Coaching for Mental Health: Ethical Dilemma or Ethical Development?

Mental Well-being and Life Skills

For balanced, dynamic human ‘beings and doings’, body, mind, emotions and spirit, all need regular attention, nourishment, stimulation and exercise. In this assignment I consider the mental, emotional and spiritual needs for health and happiness. If examples of happy, inspired people exist in every life context, arguably all humans have a similar potential, the NLP model of development is based on this premise. What then are our needs and resources? The Mindfields College states: “We all have basic emotional needs, such as the need for love, security, connection and control, and the self esteem which arises from feeling competent in different areas of our lives. We also have the innate resources to help us meet these needs including memory, imagination, problem solving abilities, self-awareness and a range of complimentary thinking styles to employ in various different situations. It is these needs and resources together, which are built into our biology, that make up the human givens. When emotional needs are not met or when our resources are used incorrectly, we suffer considerable distress. And so do those around us.” Griffin and Tyrell (1999).

Zeldin’s book “An Intimate History of Humanity” examines human social and cultural development. He considers that change happens as a result of individual reactions to life experiences, and that those experiences are created by their life context. “Nothing influences our ability to cope with the difficulties of existence so much as the context in which we view them; the more contexts we can choose between, the less do difficulties appear to be inevitable and insurmountable.” (p.13).

A human in the 21st Century is faced with a complex world, filled with choice and opportunities to use problem-solving skills. Yet one chapter of Zeldin’s book is entitled “How the art of escaping from ones troubles has developed, but not the art of knowing where to escape to” (p. 221). The means of escape include use of legal and illegal substances, relationships, shopping, negative thinking and obsession, celebrity and even chocolate. “Addictions blight millions of lives and are a massive drain on health and social services” MindFields 2002. Apparently then, the ability to make healthy choices becomes a vital skill.

Zeldin believes that we all need a sense of purpose in our lives and allies in the form of friends and companions to help us keep balance. (p. 234). Companions enable us to reach beyond our own boundaries and inhibitions and can offer positive role models. The ability to find and keep nurturing companions becomes another life skill. Our ability to discriminate is partly dependent on the experiences of the adults in our childhood. If these mentors are less than able to cope with life themselves, or if poverty and abuse are their experience, then they pass on a legacy of skills deficit.

Changing entrenched patterns of behaviour requires new skills “– commitment, control and challenge – as the ingredients of what we called psychological hardiness. Hardy people should be able to face change with confidence and self-determination, and the eagerness of seeing change as opportunity” Emotions and Health 1992 (p.6.)

Another human craving is for a sense of self, with its need to belong and live by fundamental values, in order to feel the peace of mind to live in the present, reconcile the past and have hope for the future. “Increasingly, therefore, it is being recognised that failure to acknowledge and meet spiritual needs and values jeopardises not only the health of the individual and society, but also the planet itself. Advocacy of spirituality as the key to healing is therefore becoming more commonplace”. Graham 1995 (p.163). A 2002 report by a leading mental health charity is advising that “spirituality should be taken seriously” 26.4.02 (

Without focus Victor Frankl believes that a crisis of meaninglessness is created, typified by boredom, cynicism, apathy and pointlessness, which becomes depression, addiction and dependency and is “reflected in conformist and submissive behaviours…”. Graham. 1995 (p.169). Addiction and depression are a potent combination, “Depression weakens you. Weakness is the surest path to addiction”. Noonday Demon (p.242). Appendix 6: Addiction.

This crisis of meaninglessness, or angst, was seen as the exclusive preserve of religion and philosophy but is now being addressed within the therapeutic field, as many people no longer follow these traditional paths “Existential therapies have developed a therapeutic approach that encourages clients to face up to the reality of their existence and… help clients build up a more and more detailed picture of how they experience their world, such that they can make increasingly informed and constructive choices.” Mike Cooper. 2001 (p.34).

Raj Persaud believes that for mental well-being “control is the cornerstone of mental health—being able to manage your mood, temper or attitude is the key component of staying sane.” Staying Sane (p.96). He also extends the concept of mental ill-health “to include a lifestyle, attitude or behaviour which produces suffering or distress in others as well as in yourself” and includes attention to individual values. Staying Sane (p. 101).

Ultimately each person is responsible for past, present and future life. The wisdom and courage to make the best choices requires learning and using life skills and living by aspirational values. “Professional/personal coaching addresses the whole person – with an emphasis on producing action and uncovering learning that can lead to more fulfilment, more balance and a more effective process of living”. Co-Active Coaching (pg.xi)

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