Reframing the Mind

May 21, 2020

Perhaps I have said this before, and if yes, it is worth repeating that all coaching is about reframing client perceptions in the mind.

A client comes to a coach only for one reason, though it may be in multiple spaces of work-life situations. The client is uncomfortable with a situation they are facing and is disempowered. One way or another, the outcome client looks for is comfort outside of that zone of discomfort. A happy, fulfilled client does not seek a coach out.

If the client knows clearly what is causing this discomfort, aware and conscious of it, in most cases most clients are capable of either resolving it on their own or seek support from known mentors at work or in life to advice. It is only when the discomfort is internal and unconscious, the client being unaware of the root cause that the client would seek a coach’s help. In general, in most cases, we find this in disempowering habits that disadvantage the client in one way or another.

These unconscious behavioral patterns may arise from insecurity, meekness arising from insecurity, or even bullying arrogance arising from insecurity, invalidation of oneself constantly seeking external validation, fear of failure, sometimes fear of success, and aggression arising from poor emotional intelligence. These and many similar habits of behavior generally are products of one’s conditioning while growing up.

A therapist may delve into the past to discover the root cause or belief of such negative behavior. A counselor may do it through exploratory questioning without professional therapy. A coach would reframe the perception from which the root cause or belief operates. The coach would explore the mind map in the here and now without going into details of the past incidents that may have led to the formation of the limiting belief system resulting in the disempowering behavior, through a process of future-oriented generative inquiry.

This is an example of an incident I coached that has patterns similar to many others I have worked on. A family member referred to a young person for being not confident and not performing well. When I guaranteed that nothing we discussed would be shared with anyone, it was if a huge load was lifted off the client’s shoulders. At the very first level the client wanted to share what the discomfort was, which the client was unable to with anyone known.

It didn’t take long to discover that a childhood incident with sexual overtones had caused a feeling of guilt, shame, regret, and anger. The client was the victim and yet felt responsible for having caused the incident. The mind map was ‘I was responsible. I invited this’, following which the conditioning was one of ‘I am not good’, and ‘I cannot be good’.

The reframing of this conditioned negative belief did not take long once I had the trust of the client and the resultant feeling of safety. Once the client disengaged from this frame of perception and understood that as a child there were limited options to remaining silent, one by one the emotions of anger against self, regret of the action believed to have been triggered by the client, and resultant shame and guilt dissolved.

We then worked on the client’s strengths, which were numerous, to create a work-life plan. This led to a different persona.

In this case I used no other process. The conversation alone was sufficient. In other cases I have used the change of state techniques involving visualization. These are common in NLP. In others I have used the Gestalt empty chair technique. In some I have used the ABCDE model of positive psychology. In rare cases I have used the TimeLine process as a reframing technique. The process is not important. Coach’s approach is. The reframing process depends on the client and the situation.

In reframing limiting beliefs of the mind, the required steps are:

  • Gaining trust and providing the client with a safe space of expression
  • Client expression of discomfort experienced in current reality (absence of discomfort itself is the desired outcome), acknowledged and accepted by the coach without judgment
  • Inquiry into the pattern of behavior in the disempowering habit and what is being experienced now in the current incident/s
  • Creating awareness of the limiting belief, generally arising from a few root cause incidents without going into details, using techniques such as visualization as may be needed
  • Anchor this awareness of the limiting belief over multiple follow up sessions, which by itself leads to self-empowered action moving away from the past disempowering habit.
  • In parallel working with client’s work-life future plans

This process is within the ethics of coaching using the client-centric model of unconditional positive regard, generative visioning, empathy, and congruence.

Try and share your reframing experience with us.

Ram Ramanathan, MCC
Ram Ramanathan, MCC


Ram is the Founder and a Principal at Coacharya. As the resident Master and mentor coach, Ram oversees and conducts all aspects of coaching and training services offered under the Coacharya banner.

Read Next