During the Christmas period, we as coaches often see more people with stress-related complaints. That is not surprising: it is also a busy period during which many people want to finish long to-do lists.

However, as coaches we must remain vigilant and not put all stress-related complaints down to that.
We see that a number of people can cope reasonably well with Christmas stress and that for others it is very quickly ‘too much’.

These situations undoubtedly raise many questions for you as a coach. When is stress just stress and when is there more to it? When can we speak of PTSD? How do you see the difference? Therefore, in this blog I relate three things you may not have known about PTSD-related problems and how you can deal with it as a coach.

PTSD is the result of a trauma. One of the symptoms we already mentioned in the introduction: people with PTSD can tolerate less. In addition, their reactions are often more intense, more magnified and out of proportion to what is happening here and now. The stress reactions are not only greater; they also last longer.

Persistent myths about working with PTSD:

  1. Talking about the trauma is the solution

Clients are often addicted to the trauma in the sense that they hope that it will get better if they focus on it often enough. They expect that in the sessions they will mainly talk about the trauma.

As a coach, we are also often drawn to the trauma, the trauma is spectacular….
The coach wants to know the ‘juicy’ story or the cause of the complaints. ‘Tell us what happened,’ they then say.
It is very easy to be tempted to go straight to the trauma part. Going in depth. To know exactly what happened.

What we then see is a lot of drama and strong emotions: there is deep feeling without any inhibition.

The coach works hard to guide this and to expect that the client will ‘heal’. Contrary to popular belief, analysing and reliving the trauma will not solve the problem. In fact, that is a persistent and widespread myth.

What actually happens when a client tells his story, is that they relive the trauma again. Cognitively and in their nervous system. In this way, the client is actually re-traumatised. Their body ‘experiences’ the trauma again.

As a coach, you can also look with the client at the way in which they have come through of the trauma. The way in which they survived and the resilience they showed.

In processing trauma with this method, the positive and negative go hand in hand. The more the client is in touch with their resilience, the more possibilities there are to focus on the trauma as well. Of course, the trauma must also be talked about, but in small doses. And taking into account the extent to which the client can feel their resilience.

  1. Talking about the trauma is the solution

Hey, that was the title of the first point, right? Yes, it was! But there is more to this myth. Coaching for PTSD clients may in fact go deeper than cognitive work alone. PTSD clients are often very sensitive to stress. At the slightest thing they go completely into stress mode. They do not like this, and they often have enough of it, but they cannot prevent it. The body reacts before they can stop this process in their minds. For these clients, it is therefore not enough just to understand why they are experiencing stress and trauma-related complaints. This realisation, without being able to solve it, can actually make the client anxious and depressed. (You see? I can’t do it.) That is why bodywork is very valuable in PTSD complaints. With this you work at the level of the nervous system.

  1. Meditation exercises help

Coaches often send stressed clients home with the advice to do meditation exercises. They expect that these exercises will improve the complaints. In my opinion, traumatised clients cannot do these exercises on their own. Real trauma healing happens in contact with someone else.

As human beings, we all have an imprint, an implicit memory of the feeling we had when we were still in the womb. Our nervous system remembers how that felt, even though we have no cognitive memories of it. Soft, safe and surrounded by warmth. Lietaert Peerbolte describes it in his book ‘The Foetal Psyche’ as a blissful experience where time and place do not matter.

We are all, but trauma patients especially, unconsciously looking for this. But often we cannot reach it. Something is in the way. The reassuring presence and the gentle eyes of the other person (the coach) are indispensable in this process.

Comforting presence on a neurological level

If, as a coach, you want to work with PTSD clients, it is important that you know how to regulate your own stress, so that you can offer that reassuring presence to your client and can properly attune to your client’s nervous system.

To return to the question I posed at the beginning of this blog: How do you as a coach distinguish between ordinary stress and PTSD? For that you need knowledge. This (and much more) knowledge I offer you in the training Embodied Coaching. In this training you also learn how to regulate your stress and how to attune yourself to your client. Apart from this knowledge you will of course also get the opportunity to practice. This knowledge can be found in all the thick books on Neuroscience. This training distinguishes itself by the possibility to practice and to find out how you want to apply this. So that you can develop your own work style.

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Linda Hoeben
+32 474 920 877
Rommersom 1A, 3320 Hoegaarden