I believe your best defense against harm in a coaching or similar relationship is to know the ethical standards for that relationship. So I’ve written mine, not like a formal legal document, but in a way that I hope you’ll find easy to absorb and remember.
What you shouldn’t see
❌ invalidation. You are the expert on your feelings, your identity, and your life.
❌ shaming. My technique does not rely on using approval and disapproval to motivate you; it relies on unconditional acceptance.
❌ advice on how to relate to the outside world (such as whether to leave a job or relationship). My coaching expertise is about relating to your inner world.
❌ blurred boundaries. I shouldn’t become your crisis support outside of sessions, or allow romantic, sexual, or financial entanglements.
❌ defensiveness. I should stay curious and manage my emotions when you share feedback.
❌ centering myself. I’ll sometimes share a bit about myself to normalize what you’re going through and be authentic, but you shouldn’t feel like you have to take care of me.
What you should see
✅ proactively asking for feedback. You should get a form after every session.
✅ knowing my limits. I should compassionately end our coaching relationship if our work goes out of my scope or I become unable to uphold these standards with you.
Besides watching these signs, you can also track how our interaction makes you feel.
❤️ If I fulfill my responsibilities, you should feel supported, knowing you can depend on me to do my part in making our work safe and effective, and to take care of myself so you don’t have to.
❤️ If I respect your rights, you should feel free, knowing you can speak your mind and act on your needs, knowing that I will be glad you did, not offended or disapproving.
Try these ideas on and notice how they feel in your body. Your body will often be the first to notice when something is amiss.
If you see red flags, don’t see green flags, or lose your sense of support and freedom, bring it to my attention! Even if you’re not sure what’s wrong yet, we can get curious about it. Relationship repair is possible and often leaves relationships stronger than they started.
If things don’t get better, it’s probably time to part ways (you won’t be charged for unused sessions). Even if no one is at fault, it’s better to avoid harm. Thanks for taking care of yourself!