In the first part of this two-part blog, you met Sylvia, the client, and Hans the coach. Sylvia told him that she had an excessively severe reaction to an apparently minor incident. She asked herself: “Why am I reacting so violently?”, a question that many coaches will recognise from their clients. Did you miss the first blog? You can find it here:

Severe stress reactions: recognising and changing patterns | part 1

Echoes from the past

The conclusion of the first part was: severe, unexplained extreme stress reactions are often the result of patterns from childhood. Recognising and understanding these patterns is enough for some clients to solve their problems. But it often takes more than that.

The patterns, although known, now, can feel to clients like echoes from a past that they cannot leave behind. They know that situations similar to those in the past cannot hurt them (anymore) in the present, but they cannot change their physical reaction to them.

Regulating stress

It is difficult for clients with such a physical stress reaction to calm themselves. This is not surprising; when a small child is stressed, it also needs mummy or another adult to regulate that stress. When that does not happen – or not enough – the stress reaction is stored in the nervous system and at a later age a seemingly small trigger can activate the old stress fully again. It is then difficult to regulate the stress itself. It is, for example, almost impossible to meditate during a stress reaction; something you might normally benefit from considerably. To regulate a severe physical stress reaction, you need someone else.

Stuck coaching

Perhaps you have experienced a time when a client knows where their stress reaction comes from, has the right knowledge about the patterns from their youth and understands why they get in their way, but is still unable to calm themselves down. This is when classical coaching often gets stuck. That is a pity and, above all, absolutely unnecessary.

When you, as a coach, have knowledge of bodywork, then you have a perfect tool to help these clients as well.

When we work with our clients, who experience such a stress reaction, it is important to know that:

  1. The cognitive explanation of old patterns, of script, are often insufficient to allow the client to find peace of mind again. The classic Transactional Analysis is a wonderful tool for recognising these patterns, but often inadequate because recognising them does not always give the desired peace of mind and clients remain anxious and restless.
  2. Clients simply don’t succeed in ‘taking good care of themselves’ because they are too restless. Too scared and stressed to calm themselves down again. Clients simply cannot ‘take a bath in peace’ or ‘meditate in peace’ or ‘go for a walk in peace’. Often this is to the great frustration of both the client and the coach. The client feels like a ‘failure’ because he cannot do something seemingly simple. The coach is frustrated because the client does not achieve the desired success, does not recover properly.
  3. It is important with these stress complaints that the coach/therapist understands that the quality of presence is essential. The coach must know how to help the client by using their own nervous system. You can then be ‘reassuringly present’ in the room, so that your client becomes calm again. You can really learn that in the training ‘Embodied Coaching’.

Doesn’t bodywork belong in therapy?

This is a question I often get. I think it is fair to say that bodywork is generally classified as a therapeutic intervention reserved for psychiatrists and psychotherapists with knowledge of psychodiagnostics. The general opinion is that coaches ‘should stay away from it, because it does more harm than good’.

I firmly believe that this is not always true. When coaches learn how to work safely with bodywork, they can provide a much broader spectrum of psychological help than if they stay away from it. Of course, it remains important that coaches know when to refer to more specialised help.

In my training Embodied Coaching I offer a combination of Transactional Analysis and body work. With this combination it is really possible to work with bodywork in a safe and responsible way. Also, as a coach.

A better world, start with Embodied Coaching

Because of the consequences of the corona crisis, which we are still experiencing, there is an urgent need for solid coaching and psychological help. The more coaches have the knowledge of Embodied Coaching at their disposal, the better we can help these people.

Do you want to know more about this training? Then take a look at this page.*

You are welcome.


*This page is written in Dutch, because the course is also in Dutch. If you want to know more about the possibilities in English? Check this page.

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