Photo of Dr. Melissa Hankins

Recognizing and Addressing Trauma When Coaching Clients

This is a member only resource

Become a Member » Log In »
Recognizing and Addressing Trauma When Coaching Clients

We live in a world in which it is impossible to escape exposure to trauma. We watch as trauma plays out across the world stage with wars and the global pandemic. We see it in acts of racial violence and oppression. We find it woven into families, reaching across generations. We experience it in the workplace as bullying, discrimination, microaggressions, and inequalities based on gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and more. Trauma, in its many obvious or more subtle forms, either directly or indirectly, lines our path from childhood to adulthood.

With this in mind, it’s worth noting that the impacts of trauma can influence the lives of our clients (and ourselves) in a myriad of ways, both professionally and personally. The manifestations of trauma can show up in and shape a person’s (client and coach, alike)  belief system, thoughts, behaviors/actions, and outcomes for just about anything. These manifestations of trauma can impact relationship dynamics at work and at home, may determine the choice for pursuing (or not) new opportunities and the achieving (or sabotaging) of goals, and the expressing of and advocating for one’s needs, wants, and desires or the silencing of them. And, the list certainly does not end there.

Of course, as coaches, we’ve been taught that there is a difference between coaching and therapy. Most coaches hear the word “trauma,” and place that squarely within the purview of the therapist. However, there are times—simply because our clients are human beings—that trauma will enter into the coaching space. As such, it behooves us, for the sake of our clients as well as for ourselves, to have some basic awareness and recognition of trauma, and consider what to do when it shows up in a session. 

Become a Member

The IOC is a global community of coaches.


Contact Us

  • Institute of Coaching
  • McLean Hospital
  • 115 Mill Street, Mail Stop 314
  • Belmont, MA 02478
  • Phone: 617-767-2670
  • [email protected]