The Survivor’s Guide is our directory to great local businesses, especially ones that help cancer patients. Recently we looked at ways a life coach can work with people affected by cancer.
Recently we introduced to you a certified Christian life coach named Julie Sass. I was curious about how a life coach might help cancer patients coping with the reality of cancer. Julie shared ways a life coach can help cancer patients adjusting to their “new normal”.
Q: What are some ways that a Christian life coach can help cancer patients?
Julie: I like the whole idea of “Strength Based Coaching”. So often people look at the negatives in a situation. Or the “How?” question trips people up: “How can I possibly move on from this devastating blow?” We come from a culture that promotes the well rounded being. The culture focuses on what you are lacking instead of what you have been blessed with. Although I do not think it is necessarily a bad thing to always try to improve ourselves, I do think that God created us all with a unique set of talents, gifts, and abilities. I believe God intended for us to not dwell on the areas of weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:9 says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness.” We need to use the strengths He has given us. I think that cancer patients, especially, need to be built up by focusing on their areas of individual strength when they are going through or have come out of a time of draining physical and emotional weakness.
I support my clients in hearing them as they review their vision for life, purpose, and values, and allowing them to reach a conclusion that helps them adjust to the “new normal” of life. Even as life is a series of changes (and challenges like cancer), it also is a series of choices on how we choose to respond to the change. I truly believe that the small steps we can take to change our thoughts will affect our words, which affect our actions, which affect our habits – and our habits form our destiny. So I help clients realign their thoughts (words, actions and habits follow), to live a more fulfilling and satisfying life by focusing on their God-given strengths.
Q: What specifically do you encourage your clients to remember about life?
Julie: I encourage clients by sharing the following thoughts:
- Life is a series of changes.
- Know that with every major change, there is both a gain and a loss.
- Allow yourself to honor and acknowledge feelings of both anticipation and/or sadness.
- Write in a journal and give yourself permission to be honest in acknowledging and expressing your feelings.
- Walk the bridge between what you are leaving behind and what lies ahead.
- Get closure on the part of life being left behind, by saying what needs to be said, reflecting on that part of life, and learning how to accept the wonderful possibilities for your life ahead.
- Deliberately keep some constants so that your life will not be overwhelmed by the change.
- Begin to anticipate the new chapter in life with excitement, even writing down the good things you look forward to experiencing or doing.
- Reach out to others in the new situation and develop a sense of community.
- Be prayerful, remembering that God’s path never leads you to where His grace will not keep you.
Q: Is there a coaching model you follow?
Julie: The coaching model I follow with my clients is summed up in four phases. I believe the model can be very effective in helping cancer patients who may want to benefit from coaching as they adjust to their “new normal” after treatment or as they face life challenges due to cancer.
The first phase is “awareness”. This is about becoming aware of the present, and being aware of the issues or concerns that may bring a client to coaching. What areas of their life are they currently dissatisfied with? By becoming aware of the person, we encourage each client to look at their abilities, strengths, God-given spiritual gifts, weaknesses, passions and life purposes.
The second phase is “vision”. During this phase we work to identify where the client wants to go. What does the client want their life to look like? We encourage the client to look forward to better things that could come. Help them reflect, imagine possibilities, and discover their own vision for the road ahead. God did not design us to be complacent; He designed us to be action people, doers, movers, thinkers, moving forward by God-given awareness.
The third phase is “strategy and action”. This phase is about setting goals that are realistic, specific and measurable. “Specific” could mean creating concise statements with start dates and deadlines. We can ask questions like, “What would make my life better and more fulfilling?” It is important to remember that there is rarely change without action. Life coaches ask for commitment from our clients and then help them decide what the next step is, and when it will take place. As a coach I provide support, encouragement and accountability through this phase.
The fourth phase is “obstacles”. One of the most important things I can do as a coach is to help others uncover, face, and get past self-defeating behaviors and mental self-talk that hinders progress. We understand that there are blind spots such as self-sabotaging attitudes and behaviors in ourselves that we often don’t even recognize are there. We help our clients discover what these and other mental and external barriers may be, and eliminate them so they do not hinder their forward motion. For cancer patients the obstacles may look different, but the principles of recognizing and helping navigate those obstacles still can apply.
The coaching model can be useful to help people, including cancer patients, identify their core values, find the vision that arises from these values, and develop a plan to bring their lives more in line with that vision as they recover from cancer or adjust to the reality of living with cancer.
Q: How else would you encourage cancer patients?
I feel that connecting with a community of other people going through similar challenges, especially cancer, is something really important for patients and survivors. To know they are not alone. To make sure they don’t isolate themselves. I will work with cancer patients to help them find a support group that works for them. I’m also willing to do group coaching. Building a community can sometimes be more important than building individual success. Group coaching encourages community and the building of relationships. It stimulates group learning and peer coaching based on the participants’ experiences, not solely on the interventions of the coach; it taps into the belief that accountability is best found in a context of community rather than one-way accountability to a coach. This approach to encourage and coach cancer patients is most effective when the group is relatively small (perhaps four to seven participants), has common needs or interests, and commits to meeting at least biweekly for several months.
You can read more about Julie’s personal story and how to connect with her by Clicking Here.
Be sure to “Like” the Julie Sass, Christian Life Coach Facebook page.