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Solution Focused Coaching
Rabbi Joshua Ritchie MD • November 23, 2014
Solution Focused Coaching
Professor Joshua Ritchie, MD
Transcript of teleconference, November 23, 2014
What would be nice is if any of you would like to introduce yourselves. We’d be happy to know your names and where you’re from and what your interest in coaching is, just while we’re waiting for a few more people to come online before I get into the presentation for this evening. I do like to shape the presentation depending on what your interests and questions are. One of the questions I’d like to put out to you is, what do you understand coaching is for, and what is your interest in coaching? Why are you interested in learning more about coaching and coaching skills? If anybody wants to speak up and share with us what your interest in coaching is and what you think the purpose or the function or goal of what coaching is, I’d love to hear from some of you.
I will be describing, today, how coaching can be used in everyday life, and I also want to describe solution-focused coaching which I think is very close to what I learned also from the Holy Masters and so on who I was privileged to be close to and observe in action, and I think what they were doing, in a sense, could be described as very much what is now being called, I think the most advanced form of coaching today, which is called solution-focused coaching so I’ll be describing what that is and how you can use it and how that relates to what they were doing and what, hopefully, you will be doing.
Who’s going to be brave and introduce themselves or you can just partially introduce yourself if you’re bashful. I’d like to hear from some people – a statement about what are the goals, so to speak of coaching, what’s the purpose or function of coaching?
Guest: Hi! Good morning.
Ritchie: Yes! Good morning.
Guest: I’m currently living in the U.S. I heard good stuff about this institute, and my wife is currently in the institute, and I just wanted to have some basic knowledge or general knowledge about coaching because I know it’s a new field.
Guest: What I know about coaching is to help others to understand and help yourself and myself to understand and maintain a certain way of structure, a way of life or way of building some skills towards understanding what we would like to do and how to do it and to have goals and target and stuff like that and to know how to achieve these goals and to understand the stuff that prevent us from achieving these goals.
Ritchie: Ok. Good, thank you. You’ve described it nicely. Coaching can mean different things to different people, and different people practice it in different ways. What I understand about coaching is what you began to say is it’s helping people to accomplish more of what they want to accomplish. Achieve their goals. Clarify their goals. Achieve their goals. Identify what it is that they really want and what their wants and needs are and then help them figure out how to get there and how to accomplish it. How to fulfill their goals and coaching is that process where you have the method and the process and the skills to help people clarify what it is that they want and then help them accomplish it. In a simple way, that’s what we’re looking to do for ourselves as well. If we’re skillful in coaching others, we first have to be also skillful in guiding ourselves and working with our fellow coaches, our peers, our colleagues, fellow students and teachers and so on. So that’s a nice start of a description of what coaching is.
Ritchie: Yes, hello.
Newman: Hi I’m Bailey Newman from Monsey, I was on last week too. I actually am enrolled in your course now for this coming year, so I’m really excited. What I didn’t say last week was that I have actually been unofficially talking to friends and people that I know, just very unofficially, just on my own. I have a special Ed social working background. I have done a little bit of that after college, a long time ago, but I enjoyed it tremendously and I was hoping to go back to something in the field, in the general field, I should say. I figure if I can be there for people and help them in different situations, I might as well learn some actual technical, real techniques to do so. So I’m really excited to do.
Ritchie: Very nice. Yeah, the foundation is exactly what you said. The desire that you have to help people and that basic empathy for people and their striving to accomplish more and fulfill more and that’s the wonderful place to start from, and with that as the base, then your natural goodness and attitude and desire and then to acquire some more skills and techniques and methods and tools for being able to help people is wonderful and that’s what you’ll be getting in this program.
Newman: I have a question that might sound a little bit, I guess strange. You knew that I did hear last year’s course, but I do remember you saying, also, that as you go through the year, as you go through the course, you don’t necessarily say this is CBT, this is solution-based, but how are we to know, well I guess by osmosis, but how are we to know by the end of the course what techniques we are using if you don’t know exactly what it is. If you’re not saying that today’s course is going to be on CBT, and the next day’s course is going to be on solution-focused, how are we going to know when we go out and help others out after the course what we’re using. I’m sorry. Do you understand what I’m saying?
Ritchie: Yes, well I think I do, but let me ask a question back now. Why is that important? If you have the tools and you know how to use them, and you have a sense of when to use them, why do you need a label? The sense to use them, you’ll acquire during the year, but it doesn’t depend on the label. Also, in a certain sense, we’re not into labeling people in terms of; oh, this person is an OCD, or this person is nervous, or this person has bipolar. People make up all sorts of funny names, you know, and we label and we call them patients, not in coaching, but in the helping professions, people love to put labels, and then they want to diagnoses and labels, and then, ok, which technique are we going to use, and it gets very mechanical.
Newman: I hear that.
Ritchie: It’s actually destructive to the client to be labeled because the person is not that. The person is a human being. That’s a Yankie or that’s a Sarah. Yankie or Sarah got a certain background in a certain temperament and personality and influences in their life, and now we want to help them accomplish everything that they can accomplish. We don’t need to put labels on them, as a matter of fact, that both impairs, I think, our ability to help them, and actually it impairs them because now, they think, oh my goodness, well if I am an ADD or an ADHD or an ODD, they even have a wonderful thing “I’m odd,” and I’m a bad boy. My mommy and daddy told me and now the psychologist told me that I’m odd or I’m whatever. That actually, I think, is destructive, so neither do we want to label our clients nor do we have to say, well for this, for a ODD, we use this tool, we must use CBT and not the solution-focused version and not this version. All these things actually overlap by the way. The tools that we are talking about and the techniques that we’ll be teaching whether it’s solution-focused, which is a variation of CBT of cognitive behavioral or NLP, which is another tool in the kit of the overall category.
All of these different labels are just different variations on a theme, it’s in a certain sense like talking about which Yeshiva are you learning in or which Hassidus are you a part of? There are differences between this Yeshiva and that Yeshiva. There are differences between this Hassidus and that Hassidus, but is that terribly important to label which Hassidus you are using or which Yeshiva approach are you using? Are you a brisker or some other approach?
I’m not sure…if you have really mastered several of the approaches, and that’s basically what we’re helping you do is master a whole tool kit of many different approaches, and I don’t think you necessarily have to know the name of each one when you happen to be using it because that will match to this diagnosis, that’s not really the approach.
It’s like driving. When you drive a car, do you have to have a label for each thing you’re doing? It becomes automatic after awhile, and so it’s not that you’re going to start memorizing a cook book, well first I make a diagnosis, when I figure that out, then I’ll go look up which technique to use, and then… We’re going to have you learn how to really listen to your clients, how to really ask them the right questions, and how to really open your intuition and your hearing and ability and help open your client to hear themselves so that it begins to become a process that flows that becomes an art form for you.
Newman: Ok, I’m looking forward to that. Really.
Ritchie: It does take a year. We could give you a bunch of lectures, what’s CBT, what’s this, what’s that, and now here’s a diagnoses, here’s a diagnoses and here, you match it this with that one, and then you can spend a lifetime trying to remember, now wait, did he say for this you one use that or for this you use that? When you acquire the different skills, it will come spontaneously for you to try one, and if it works, great, and if it doesn’t, you’ll sort of back off and you’ll try another one because the only way you’ll know for sure what works for the client is that you’ll see that it’s working.
Newman: That’s true.
Ritchie: If you stay sensitive to that feedback to that noticing whether it’s working, then you can ask the client whether it’s working, whether this is helping and this is working for them, and it feels right for them. If you do that, then you will be able to adjust as you go along because you’re going to learn several. We’re not just teaching you one approach.
Newman: Right, I realize that.
Ritchie: In a family of approaches we’re using those that mesh and fit together, and it’s called eclectic, you’ll get to choose out of this big tool kit the things that work. There are certain things that we’re not going to teach you, like good old fashion Freudian, which is nonsense, and just being a strict behaviorist, we’re not going to teach you some discarded archaic forms, but of the modern, useful, well-documented forms that are proving useful, and those that are Torah-true and compatible, which are basically all of the good, modern approaches that we’re going to teach you are approaches that I have seen used by the Tzadikim.
They didn’t get it from a coaching course, and they didn’t get it from a textbook, but they had it passed down from dor to dor by Shimush and by being with other greats and so the real criteria is it fitting with the Tzadikim what the’re using and that’s what we’ll be teaching you, but a lot of it is easier to teach when we use the modern, coaching jargon and the modern, cognitive behavioral and solution-focused therapy models and the reality therapy models. These are schools of positive psychology, you could say, of cognitive psychology, of humanistic psychology that have been validated by objective observation and those that mesh with our Torah world, which the ones that have been validated seem to mesh, then those are the ones we are teaching you and those are the ones you will find that will serve you well as tools to help people.
Newman: Thank you, thank you so much.
Leslie: Could I ask a question?
Ritchie: Please, who’s speaking?
Leslie: My name is Leslie and I am calling from Atlanta.
Ritchie: Yes, thank you, Leslie.
Leslie: Thank you, and this is what I want to do, this is what I am supposed to do, and I did, throughout the past couple of years, I have looked into your program, but there were certain things that I wasn’t sure of and how it would mesh with what I’m doing. Let me ask you about this question. I work with a woman, a coach, and she is not Jewish but she works with myself as well as my ultra-Hassidic son and her background has been twelve steps, my background has been twelve steps, specifically co-dependent and she works on the absolute, most spiritual level. The spiritual truth, the absolute pulling it helping you be that authentic person that Hashem wants us to be. Her level is not what the average Rabbi…
Ritchie: So, what’s your question?
Leslie: The question is where does addiction come into this? For example, I know you don’t want to label people, and I am in complete agreement with you on that ADD, blah blah blah; however, I will say that the only way I can own and get better at myself is to own a particular behavior and if that falls in this is co-dependent behavior or this is self-sabotaging behavior, then I can own it and there are ways to change it. The second part of it, where does the God solution come in? You know, the twelve steps is all about the spiritual solution so how does that mesh with what y’all do? And that God would change me, that God would fix me. I do my part and that’s it, that part.
Ritchie: What you are describing a little bit is, in a sense obviously, problem-focused. Addiction, for instance, co-dependent, and when we’re doing these label things, we’re describing the problems and davka what we’re talking about in solution-focused is what we’re trying to do is the person comes in and says, “I have a problem,” say, with an addiction to alcohol or to drugs or to sex or to gambling or whatever it might be, or whatever the problem is, and they’re quite ready to go into lots of detail about the problem.
A solution-focused approach is going to ask, well be empathetic, be able to hear them and empathize and be compassionate and understanding and accepting and respectful and caring, so we’re not going to brush them off, but we’re going to start by asking them and spend more time asking what are your strengths? Where have been your successes and where do you want to go? What do you want to accomplish? So our focus is not on treating or fixing or dealing with the problem. Our focus in solution-focused coaching is to get to know the person as a resourceful, capable person, whatever their resources and capabilities are and everybody has strengths and capabilities and resources and skills, and then asking, I hear what you don’t want, you don’t want to be addicted, you don’t want to be co-dependent, you don’t want to be whatever it is, what do you want instead? What is the goal?
If you, then, can work with them to use their strengths and discover their strengths and their skills and resources to find their solutions to progress them towards their attractive goal, they have to describe where they want to go in a vivid, clear attractive way, and that’s all part of what you learn as a solution-focused coach is how to help them really, clearly visualize the preferred future, the quality world, the fulfillment, the spiritual advancement that you’re looking for, the closeness to God, the fulfilling God’s purpose in a world that you were created for, helping you define that and helping you layout the pathway in a step by step and supporting them in the process to accomplish it and giving the client the confidence and the skills assisting them to find their own resources and solutions to get where they want to go.
Leslie: Then, the part about healing. My experience is behind most of this is this wounded child stuff, you know, like our character defects…
Ritchie: If you want to spend years on that, you can. Freudian analysis used to spend 5-7 years working through problems, and some of this other stuff and these other methods, you can spend years working through the wounded child or whatever you want to call it. There are lots of ways to define it, and if people are really attracted to that and want to work on that, they can spend a long time. The coaching that we teach doesn’t take years and years to help people make a lot of progress. People might spend lots of time working with a coach if they want to keep going further and further, but we don’t first work through problems, what we do is fairly quickly, help them clarify where they want to go and help them start getting there and how quickly you can help people progress from a pretty bad place to a much better place if you use this approach rather than spending a lot of time working through…and if you have now achieved your goals, I think that’s healing.
Leslie: And the God part, what part does God and spiritual solutions come in to it? Are we supposed to get where we’re supposed to get with the coaching or whatever? Where does the help from God come from? Is there an emphasis on…because this is what, well for me, that I want to be able to give to people that…this God part of it that has been missing in Judaism and traditional Judaism that’s been missing so often…
Ritchie: Excuse me, I don’t know what you’re speaking about to tell you the truth…but you just said the God part is missing in traditional Judaism. I’m sorry. The students that we by in large have come from the orthodox community and our students by in large really do believe in God and believe all humans comes from God. God created us, sustains us, and I think we’re basically believers not only superficially but I think all of us are striving to be as close to God as we can and I don’t think it’s artificial. I think the students in our class are very genuinely connecting themselves to their highest holiest aspirations and helping their clients do that.
Leslie: Wonderful. Wonderful.
Ritchie: Obviously, all healing comes from God and obviously all healing comes from being an active participate in healing ourselves. I can’t heal a client, the client with God’s help can heal themselves. I can very much facilitate the process. I can very much facilitate the client in discovering their strengths and discovering their neshama. Because God created in every human being a holy neshama, that often gets buried, lost, distorted and misunderstood, but everyone has a divine soul that’s striving to fulfill itself. Most people, many people don’t fulfill their potential. Most of us don't fulfill all of our potential. Our job is to help people fulfill their God given potential and it’s really the client that has to do the inner work to fulfill their potential with God’s help and we can facilitate that because we learn to be skillful in helping them discover their strengths and resources and putting them in touch, and yes, helping build their self-confidence, their Emuna, their faith in both God and themselves to accomplish the goals that their heart and soul both want to accomplish.
Leslie: Wonderful. It does sound like what I’ve been looking for.
Ritchie: I hope so. That’s what we really sincerely believe and we hear from our students that we’ve been accomplishing. It’s a joy all the positive feedback we get from our students from our graduates and our post graduates who are feeling that they really have shifted what their impact on their family, their community, their world, their clients, their own lives by acquiring these skills and reinforcing their own desire and it is a God given desire to be of service and to be helpful and now to have more tools and to have a process and a methodology and tools and techniques to implement it is very satisfying and to see the positive results during the course of the year, students will feel and will report to us that they tried what we just said and it works. That’s the most wonderful part is your discovery as we teach you some various techniques, methods, and then, you’re able to come back and say, I tried it and it works. It’s much better than what I used to do. I used to try to give people advice, and now, when I ask them the right questions in the right way, they really open up and say, wow, that’s wonderful.
Leslie: So there is God talk? There is talk of the word God, it is used or is not used? Or is it not used in sessions and help?
Ritchie: Are any of our students or graduates on the line? We have a few of them. Are we God-oriented? Are we God-centered?
Student 1: Yes, professor it is.
Student 2: It’s used all the time.
Leslie: Good! Wonderful!
Ritchie: We’re certainly not a group of atheists or agnostics, I can assure you of that.
Chani: Professor, this is Chani Berger, may I comment?
Ritchie: Yeah, Chani. How are you? Thank you, please, thank you for joining us. Chani’s a great, great, great graduate of ours and one of our faculty now. Yeah, go ahead, Chani.
Chani: God tells us open up the eye of a needle, give an opening like an eye of a needle, and then I’ll open up all the palace gates for you. The difference of a pin and a needle is a needle has an opening with an eye to exchange to its solutions and a pin has a head where you’re stuck in your head with your problems. So God tells us open up like the eye of a needle, if you believe that you can change, if you believe that there are solutions, and there the coach comes in and, of course, God is in the coaching, and will help you and get you to a better place, perhaps, this can answer the student a little bit.
Leslie: Thank you.
Ritchie: Yeah, thank you, Chani.
Chani: We believe in solutions that promotes change, but if we focus on the problems, it’s like getting stuck like the head of a pin, if we’re stuck we cannot promote change.