Coaching and personality disorders, is this something a coach should know something about? Or dabble with?
Most of us who are coaching will come across a situation where we need to consider topics related to personality disorders like bipolar, borderline, narcissistic, schizophrenic, etc. How do I know that? Not just because I have been coaching and training coaches since before the term “coaching” was invented. It is because 10-13 percent of the world’s population has a personality disorder, which means most individuals either have a disease like this or love someone who does. And if you don’t, you likely come across someone who does at your place of work.
Who has a personality disorder?
Did you catch it? In the title of this article? Despite popular belief Bipolar Disorder is not a personality disorder and often confused with Borderline Personality Disorder. And Schizophrenia is also not a personality disorder, where schizoid-type personality disorders are.
People with personality disorders are not just homeless people who you see digging through the trash. Nor is it the person who is undiagnosed, in fact, many times bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and narcissistic personality disorder are never diagnosed, or are diagnosed well into someone’s 30s, 40s, 50s, and even 60s. Especially in women. Nor is it always a person like Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison, Ernest Hemingway, Beethoven, Vincent Van Gogh, Isaac Newton, Winston Churchill, Ted Turner, Russel Brand, and other (brilliant) people like that. We know them often for their talents and because they didn’t benefit from modern scientific advances in medication, therapy, supplementation, Chinese medicine, meditation, therapy-based coaching, positive psychology, and even NLP (offered by the right professional.)
Often the general public can not detect people with a personality disorder because they have their condition under control. They are fully capable of being great parents, having happy relationships, and achieving achievements and accomplishments as professionals.
Several of the below contribute to managing a personality disorder:
1. Sleep, exercise, eating healthy, spirituality, personal development, and self-care routines.
2. Supplementation, Chinese and herbal medicine.
5. Knowing their disorder well.
6. A supportive & compassionate environment, who is well informed about their disorder.
People with a personality disorder or a mental illness or those who love and live with them could be anyone. It isn’t something you wear on a T-shirt. In fact, could it be me? I actually fit the statistics.
Personality disorder, entrepreneurs & coaches
An estimated 49% of all entrepreneurs have a mental health issue in many cases a personality disorder. Compared to only 23% of non-entrepreneurs. One-third has two mental health issues or more (often an addiction + another mental illness.) And 72% percent of all entrepreneurs either have mental health issues themselves or grew up in families where this was present! Where in non-entrepreneurs, it is only 48% percent. Are these shocking statistics? Not really. Traits we admire in successful entrepreneurs, and a requirement to make it as one are dependent on learned behaviors such as creativity, flexibility, resilience, etc. Add for a coach the ability to be compassionate, forgiving, give grace, and understand that people are not their behaviors. These are all traits that can also be genetic, epigenetic (how your genes work in relation to the environment), and taught by difficult life circumstances and experiences. Having a mental illness as part of your life somehow appears to be a training ground to become an entrepreneur.
Since you have found this article, it leads me to think that this blog post’s topic is maybe a little bit more than an “interest.” It is something that is personally or professionally relevant to you. And if you are a new coach, it will at one point become relevant to you. I promise you will get the call from someone with a personality disorder or someone who loves them.
Coaching & personality disorders
If you are a coach:
1. If you are not trained to diagnose, advise on or treat mental illness, don’t.
2. When in doubt, refer out. Afraid to lose customers referring out? Establish a relationship with a psychologist and a psychiatrist for them to refer people to you.
3. You let go of clients you suspect are mentally ill, which means you interview new clients before taking them on.
4. You ask all your clients to sign a contract that has a mental health clause in there. Contact me if you have an interest in my contracts and professional coaching forms.
5. A professional coach has several therapists that they trust and refer clients out to.
6. Any smart, professional coach has received training in suicide prevention.
It would be best if you only worked with a mentally ill individual when you have permission from their therapist that:
1. You can coach them (which is not equal to therapy.)
2. The topic you will be coaching on (generally things like career, personal development, gaining friends or finding a significant other, spirituality, exercise and weight management, etc.)
You can work with family members or loved ones of mentally ill individuals:
1. As long as you do not diagnose, advise, or offer to counsel.
2. They have received guidance from a medical professional on how to relate to the mentally ill individual. Or you received training as a coach.
3. And always encourage involving mental health professionals when they feel out of their depth.
4. You understand you are traveling a delicate balance where you can not overstep.
5. You can and are willing to consult with a medical health professional yourself who can offer you supervision.
Next week, I will go into the common personality disorders that you may hear about in coaching or as a coach.
Resources: coaching and personality disorders
Unmasking Narcissism: A Guide to Understanding the Narcissist in Your Life – Mark Ettensohn PsyD