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Why Coaching Doesn't Work: The Mirage of Transformation

Updated: Aug 15, 2023

Over the years, the world of coaching, with its varied disciplines and techniques, has witnessed a paradigm shift. As holistic approaches gain momentum, the perennial debate between standard and transformative coaching rages on. But here’s the truth: conventional coaching, for all its merits, might sometimes be akin to a mirage, showing an oasis of transformation that remains ever distant. Armed with experience as a holistic life coach, I wish to shed light on this topic, focusing on why the promised transformation from certain coaching techniques often remains elusive.

The Landscape of Coaching: Coaching, whether it's life, career, couples, or corporate coaching, shares one common goal: ushering in positive change. While each domain has its challenges and nuances, they all work towards enabling growth, fostering clarity, or facilitating problem-solving.

However, herein lies the dichotomy. Standard coaching, structured around established norms like those set by the ICF or EMCC, is focused on delivering results. These results, while tangible, are often surface-level, addressing symptomatic issues rather than the root cause.

We're not revisiting the discussion on coaching versus therapy since it's already been addressed. The key takeaway is straightforward: a coach must recognize that therapy is outside their domain. To be truly helpful, they should embrace a comprehensive approach without attempting to act as a therapist.

In contrast, holistic coaching takes on a transformational approach, looking beyond the mind to encapsulate body, soul, emotion, and energy.

Standard Coaching: A Mirage of Transformation: Bound by the rule book, standard coaching offers a sense of safety. These methods, often backed by data and established processes, provide a controlled environment for growth. They assure clients of a structured journey with checkpoints, milestones, and tangible outcomes.

But this very strength can be its Achilles' heel. By operating within this controlled framework, conventional coaching often sidelines the deeper, intrinsic shifts required for true transformation. This results-oriented approach, while impactful in the short term, doesn’t always engender lasting change.

For instance, take high-priced corporate coaching sessions where satisfaction can sometimes feel more bought than earned. As expensive endeavors, they come with the weight of expectation. But how many of them genuinely change the way one views life or tackles challenges? How often do they merely offer Band-Aid solutions rather than profound, transformative insights?

Holistic Coaching: The Path to True Transformation: Holistic coaching doesn't merely guide; it profoundly shifts an individual's perspective on themselves and their surroundings. It understands that life's numerous challenges aren’t just problems waiting for solutions but are instead experiences that contribute to personal growth.

Contrastingly, while standard coaching offers structure and measurable outcomes, it often falls short in terms of delivering deep transformative experiences. Notably, standard coaching tends to be tied to a system that emphasizes certifications, leading to financial implications from such accreditations and the associated yearly pieces of training. This focus can sometimes divert from the primary purpose of coaching: facilitating genuine personal growth.

The true essence of transformation, however, transcends these structured metrics. It's anchored in a holistic perspective that embraces the entirety of the human experience, from the physical to the emotional, from the cognitive to the spiritual. True transformation integrates the whole person—body, mind, soul, emotion, and energy. It empowers individuals to recognize and unleash their inherent potential and to deeply experience insights, rather than just understand them theoretically.

A significant limitation of standard coaching is its tendency to skim the surface, largely ignoring the deeper layers of the unconscious mind. By centering on conscious strategies and cognitions, it might bypass the profound narratives, beliefs, memories, and traumas that truly dictate behavior and perception. There's an inherent risk here: the illusion of control. When we believe we're in control simply because we're addressing conscious thoughts, we miss the vast reservoir of unconscious drivers that influence our lives.

Holistic coaching, with its broader approach, addresses this gap. By engaging with the unconscious, it gets to the very root of issues, rather than merely addressing symptoms. Here, the transformation is not just fleeting or superficial; it's profound and has the potential to change the trajectory of one's life.

The Rich Tapestry of Coaching: In acknowledging the limitations of standard coaching, it’s also essential to recognize its merits. For those looking for tangible results, this method holds appeal. After all, a corporate coach, armed with statistics, might provide the necessary push for a team facing productivity issues.

Yet, as people mature and evolve, many start to seek deeper change. They seek transformative experiences that consider the holistic self - mind, body, soul, and emotions. It's this very diversity in coaching, the dance between the structured and the holistic, that enriches the discipline.

Beyond Metrics and Checklists: Transformation isn’t just about ticking boxes or achieving tangible metrics. It's an intricate dance that begins with a firm decision and the readiness to embark on a transformative journey. There's a rhythm to it, and timing plays a pivotal role in determining the effectiveness of this journey. Life, with its myriad of emotions, challenges, and situations, is an ever-evolving teacher. All its highs and lows, pains and joys, are growth opportunities.

However, to truly harness this growth potential, one needs to develop the skill of sensing and interpreting the underlying messages life presents. These lessons often come wrapped in layers of complexity, beyond mere mental analysis. Most standard coaching models don't equip individuals with the tools to navigate these complexities intuitively. By not tapping into this vast reservoir of intuition, we inadvertently shut the door to a goldmine of knowledge and wisdom. Similarly, our bodies communicate in ways that are deeper than we often realize.

Our energy levels, peaks, and troughs, all have tales to tell. It's here that the essence of emotional intelligence and life's profound wisdom can be found. Without these vital navigational skills, we risk sailing in the vast ocean of life without a compass.

The Underbelly of Classic Coaching Classic coaching, despite its widespread popularity, has inherent flaws that can occasionally overshadow its advantages. One glaring misstep is its potential to breed "toxic positivity." Under this guise, clients are pressured into a relentless optimistic outlook, which often dismisses genuine emotions of distress, sadness, or anxiety. The danger lies in negating authentic emotional experiences, leaving individuals feeling unheard or misunderstood.

The tendency towards "cookie-cutter" solutions also warrants scrutiny. Rather than addressing individual needs and personal contexts, a one-size-fits-all approach can offer merely superficial solutions. This is akin to patching a deep wound with a flimsy band-aid – it might cover the problem, but it doesn’t truly heal.

Another lurking hazard is the potential dependency on coaches. While the aim of coaching is empowerment, there's a thin line between guidance and dependency. Some individuals, especially if they've felt significant benefits from coaching, might find themselves excessively leaning on their coaches, which can erode personal autonomy and diminish self-trust.

Furthermore, the coaching sector in its entirety is not free from unqualified professionals. Some coaches lack the necessary life experience, wisdom, and maturity. This deficiency isn't related to their training or certifications. These coaches have the potential to not only lead people astray but also cause harm, especially when dealing with complex emotional or psychological issues for which they lack the appropriate expertise. The coachees must be aware of these potential pitfalls and exercise caution when seeking guidance.

The intense emphasis on measurable results and strict goal-setting in classic coaching can sideline the intangible facets of personal growth. Life isn’t just about ticking boxes; it's an intricate dance of emotions, experiences, and teachings. An exclusive focus on outcomes can bypass the profound emotional intelligence and wisdom garnered from the journey itself.

Classic coaching with its set methodologies and structures, might not be the panacea it’s often considered to be. While it can offer solutions, it's crucial to remain aware of its potential pitfalls and approach it with a discerning eye.


Choosing between a fleeting illusion of change and a profound journey of transformation is deeply personal. Coaching, in its varied forms, offers a spectrum of experiences and outcomes. As one navigates this vast expanse, it's essential to identify and prioritize personal needs and aspirations. For some, the structured path of classic coaching might suffice. For others, a deeper dive into the transformative realm of holistic coaching beckons. Whatever the choice, the journey is uniquely personal, profoundly transformative, and endlessly enriching.

By Ritshi Zenati, Coach & Founder at Holistika Center.

Holistika Center organizes spiritual and transformative retreats. We base our work on expanded states of consciousness and sacred plants.


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