SIBAM Resourcing Tools

Jul 18, 2023

Sometimes emotions can take us by surprise, or be strongly coupled with a fight, flight, or freeze reaction. For example, I once asked a client what was coming in the way of her goal, and she burst into tears. The tears then triggered an overwhelming and intense reaction in her, and, it being early in my career, a reaction I was completely unprepared for how to deal with. Unfortunately, my awkwardness likely contributed to the sense of shame she may have felt about being vulnerable. Now that I look backward at that, I realize how valuable having a resource to use with the client and even to regulate myself would have been.

As coaches, we need to develop and maintain the ability to regulate our own emotions (CC2.6) and also to demonstrate confidence in working with strong client emotions during the coaching process (CC 5.4).

The answer isn’t to skirt around strong feelings in a coaching session, as we are then not coaching the whole person. Also, as seen in the example I shared above, we don’t know when a seemingly cognitive exploration with a client may trigger an intense response.

Outside of a coaching session, we may also recognize some intense reactions within ourselves when we start exploring certain sensations or emotions within self-coaching, particularly if these are areas we haven’t intentionally investigated before.

So what do we do when either we or our clients find ourselves in a state of overwhelm?  Following are some tools that can be helpful for this, and you’ll see some elements of SIBAM throughout.


1. Grounding

Grounding is simply connecting to a felt sense of gravity and weightedness (Sensations). It’s helpful when feeling any level of distress, particularly anxiety, overwhelm, or dissociation (not feeling like we are in the body).

If sitting or lying down, we feel the chair or surface beneath the body and the body’s weight pressing down onto it. If standing, we can notice the feet where they connect to the ground and sense how the lower body feels.


2. Orienting 

When we orient, we take in our surroundings through our senses (Images). We can notice the objects in the room, the walls that surround us, and pick up on the subtle sounds in the space, like appliances humming, or birds chirping outside.  This will help us move from the overwhelming experience to a feeling of safety. It tells our nervous system, “You aren’t there, you’re here.”


3. Self contact

Notice where the hands are, perhaps folding them together or pressing them into the hips or cheeks. We can rub the fingertips together (Behavior)), hear the noise (Image), and feel (Sensation) the energy this creates. Or if the heart is racing, placing a palm over the heart may create a feeling of love and safety.


4. Extended out-breath

This involves taking a deep breath in and then exhaling slowly and fully, allowing the body to release the breath quietly. This technique can help calm the body and reduce feelings of stress or anxiety.

If using these tools with a client, don’t forget they are the expert in what works best for them. Feel free to ask them if there is something that typically helps them feel better in this type of situation. Or offer a few tools, and see which ones resonate.

Also, use your judgment, a strong emotional release is not always an overwhelming reaction. If a client cries, we don’t need to stop their tears. However, if they start sobbing uncontrollably and seem to be getting more and more activated as they go, we want to check with them to see if they need support to process their feelings.

If we are using these tools on ourselves during coaching to manage our own emotional reactions, we must be cautious not to interrupt the flow of the coaching session or distract the client by using these techniques excessively or inappropriately.

In conclusion, the SIBAM model offers valuable tools for coaching, self-coaching, and self-regulation. By engaging with the components of Sensations, Images, Behavior, Effect, and Meaning, we can gain deeper insights into ourselves and our clients and navigate experiences more consciously.

Tracy Brown
Tracy Brown


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