Safeguarding the system for internal coaching


Safeguarding the system for internal coaching

'Safeguarding the system' for internal coaching

  • How safe is your system when it comes to internal coaching?
  • How prepared are your coaches should they be faced with a mental health challenge?
  • How robust are your procedures and coaching contracts to allow your coaches to confidently take action in line with your HR policies?
  • And who holds the overall safeguarding accountability?

What is safeguarding in coaching?

It’s about keeping everyone in the coaching system safe at all times, including:

  • The client
  • The organisation that the client is part of
  • The coach
  • The organisation that the coach is operating on behalf of (if using external providers)



In 2020 one of our Senior Associates and Coach Supervisor, Rebecca Peirce, guided our team through the notion of safeguarding the whole system. This was inspired following the attendance at an ICF CPD session run by V Symcox which identified the following:

Traditional models / thinking in coaching suggest the following:

  • The client was not whole but split into 2 parts accesssing either coaching or therapy
  • Deciding which intervention was needed came down to their ability to function (functioning = coaching; not functioning = therapy)
  • Mental Health was not part of coaching – a clear boundary line
  • The boundary line was assessed by the coach using their own, subjective interpretations of the client’s behaviour

Current thinking has moved on significantly:

  • The client is part of the coaching practice, and Mental Health is part of the client and so can’t be removed from coaching (a large proportion of the population have a diagnosed Mental Health condition and are able to function very well)
  • Wellness and illness co-exist, and coaching can play a significant part in a client’s ability to move forward with their thoughts, feelings and behaviours
  • This rejects the theory that clients need either therapy or coaching, and instead recognises that the 2 disciplines can each make valid contributions

Research suggests that coaches are ill-equipped to deal with mental health emergencies:

  • Coaches were unaware of signals that a mental health emergency is potentially imminent
  • Coaches were unprepared emotionally and practically to support a mental health emergency
  • Coaches assumed either someone else would have noticed OR coaching would have stopped before an emergency
    (Symcox, V 2019)

This is supported by 2020 EMCC guidance:

  • Many coaches will work with clients experiencing work-related stress. The symptoms of work-related stress (a reaction to events or experiences in someone’s home life, work life, or both) and more serious mental health problems can be very similar, and often exist together in an adult. This means that a coach can easily end up out of their depth with a client who is developing, or has developed, a mental health problem, and who needs a clinical treatment such as medication or therapy, rather than a coaching intervention, to support their recovery
  • Work related stress can also trigger a previous mental health problem. The client (and their manager if relevant) is often unable to identify the difference between work-related stress and mental illness, and so will probably not be able to tell you that they no longer feel coaching is an appropriate intervention

(EMCC: Coaching, mentoring and mental health, 2020)

If this resonates with you please reach out to us. Our experienced Professional Coaches and Coach Supervisors are trained and able to guide you through the necessary systems and procedures you should put in place to ensure you can attend to the areas described above.

Keeping everyone safe in your internal coaching system is critical. You are not alone. We are here to help.


You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. For information about our privacy practices, please visit our website.

We use Campaign Monitor**as our marketing platform. By clicking below to subscribe, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Campaign Monitor for processing. Learn more about Campaign Monitor privacy practices here