Coaching Neurodivergent Clients

Updated: Mar 15

‘Understanding and enabling change forms the essence of coaching’ (Morgan, 2019: 80). In coaching a neurodivergent client, there needs to be an understanding that somethings can change and some things need to be accepted as the way our brains were wired differently when we were born.

In her definition of coaching, Rogers (2004) states that ‘the whole aim of coaching is to close the gap between people’s potential and their current state’. A neurodivergent person’s potential and current state, may have a lot more to do with their ability to manage and control their environment and whether they have people in their lives who help them to manage their central nervous system and find meaning and purpose using what are often well above average strengths.

Clear (2018) identifies three layers of behavioural change; the outer layer is the change in outcomes or the eventual fulfilling of potential in the form of results, dreams or goals defined by the coachee. The middle layer which supports the result is changing processes; habits, routines and systems. Finally, at the core is identity change because behind every system are a set of beliefs and assumptions.

Many generic traits or limiting beliefs set out by the founder fathers of psychology (who, as Melissa Simmonds (2021) recently depicted in her webinar are nearly all male and white) can be complicated in the context of the 15% of the population who are neurodivergent. Gold Mind Neurodiversity Training package explore these in more detail but here are a couple to peek your interest;

‘Imposter syndrome’ may present as concern about one’s ability but is often based on an honest appraisal of gaps in skill or knowledge rather than a lack of confidence. Having a spikey profile means that there are times when a neurodivergent person feels very powerful and ambitious and other times when they are floored by basic executive function tasks. This needs to be understood by the coach when making in the moment decision-making during the coaching.

Being a ‘people pleaser’ is also interesting. Neurodivergent people are often self-sufficient and strategic and not so hooked on external praise. On the other hand, many, especially women have been doing a form of ‘people pleasing’ for a very long time by masking to try to fit in. The limiting beliefs and assumptions that need to be unpacked are often from the societal poison imbibed by both coach and coachee with regards to harmful stereotypes and myths of neurodivergence.

There are many more concepts with generic understanding ; happiness, balance, being a whole person which need to considered when coaching this awesome group of clients who can benefit so much from coaching. Coaching can help neurodivergent people to connect to their bodies, download their many thoughts and find clarity with someone who can champion their strengths and help them turn their powerful strategizing to finding ways to overcome or accept their challenges. Neurodivergent clients make great coachees – they often know what works for them, they will hold you to your contracting and their feedback will be precise – Just what any coach worth their salt needs to keep getting better!

Clear, J (2018) Atomic Habits London: Random House

Morgan, K. (2019) The Coach’s Survival Guide London: Open University Press

Rogers, J. (2004) Coaching Skills: The definitive guide to being a coach, Fourth Edition.

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