'Mindfulness Coaching' or 'Mindful Coaching' - what's the difference?
Updated: Jan 8
If you don't know the difference between the terms Mindfulness Coaching and Mindful Coaching, release yourself of any judgment - relax, you're not alone!
Such terminology can be confusing for sure. I recently had an excellent discussion with my mindfulness facilitator community exactly on this topic. We came away from this discussion saying 'WOW', that was SO valuable and helpful!
I now want to share some of the key insights and practical take-aways from that discussion.
Here we go . . .
This can be confusing so I offer my perspective and some key sharing from my community's discussion. This hits the high points.
There is no standard use of such terminology out there, so don't feel badly if you aren't sure which term to use.
In this article, I refer to situations of 1-on-1 interactions.
I see two main perspectives of how these terms may be interpreted:
1. Coaching individuals to learn and improve their mindfulness practice.
You may or may not be a professional, trained or certified coach, but if you are helping people improve their mindfulness practice, one may be referring to this activity as 'coaching'.
If you facilitate, teach or lead others in mindfulness practices, there will be times when participants struggle with their practice, get frustrated, are unsure if they are doing it 'right', etc. These are the opportunities where 1-on-1 helping/discussing could be invaluable to the participant.
A skilled and trained facilitator can seek to understand what the participant may be struggling with, and then offer practices that may suit the person's situation. Facilitators should not expect that all practices will work for all people, in all situations. Mindfulness offers a vast amount of practices, and not every practice will be perfect for each person or a particular moment in their life.
Learning to apply mindfulness to specific situations can be really helpful to participants.
When a participant says "my mind is way too busy, I'm not good at mindfulness", a facilitator could help them understand what non-judgment of one's practice means, and explain that the mind is busy by nature, so it doesn't mean you cannot meditate.
When a participant is seeking a way to calm down in moments of stress, a facilitator could offer a conscious, rhythmic breathing practice which calms the body and mind.
Caution: Please don't call yourself a coach if you are not trained and certified. Coaches are taught how to conduct themselves professionally, such as not crossing the line of providing therapy and diving into a person's past. There are ethical considerations for coaches, as well as for mindfulness facilitators too - we must be know how to be sensitive to and know how to handle participants that may be dealing with trauma or are neurodivergent so we minimize the risk of triggering strong adverse reactions.
2. As a coach, employing mindfulness yourself as you coach others in supporting them to meet their goals.
If you apply mindfulness to yourself when helping others, this can result in a much more powerful interaction and result.
Examples (using the 5 Key Traits of Mindfulness that I teach in my Mindfulness Facilitator Training and Certification program):
Presence - you are 100% present for your participant (client), actively listening, avoiding distractions.
Awareness - being self-aware of what you are experiencing in the moment and keenly aware of your client, too. For example, what are you noticing in your own reactions as this person speaks? Are you showing curiosity? are you bored? how is your body language? Are you noticing your client's cues such as body language, how they are speaking, if they are looking nervous or excited?
Non-judgment - are you judging yourself? Perhaps you have some criticism going on. For example, do you have self-criticism that you didn't help the person enough? or that you didn't remember some coaching techniques that you should have used? or you find yourself judging your client because they said something you feel is offensive?
Being with What Is - are you able to see and 'be with' with something that may be uncomfortable? For example, if a client tells you they don't think your coaching is helping but they are willing to try one more session, can you accept this without getting stuck and beating yourself up? Can you co-exist with such discomfort and move forward anyway?
Kindness and Compassion - do you have an attitude of kindness and compassion for yourself? Maybe you are having a bad day yourself as you head into a session with a client - can you be kind and compassionate to yourself, maybe give yourself a break before and after the session? or during the session have self-compassion for having a bad day?
The 5 Key Traits of mindfulness (above) can certainly be helpful in most situations, whether you are applying it to yourself or directing these to others.
Now, back to the difference between the terms Mindfulness Coaching and Mindful Coaching . . .
I'm going to say that, at this point in time anyway, there doesn't seem to be a universal way to definitively make a distinction between the two. However, some helpful attitudes are:
Mindfulness is a technique to an end result.
Mindfulness itself isn't the end goal.
Mindfulness helps achieve the desired end result, such as lowered stress, finding more joy, or being more present.
Generally, I tend to regard the term Mindfulness Coaching is when you are helping someone improve their mindfulness practice, and Mindful Coaching is when a coach uses mindfulness themselves when coaching a client.
I hope this has been helpful!
Send me an email at Wendy@TheCalmMonkey.com if you want to provide your insight!
~Wendy Quan, Founder, The Calm Monkey