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How Do You Keep Clients from Becoming Co-Dependent?

written byTony Hustedon 23/09/2015

I often get asked - "How do you keep from creating a co-dependent relationship with your coaching clients?" The goal of Solution-Focused Coaching is to create independence in the client, and if done properly it leaves very little room for any type of co-dependency.  

Take a simple example like investing in the stock market. If your goal is to make money in the stock market, the goal might be alternately stated that you are trying to develop your skills as a stock market trader. Now, imagine we are talking, and I tell you a stock tip, because as many well-intentioned people do, I want to help you. Based on scientific studies on the topic of advice, there is a 75% chance that you will not follow my advice. If you go against the odds and do follow my advice, two things are likely: the tip is a good tip, and you make money, or the tip is bad, and you lose money.  

In the case that you lose money, I have now been discredited, my advice is no good! All future advice from me is now going to be suspect, and even if I know of the next Google at $1 a share, you will likely not follow my advice. I have lost value in the relationship, and I am to blame! If I am being paid to be your Coach, this can really create a problem! If you take my advice, and you make money, have you actually achieved your goal? Since your goal is to develop your skill of stock market trading, no. In fact, I have opened the door to the foundation of a co-dependent relationship. Your skill is the exact same as it was before, I have placed myself as the expert, and the go-to-guy! There is now a good chance that you will seek my advice again for the next tip. Who wouldn't go back for more?  

Each time this happens I run the ever increasing risk of a bad tip, leading back to the discrediting of myself. Nowhere in the cycle of advice do you grow your skill, the true outcome for sustaining your outcome. In fact, I delay the development of your skill. If this continues for a few months, your skill level is likely to decrease.  

If you can rely on my advice, then why put in the time, effort, and energy to learn for yourself? People take the easy road when offered a choice.

Create Independence

Each time I give advice or a tip, an "if I were you" or "have you thought of", on any topic, I open the door for co-dependence. The client then needs me to solve the next problem in the queue. The next "emergency" prompts the 9pm on a Saturday night call for help. The Solution-Focused Coach on the other hand, allows the client to develop their own skills. This is done by facilitating a Coaching conversation where the client develops their own solutions, skills, and resources creating a client who is more and more independent.  

My ultimate goal as a Solution-Focused Coach is to work myself out of work. 

I want the client to no longer need me. I want them to increase their abilities, and skills to a point where they are self-maintaining and sustaining.