of exercise in which you’re engaged, and all the other benefits that come from working with a trainer.

The benefits of personal training happen for you over a period of time and they happen because you’re engaged with the trainer and becoming more aware of your own burgeoning strength and flexibility as well as your needs as an individual. The trainer works with you to ensure you’re deriving maximum benefit from a program tailored for you.

As people sometimes approach a trainer thinking that all they need is a “little” advice about their diet or a “few” recommendations on exercises, people will often approach a coach with similar requests. They (just) want to understand their options, make a list or a quick plan. It’s absolutely possible to create a list or a quick plan in one coaching session, but the result is from thinking at surface level and may not take into account all that you need it to for that result to serve you well over time.

I’ve found that when a client brings a seemingly simple topic to coaching, there is usually something deeper there that they haven’t recognized or acknowledged yet. In a single session, that deeper something usually surfaces toward the end, too late to facilitate any growth or learning on the topic. As part of an ongoing coaching engagement, however, the client can explore that deeper something in a later session with the coach and benefit from it having been brought to light.

Working with a coach requires getting acquainted. Over a number of sessions, your coach comes to understand your ways of thinking and operating in your environment as they learn about you. As you delve into self-discovery, you also learn about yourself along the way.

Depending upon the effort and time you’re willing to put in outside of the coaching sessions for reflection and actions, you can find yourself at or much closer to your goals in a few months of bi-weekly sessions. Think longer term for true transformation.

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