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Defenses & Resistance in Coaching

Indeed. Apart from the issue Jonathan Shedler discusses in this thread, the problem is that CBT ignores people's resistance to change. The idea that you can just offer the client an alternative belief (a better one, of course, because you, as an expert, know better) is naive.

People in coaching and therapy want to change, but … don't want to change. They are suffering, and, through the course of coaching/therapy, may even realize that this suffering is the result of their system of beliefs and values — and yet, they resist change.

They know everything they need to know about alternative beliefs. Knowledge is not a problem. The problem is that they cannot act on that knowledge due to their defenses.

Acting on this knowledge means abandoning much of what you know — including yourself (as you know that self). If your world has been about prestige and achievement, and you are used to judging yourself and others based on that, abandoning this belief in favor of a "better" one means admitting that you lived your life wrong this entire time. Moreover, you are faced with a scary question: who are you, if NOT your achievements? Many people discover a gaping hole where their old self used to be. This is an excruciating realization that not everybody wants to accept.

Thus, much of coaching/therapy is about overcoming this resistance to change. 1) Examining again and again whether the former beliefs were indeed THAT bad. 2) Examining the price you pay for them. 3) Grieving about all the time you lived that way. 4) Learning how to live with an alternative. 5) Finding a new self.

Moreover, sometimes, the client decides to leave things as they are instead of changing. This can be a valid choice — as long as it is mindful. Who are we to judge whether the suffering of keeping things are they are is greater than the suffering of change?

This brings us to important differences in attitude between CBT therapists and psychoanalytically trained professionals. But that deserves another post.


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