Fertility Coaching

In today’s guest post coach Alison Reede shares some of her personal story and how that’s influenced her choice of coaching niche.

Fertility Coaching

By Alison Reede

Fertility Coaching by Alison Reede

In 2010 my husband and I were told that we would never conceive naturally and that we would have to use assisted reproduction to conceive but there was no guarantee it would work. I know that sounds matter of fact but that is how we were told. We were now ‘infertile’. This diagnosis was life changing and I struggled to find support, outside of family & friends that truly understood my plight to become a Mum. This was the inspiration for me to offer Life Coaching to those struggling to conceive.

I know the relationship between Coaching and fertility problems seems strange at first so I will put it into some context. Having to use assisted reproduction to get pregnant and have a family can be life shattering and research has shown that the impact of infertility is as big as the impact of dealing with potentially terminal illnesses. This news is usually shocking to digest at first but on reflection you can see why, the ability to reproduce is something that is taken as given, it is innate within all beings so when the ability to reproduce naturally is taken away, it can have a big impact. However where it does differ from an “illness” is that you are not actually feeling “ill”, there are associated medical conditions but what comes to the fore is a big challenge and huge element of uncertainty in life that needs to be dealt with and adjusted too.

I previously became a Coach as a part of my HR profession but to assist me in the area of “Fertility Coaching” I took additional training as a “Fertile Body Method Practitioner”, which focuses on ensuring a good mind body connection is in place by addressing the negative impacts of infertility on one’s mental, emotional, spiritual & physical wellbeing. It was developed by a Clinical Hypnotherapist, Sjanie Hugo.

Interestingly enough, this approach had many similar traits to Coaching and to help demonstrate simplistically I will compare the ‘FBM’ approach to the GROW model.

  1. An outcome or goal is established. Note the goal is never to get pregnant as it is not SMART.
  2. Next the reality, what is actually happening, how is infertility impacting the clients life?
  3. Then the options, what can the client do about it? What does the client need to change or address to give them the best shot at getting pregnant
  4. Finally the wrap up, what actions need to happen

As infertility is a highly emotional state, a key part of stage 2 above is ensuring that the client is relatively balanced before moving on and a lot of time is given to this stage, especially working on stress management and mind-set. Mind-set is key really in determining whether someone may perhaps need counselling rather than coaching, so watching out for signs of depression is important as Coaching may then not be appropriate.

Infertility can consume your life, it consumed me, and that is why I am so passionate about encouraging others to try and maintain a good balanced life and to find support as I strongly believe this is so important in maintaining physical & mental wellbeing. With hindsight if I had been less obsessed and panicked about not having children I think my journey to motherhood would have been shorter and certainly less stressful. Prolonged stress does impact our hormones.

There are also many similarities in the techniques of the FBM & Coaching for example, solution focused questioning, lifestyle analysis, value & belief systems, thought patterns, visualization, mental rehearsal & relaxation. A major challenging aspect of fertility problems is decision making, and many people struggle with the decisions which is understandable considering the range and complexity. Decisions about doing IVF or not, using donor eggs or donor sperm, when to stop, financial decisions, decisions that impact your body and health to mention but a few.

So I hope this has given some insight into “Fertility Coaching”. I am pleased to say after several rounds of IVF and some other glitches I became a Mum to twin girls in 2013! I was not aware of fertility coaching on my journey but with hindsight I do think it would have been of great impartial support to me at that time.

About Alison Reede

Alison Reede is a Qualified Life, Business & Executive Coach who lives in Dublin, Ireland and who set up her Coaching Practice this year after a 20 year career in HR & Banking. Alison’s personal journey with infertility inspired her to focus her coaching practice on Fertility Coaching as the impact of fertility related problems is often underestimated and under supported. Alison is also an approved Fertile Body Method Practitioner which is a mind/body holistic approach to fertility problems.

Connect with Alison on Social Media

Coaches, do you need sight to listen? 4

Before setting up my own coaching practice full time I was employed in the training and development team of a multi-national company. One of the departments I particularly loved working with was the contact centre  – the very nature of the work of a contact centre involves a lot of communication with people over the phone.

I spent many a happy hour developing the skills of individuals who spent the majority of their working lives having conversations over the phone.

I once ran a workshop that had a mix of individuals who had a background working via a phone and those who generally worked face-to-face. I knew the work of all of those in the room and knew that they were all fantastic listeners.

As part of the workshop I included an exercise about listening – the whole group excelled at the first part. The difference came when I asked that they did the same exercise with their eyes shut. What quickly became apparent was that those who had lots of experience working via the phone found the task relatively easy. Those who mainly worked face-to-face struggled without the visual cues they were used to working with.

Now I’m not for one minute suggesting that those who normally worked face-to-face with people “failed” and therefore are consigned to never communicating using any other method ever again! What I am saying is that listening without being able to literally physically see what’s going on is a skill that can be developed like any other. It’s something that, with practice can get stronger and stronger.

So why am I writing about contact centres on a Wednesday coaching post?

You’ll often find coaches discussing the importance of listening when having a coaching conversation. Pretty much up until running that workshop I didn’t fully get why when I met other coaches at events so many of them would give me a strange look when I said I coached via the phone.

I do a lot of my work via the phone – it’s a medium I’m comfortable with. I like the extra benefits it can bring, such as being able to work with wherever my ideal clients are (providing they have a working phone signal). I don’t have to have geographic limitations so that we can both be physically in the same place.

It also makes scheduling clients a lot easier – there are no travelling times to take into consideration. So I have far more flexibility with my phone coaching sessions than I often have with a face-to-face session. I don’t know about you, but even though I often quite like a car or train journey I much prefer the joy I get from coaching. I’d much rather be spending my time running a coaching session than travelling to one.

There are many other reasons why I personally choose to mainly coach via the phone. Thinking back to the many different trainings I have attended there have been many, many skills and techniques that I have at my fingertips from those events to use when coaching via the phone.

However, I recall only a handful of occasions when someone has specifically discussed coaching using the phone – normally in response to a delegate’s question. I can also recall few training drills and exercises where we were strengthening our listening skills without the visual cues.

So, to answer the question in the title of this post, it is possible to listen without having visual cues. One of the main questions I get asked by coaches who don’t coach via the phone is how do you do that if you can’t see what someone is doing or thinking?

There are several things you can do to make coaching via the phone easier and skills you can develop and strengthen so that, if you want, you can transfer your own coaching style to work via the phone.

I love the variety and breadth that is found in the coaching profession, and there will be some coaches who choose to coach face to face. Perhaps it’s because it’s a medium they really enjoy or maybe they coach in a way that is really much easier face to face (ie as a kids sports coach). So please don’t misunderstand my post as an implication that all coaches should be coaching via the phone.

However, you may have ruled out working via the phone because you don’t know where to start or have no idea how you could coach without literally physically seeing when a client is thinking etc. I’ve seen some jump to the conclusion that they just couldn’t coach that way, that somehow they would never be “good enough.” If that sounds like you, please remember that:

(a)    Knowledge can be learnt

(b)   You can strengthen skills with practice

(c)    How do you know if you haven’t had the experience?

I have decided to put on a training to assist those who are interested in starting phone coaching. It’s a training where I’m pulling together all my coaching and working on the phones knowledge and experience to give a very practical course. Designed to put your learning into context I want you to complete the course having successfully coached others via the phone, building up experience and feedback.

It’s a training that will take place over the phone, using technology that allows you to work in small groups within the call, exactly as you could during a live face-to-face training – you will be strengthening those skills you will use when phone coaching all the way through the course. For more details click here.

As a coach, how are you judging if you are doing a good job? 1

It’s possible that the scenario that you are coaching in is likely to partly influence the focus and perspective of how you judge a specific coaching session.

If you are coaching where you are developing and practicing a specific ability in a training environment then perhaps you will use how you performed a specific technique, coaching model or skill as a way to judge.

If you are coaching in a business context as an internal member of a team then perhaps the judgement about how well a coaching session is influenced by other aspects of the expectations of your job role.

If you are coaching in a business context as an external provider then you may have other influences about how you judge a session was a good one.

Broadly speaking there are 5 different scenarios you may find yourself coaching:

  • In a training situation to develop a specific skill, technique or style.
  • A “formal” session in a business where you are also a team member – An example of this is a manager running a coaching session for a team member.
  • A “formal” coaching session in a situation where you are “paid” by someone other than the person you are actually coaching.
  • A “formal” coaching where you are “paid” directly by the individual you are coaching.
  • An “informal” coaching conversation with family, friends or colleagues.

For the purposes of this list by formal I mean a session where both you and the person you are having a coaching conversation with are aware that you are coaching.

By “informal” I mean a situation where the other person may describe it as a chat at lunch, or an interesting conversation in the corridor etc. – As a coach you may have been very aware that you were having a conversation that would easily be identical in a formal coaching session. It’s just not necessarily the label the other person would use.

The question I ask today is as a coach, how are you judging you are doing a good job? I appreciate that potentially the scenario and context you are coaching in may influence your judgement.

Do you form a judgement given what you have personally seen or heard? Perhaps you just get a specific feeling that tells you that you’ve done a good job.

Maybe you let your client(s) be the guide about if it was a good session and use the feedback from those directly involved.

Another aspect that some people use to judge is criteria either given directly to you by someone other than your client (ie a trainer/organisation). Alternatively, you can judge using a comparison with someone else.

You may have noticed that I specifically used the word judging, as in “to form an opinion about,” in my question.

Each method of judging can have an impact on how confident you feel about your coaching and the action that you take which can positively or negatively impact your business.

As always, if you are judging if you are doing a good job, and that way is working for you then do keep doing what you are doing. If it isn’t working you may want to consider how you are forming that judgement and what you are doing with that opinion.

Here are a few questions and observations that will apply more to some judgement methods than others:

  • Not confident about your coaching? Leonard Orr’s said “What the thinker thinks, the prover proves.” (Otherwise known as Orr’s Law.) Are you ignoring “evidence” from another perspective?

Just for fun, if you were to consider the opposite to your judgement, what “evidence” could you find? If you were to use that judgement what would you do differently?

  • Comparing yourself with someone else? What are you doing with that comparison? If you are using it to beat yourself up with “I’m not as good as” thoughts, is that a useful action?

I’ll also mention that many people pick someone with years of experience and thousand of hours of practice to use as a comparison – hardly a fair comparison if you haven’t also got years of experience and thousands of hours practice as well!

  • Totally ignoring what your clients are saying and preferring to make a judgement using other methods? Just for a moment consider the question: “What actions would you take if you let your clients guide that judgement?” What impact would those actions have on your coaching practice, either your literal business or how you approach coaching?

If you haven’t already I invite you to consider how you are judging your coaching and the impact that is having.

Why, oh why, oh why?

On Mondays post a comment by Dave Doran asked my thoughts about using the question why. I thought Dave’s question was great and an interesting topic that deserved a post all of it’s own. So here are more thoughts:

Some of you may have attended a training that has specifically taught you that in coaching you never, ever ask the question why? I know, I’ve attended those courses as well 🙂

There are reasons why the question why is often taught not to be asked to new coaches. Asking the question why can have a negative effect upon a coaching conversation. There is much to be said about that negative influence but to keep this post to a reasonable length perhaps the two main impacts are:

  • Asking the question why can cause an individual to feel attacked in some form, resulting in defensive answers.
  • It can focus the attention upon the past rather than in the present or future.

I’d hope that anyone who has been taught not to ask the question why also focuses upon what they want to achieve with a question and the potential outcome rather than just not saying the word why. Just because you don’t physically use the word why, it does not mean that your question doesn’t focus someone’s attention towards past events.

For example the question, “how come?” doesn’t contain the word why but potentially provides exactly the same answer if the client had just said “I don’t feel wonderful at the moment.” Equally in some situations you can provoke a defensive response with the phrase “What were you thinking?”

When Dave asked about what I personally felt about using the question why I replied that I didn’t rule out the possibility of asking the question why. For me, it’s about still having the flexibility to use it in appropriate situations and contexts. When I do use the question why, I do so deliberately and often it is woven into a much bigger framework of the work that I am doing. I know the reason why I am asking why.

So having said that I wouldn’t rule out asking the question why I thought I’d expand on the situations and contexts I may use the question why:

If my client tells me that they keep asking themselves why.

Anything a client tells me they keep asking themselves is potentially a question worth answering so I often check if they’ve actually listened for an answer. Listening for an answer may seem obvious but often people stop at the question and use that thought as a reason to beat themselves up.

To discover motivation /why something is important.

In some contexts it can be beneficial for a client to be aware about why something is important to them. Often this is an answer that is not based about something that has happened in the past so you don’t have the consequence of getting bogged down with a story about historic events.

Asking why may reveal individuals values, if they want to get away from a situation or if they want to move towards something new.

Discover somebody’s limiting beliefs

I normally only ask why for this purpose when I’m pretty certain I know what those limiting beliefs are and want to tackle them head on. I’m often looking to get the precise wording that they are telling themselves. It’s also something I usually only use if I feel that the trust is there between us – it will minimise any potential defensive feelings.


You may have heard of a theory in learning called the steps to learning, or the conscious competence theory. In this model of learning it is considered the 4th stage is unconscious competence, when someone is so comfortable with a skill that they can do it without thinking about it.

Does that mean that when you’ve learnt to do something naturally it can’t be improved or strengthened? Personally I don’t subscribe to that belief, so if the context of the coaching is around improving an individuals skills I may very easily ask a why question. Asking why in that situation will bring those skills back to the conscious stage. Or as I have heard Michael Neill describe as a conscious unconscious competence stage, which can otherwise be referred to it as mastery.

Let me re-stress that these are just scenarios where I might consider using a why question. In practice I choose each question depending upon what the person in front of me (or on the phone) has just said – it’s a bespoke service not a one size fits all approach. 🙂 I’m also not condemning any coach who chooses not to ask a why question. If you are a coach I invite you to consider, at an appropriate time, why you are using a particular question.

You may not agree with what I have said above and I’m happy for that to be the case, feel free to tell me so below. Alternatively, if there is a situation when you would use the question why I haven’t mentioned I’d love for you to share those as well.

What model of coaching do you employ?

Several years ago I was attending an HR/training exhibition/conference. One of the exhibiters that I got speaking to was a company that specialised in coaching. Quickly this individual read my name label, which also had my then job title of a trainer. The very first question they asked me was do you use coaching, followed quickly by which model do you use?

The first response that came into my head was “the one that works for that situation and individual.” However, I figured that in order for that question to make sense to the person asking the chances were that they felt that you just followed one coaching model. So I resisted answering with my first response and spoke about a model that the business I was in at that time had devised.

However, I have to admit that I was feeling slightly mischievous. As I know and use, as appropriate, many different models I could choose to mention one of several. The one I choose to tell them about one that was unique to the company I worked for at that time – one that they had modelled, identified the steps used and created their own acronym to act as a reminder of the steps.

In case you’re reading this thinking I’m saying that models have no place in coaching let me make it perfectly clear that is not what I’m saying. Coaching models can be fantastic for many reasons:

  • They can aid your mastery of coaching as they assist you to be conscious of what you are doing and to make choices deliberately.
  • They can assist you in deciding a particular course of action to take, which question to ask next, the technique to use or a suitable approach.
  • A model can be easy to teach to someone totally new to coaching
  • Following a model can be very reassuring to those new to coaching.
  • To some audiences models add credibility about your expertise as a coach.
  • Not forgetting that in the right context they can work!

The downside to coaching models is that some take the idea that coaching models exist and look for step by step instructions. A one size-fits all approach if you like. It’s almost as if they are looking for an “if they say x you say y” level of instruction without paying attention to other skills. My own personal belief is that when done skilfully coaching is so much more than a formula.

Imagine that you have the experience of calling two different call centres – Call centre A where the agents have to follow a script and are restricted by what their system allows. Call centre B is one where the agents have received training, have product knowledge and are allowed to have a conversation in their own professional style that focuses upon you as a caller.

Which one would you rather be involved with? If your situation fits with the script and their systems then you may have a satisfactory outcome to your call with call centre A. If you have a more unusual scenario or one that doesn’t work with their system then Call Centre A is not likely to be able to assist you, and you’ll have far more chance of success with Call Centre B.

What has this got to do with coaching? From time to time I see coaches using the same approach as call centre A. They have a model they use and they put all their focus on using it the “right” way.

I like to give this approach the benefit of the doubt and think that the coach’s motivation is about doing a great job for their client. The only thing is that the client is often ignored because the focus is on the process of the model, which means signs and cues can be missed. The coach is very inflexible with their approach trying to get the client to adjust to their approach instead.

Does this mean that I am suggesting that you should not learn coaching models? – Again, I say no.

What I am suggesting is that:

  • You are open to the possibilities that there can be more than one approach.
  • Don’t be afraid to change direction if one way isn’t working.
  • Remember your other important coaching skills – such as listening
  • Don’t ignore the client and their response

Thinking back to just the last couple of coaching sessions I’ve run I know that I have employed many models such as GROW, Transformative Coaching and High Performance Coaching. And I do mean employ – models are there for you to use the services of, not for you to surrender your control.