Sometimes people dream about one thing their whole life, and when they finally reach it, they realise that it was never the true aim. Are there specific markers of a true dream, and is there a general strategy to achieve this dream? I talk to Tricia Woolfrey, an Integrative Coach, Consultant, Therapist, Wellness Practitioner, Trainer and Author, about integrative coaching, a strategy to reach any goal, and tips on how to avoid giving up on the way to your dream.

Tricia, can you tell us a bit about your background to introduce yourself?

My background is in the corporate world, where I worked in HR.   So, I have always worked with people.  I really loved that work but didn’t enjoy the office politics!  I decided to set up on my own over 20 years ago and set up as an HR consultancy at first and also as a therapist.  This might sound unusual, but I had recently completed a course in Neuro Linguistic Programming, and one of the modules was hypnotic language.  I found it fascinating and decided to study to be a hypnotherapist and psychotherapist and set up a practice which I did part-time for a couple of years as I worked full time in my consultancy business.  But over time, I have melded them a bit.  So I still work with corporates and people in business, but I only do that using coaching now, so both businesses reflect each other more closely. 

When did you realise that coaching and therapy were your passion?

I always knew that I loved helping people.  I think this comes as being an elder sister.  So I have always been drawn to work which involved that.  But as soon as I did the hypnotic language module in the NLP course in the 90s, it lit a spark in me, and I realised how much difference I could make to people who were stuck.  I realise that over the years, I have never stopped learning.  This is because the field is ever-evolving.  We find new ways of helping people or a deeper understanding of the mind.  It certainly keeps life interesting and means I always have a way of helping people that make a change as easy for them as possible.

You are an Integrative Coach. What does it mean, and what differentiates you from other coaches?

I have my own personal interpretation of integrative coaching, which has multiple facets.  First of all, it is using a wide range of techniques:  I like this because not everyone responds to one technique, but they respond beautifully to another.  I have literally hundreds of ways I can work with someone to make it easier for them.  Also, it is an integrative mind and body.  I believe that the mind affects the body just as much as the body affects the mind.  So I like to look at what is the root of a problem rather than what is the presentation of it.  It is only by working this way that you can get sustainable results.  The third way is integrating the person.  By that, I mean that where there is internal conflict, to resolve it, so they are completely aligned.  For example, someone may dearly want to lose weight, but they still reach for the biscuit barrel whenever they are stressed.  So there is a part that wants health, say, and another part that wants comfort, say.  My work involves resolving those, so both parts get what they need.  I love this work, and it often creates some real light-bulb moments.  Self-sabotage is often about unresolved needs from two or more aspects of the self. 

Do you think the integrative approach is the most effective approach in therapy?

Absolutely.  Therapy is not a one-size fits all.  And what the person thinks is the problem is not always the problem.  In coaching, we are often taught that people are their own experts, but I don’t agree.  I think that sometimes their expert-self is so hidden away through layers of self-protection and denial (a form of self-protection) that it is unavailable to them.  So, I like to think of myself as a psychological detective.  What’s really going on here?  Often, my clients are amazed and relieved in a way they haven’t experienced before.  It might be the first time they feel truly heard or understood.  It can be very moving.

As a professional therapist, can you share your general strategy to reach any goal?

I start with a really thorough consultation where I ask about all areas of their life, about the problem in more depth, about how they would like their life to be instead.  It is only then that I ask what goals they want to achieve from working with me because sometimes what they think they want is not what they need, and the consultation process can make that clearer to them.  It is a process of discovery.  The problem does not exist in a vacuum, and it is important to see it at all angles to see the best way to resolve it.  This knowledge is not always easily available to the person, which is why my process can be so enlightening to them.  They often say that they hadn’t realised how one thing was linked to another or how x affects y.  Then we agree the goals and work diligently towards them.

Please give us five tips on how to avoid giving up and not being distracted on your way to a goal.

I love this question!  It acknowledges how easy it is for people to be distracted because life can certainly get in the way.  So here are my tips:

  1. Set clear goals which are stated in the positive – what you want rather than what you don’t want.  Some people are stuck because they forever focus on what they don’t want.
  2. Come up with a long list of benefits to achieve the goals.  You need to spend some time on this.  Keep asking yourself ‘what else?’  ‘What else?’  ‘What else?’  This keeps you focused on what achieving the goals will do for you; if there isn’t a bit enough ‘Why’ it just won’t happen.
  3. Come up with a list of reasons to keep things as they are.  This might sound weird, but there are always ‘benefits to the problem’.  If there weren’t any, the person would have been able to change on their own.  A lot of people respond by saying ‘there aren’t any positives’, but there absolutely are.  For example:  it’s easy; change may mean effort; change may mean people will be less supportive or like me less; this is who I am – who would you be without it?  And so on.  The point of doing this section well is that it is this which keeps you stuck.  What is another way of achieving the benefits of the problem in a way which allows you to move forward?  Or there may be limiting beliefs in place.  Often this is the bit that requires expert help.
  4. Understand the principle of lapse, relapse, collapse.  A lapse is a one-time slip.  A relapse is a series of slips. A collapse is back to square one.  Often people have an “I’ve blown it” mindset.  This means that when they make a mistake, they think that it’s game over and they just revert to old habits.  But really, it is just an opportunity to learn from the lapse and get back on track.  Change is not a straight line process. It is full of little lapses.  But they are opportunities for learning and growth.  Again, often working with a professional can really help guide you through the emotional roller coaster and navigate the twists and turns of the change process.
  5. Review your progress daily.  What went well?  Spend time looking at all the things that you did, which are reflections of you being on track or getting on track.  The smallest things can make the biggest difference.  And what could you do better at?  This is not an opportunity to beat yourself up but to learn from experience.  Repeat what is going well, learn from what isn’t and always keep your goals in mind.

Sometimes people dream about one thing their whole life, and when, finally, they reach it, they realise that it was never the true aim. How can people understand what the real goal is from the start?

I think it is important to understand what your values are and what your life purpose is.  This sounds a bit lofty, but when you really know what you’re all about, it is easy to know whether your goals fit in with that or not.  I think these days, people create goals according to social media ideals, like the big lips, the impossibly small waists, the Instagram-ready holidays, the right labels, the laugh-out-loud photo opportunities with friends that you can pop right onto Facebook quicker than the blink of an eye.  But this is just pleasing the ego, not our souls.  It can be helpful to think of the end of your life – what will you have liked to have stood for?  Achieved?  How do you want to be remembered?  It is not the stuff we post on social media.  Those are illusions.  It is the small things that become the big things.  Whether your life purpose is to be a great mum and bring up happy, healthy, independent children; or to help the disadvantaged; or to be an exceptional athlete where you travel the world winning medals; or you help and inspire kids to enjoy sports, or you write books which uplift or educate or entertain, it is personal to you.  You will be the judge of whether it is a life well-lived and whether you set yourself the right goals.  It will never be the size of your lips or your waist or the number of social media likes, I promise you.

For whom do you recommend integrative coaching?

To be honest, I think everyone can benefit.  Whether you have a problem or a goal or not.  I think it is a wonderful journey of self-discovery, self-fulfilment and self-actualisation.  I can’t imagine anyone who would not benefit – even if it is to support you in staying at the top of your game.  Because, let’s face it, it’s as tough at the top as it is to get there.

During your coaching sessions, what do you focus on with the client?

I focus on their goals and how they are progressing towards them.  What is getting in their way?  What is supporting them?  What do they need at this point to help them get to the next step?  It is a matter of constant assessment of how they are doing, whether they are on track and what adjustments need to be made.  It is important to be supportive through the emotional journey of change.

What is your unique approach?

My approach is integrative and I use the filters of my Five Pillars:  psychological, emotional, biological, lifestyle and spiritual.  By spiritual I am referring to purpose and meaning.  I have one client at the moment whose main problem is having no purpose or meaning in her life now that her children have become independent.  It is a big issue for a lot of people which is why I like to understand their values and purpose, or help them to understand it for themselves.  It can really help them transcend a lot of problems.

How can our readers contact you and follow on social media?

I can be reached on: [email protected], the website or Facebook

Finally, can you please share your motto and your favourite quote?

My motto is “There is always a way”.

Favourite quote? Hundreds of them, but perhaps the following one at the moment:

Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is pure wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.

Lao Tzu