Coaching for climate change is where coaching support is brought to the subject of climate change. Clients bring their concerns, aims and aspirations around how they want to respond to climate change and the wider environmental and ecological issues. This can often be an emotionally and systemically complex area and Art-Based Coaching is a powerful approach supporting clients to hold and work with the whole of what they bring.
Climate change is already needing us to think and act differently, taking us out of our norms and, in the not too distant future, we will almost certainly have to adjust very quickly to life changes. These environmental challenges can make us question ourselves, what we think, say, and do; wondering if what we are doing is ‘good enough’, right or sufficient. We may even question if we can really make a difference.
What clients may bring
Whilst clients may simply want to use coaching as a space to achieve their personal environmental goals and put action plans into place, they may bring a lot more, both consciously and unconsciously. This may include:
- Finding out what their deeper ‘why?’ is and how that is shaping their actions
- Raising awareness and self-awareness of the changes that may/will be needed to their fundamental life assumptions and life choices
- Managing climate anxiety as the impact and the urgency of the climate and ecological issues unfold leading to complex and conflicting emotional responses which may include:
- feeling overwhelmed by the vastness of the challenge
- guilt and shame at being part of the problem and not being able to do enough to make a difference,
- fears about the future
- feelings of hopelessness and impotence due to the scale and nature of the issues and not being in control
- Identifying what is holding them back from acting, such as limiting beliefs
- Making sense of conflicted values; for example, on the one hand a client may want to do what is right for the planet and invest in activities, but on the other also want the best life for their family. This could lead to uncomfortable internal tensions
The challenges that climate change is bringing may challenge the very core of us – who we are, what is important to us and even our purpose and meaning in life. This can be very difficult to manage, and clients may find it near impossible to articulate what they are experiencing. As a result, they may start to feel disempowered and not feel able to move toward positive, purposeful actions.
The role of coaching
If coaching is to be successful here, it needs to provide a space where clients feel safe to express what they are experiencing. Clients may feel vulnerable with uncomfortable and conflicted emotions, they may feel confused by how they feel and what to do. It is important that the coaching space enables the client to hold with compassion their experiences so they can connect with and make sense of their responses; responses that are felt, thought, conscious and unconscious. It is by connecting in this way that clients can start to resolve things for themselves and move to act in a way that feels true to them, giving them a sense of fulfilment and purpose in being part of the solution and find meaning in the new world that is emerging.
How art-based coaching supports climate change coaching
We can see from the above that the issues being faced by our clients could be very complex and art based coaching is uniquely placed to support coaching for climate change, through;
- Expressive visual language – giving clients the freedom to express their unconscious and conscious experiences through the physical process of, and non-verbal language of, mark making and creating art. Enabling clients to bypass words and analysis and get started in working on their climate change issues, aims and aspirations
- Holding the whole – through the imaging and creation process, art based coaching enables our clients to hold the whole of what is going on for them in a safe and supported space. Their image can contain the whole of what the client is experiencing around climate change; holding all its complexity and paradox – emotional, relational, and situational
- Making tangible the intangible and complex – Once their image is created, clients have a tangible version of their felt selves that they can touch, look at and start to talk about, unblocking barriers to getting started
- Safe space – their image is also a safe space to hold any complex and unsettling emotions and thoughts, making it easier for clients to hold those emotions and start to connect with them
- Exploring and connecting to their deeper selves – when working alongside our clients, facilitating their exploration of and connection to their image, we use the language of art. This takes away any pressure on the client to find labels, analyse and logically define what is going on for them. This allows them to deepen their awareness and self-awareness around their climate change issues, giving them the space to see different perspectives, find greater understanding and new insights, leading them to create new, positive ways of being and thinking
- Unlocking thinking and behaviour patterns – This deeper access to self in turn helps clients unlock thinking and behaviours patterns that may be holding them back from achieving their environmental aims and aspirations
- Strengthening confidence and resilience – art-based coaching also enables clients through the creative process to start to gain a sense of agency and feel empowered to live and act within this uncertain world. This builds confidence and resilience within themselves.
- Finding meaning and purpose – ultimately the art-based coaching approach holds a space that has the facility to give clients a way in to truly find meaning and purpose in what is a very uncertain, challenging and life changing situation in which we all find ourselves.