‘Then, my previous coach told me that it would be better to ﬁnish my coaching process ﬁrst.’
Els, who listens to the story of her client, looks up in surprise. Sandra, her client, has been having health problems and has not been feeling well lately. She has problems at work and in her private life. Sandra has already gone through several coaching trajectories, without much result. Now she has ended up at Els’s practice. She says that during a previous coaching process, with a colleague from Els, she felt the need to make a long trip to India. She wanted to visit a guru who could give her new insights and a fresh perspective. Her coach had advised her not to do this, but to ﬁnish her coaching process ﬁrst. Els realises very well that the advice of this coach is not so much related to what is important to Sandra, but that the loss of income due to the unﬁnished training clearly played a role in their advice.
A few days later Els has another client in her ofﬁce. This woman, Edith, switched to Els’s practice halfway through a coaching process with another coach. It did not click. She has been with Els for four months now, and she has already made a lot of progress. Today however, she is restless and has difﬁculty focusing. When Els asks about the reason for this, Edith makes a shocking confession.
On Facebook and other social media, she has been seeing #metoo popping up, with which worldwide attention is being asked for sexual abuse. As a result, she is always reminded of the actual reason she changed from her previous coach’s, to Els’s practice four months ago. Her previous coach made sexually oriented jokes during the sessions and touched her in a way that was not appropriate and made her feel very uncomfortable.
The stories of these two clients bring Els into a difﬁcult situation. Both coaches about whom these clients are complaining are colleagues of her. Should she report this or confront the two other coaches about their behaviour? And how can she do this without damaging the trust and privacy of her clients? Or should she act in a collegial way and do not do anything about it? And above all: How can she help these clients as well as possible to make their lives better?
Maybe you have come across a similar situation yourself. I understand very well that it is not easy to make the right decision! The ethical dilemmas that lie before you can literally keep you up at night. Believe me, I know how you feel. It has happened to me several times too. I am glad that at those moments, I could consult Transactional Analysis’s (TA) Ethical code.
Fortunately, this code of ethics provides wonderful tools for dealing with these situations in an honest, ethical manner. Recently I’ve been teaching a module on ethics in TA. The lessons from this course are directly applicable to this situation and were very valuable for my students to find their way back again. I would therefore like to share them with you.
TA offers a valuable compass Ethical conduct is mainly about your clients. A client gives you his or her trust. Often deep, sometimes long hidden feelings and events arise during coaching sessions. The trust that a client places in you as a coach must be seen as a valuable gift.
With that gift we can go two ways:
- We can give our clients a chance to really make their lives better. By applying our insights from TA to their lives and their story, we offer these people the chance for a happier life.
- We can hurt our clients again deeply by not sufficiently honouring the trust they place in us, when we put our own advantages first. This can be done, by example, by keeping a client in therapy longer than necessary, or by hearing a clear case of sexual abuse, but not acting on it.
EATA’s ethical code
The European Association of Transactional Analysis applies an ethical code that is based on a number of fundamental values. These stem from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Ethical principles have been developed from these values. These provide guidelines for the behaviour of coaches and care providers in professional practice. This practice includes clients and professionals, but also students, colleagues and the community:
- Dignity > Respect
Every person is valuable. As a TA professional, you have respect for every individual, no matter what characteristics or qualities this person has.
- Self-determination > Empowerment
Every person is free to decide on his or her own future, within the laws of their own country and in consideration with their own needs and the needs of others. Everyone can learn from experiences and take responsibility for themselves without damaging the world or the freedom of others. Your goal as a coach is to give everyone the opportunity to develop, and take control of their own destiny.
- Health > Protection
Every individual has the right to physical and mental stability. This right must actively be protected. You assume that every living being is unique and valuable. You take care of yourself and others, both physically and mentally.
- Security > Responsibility
Every person must be able to develop in a safe environment. Every action you take as a coach hast consequences for your client and their environment. As a TA professional, you are always aware of that.
- Reciprocity > Involvement
Every person lives in a world with others and is thus involved in the well-being of others and is mutually dependent on others in the development of mutual security. As a coach you feel genuinely involved. You are interested in the well-being of the other person.
These values and principles are elaborated in ethical standards with concrete examples. These are so extensive that I will not treat them here. If you’re interested to read them, you can find the entire ethical code here.
How does Els get back on track? The values and principles above provide Els with a solution for her ethical dilemmas. By comparing her colleagues behaviour to these standards, she can see that this behaviour is not acceptable and should be treated as such.
Ethics as a coach
The values and principles mentioned above are directly applicable to your work as a coach. As long as you observe all these principles, you are treating your clients and colleagues with ethical responsibility. When you consciously or unconsciously deviate from these values, then sooner or later something will start to feel like you’re no longer on the right course. You find yourself not being able to look yourself in the eye anymore and you lose direction. This is because you are not traveling in accord with on your own values and norms. This could literally keep you awake at night and it can cost you a lot of energy.
Would you like to know more about how you can use TA and the EATA ethical code to remain close to yourself as a coach? By talking to other coaches about it and going into the depth together, you get to know your own values and norms better. Are you interested? More information about the TA Experience Group and the date of the next meeting can be found on this page.
You’re welcome to join us.