Coaching—The Science and Value behind the Questioning Approach

With a mission to build and strengthen abortion healing worldwide, Support After Abortion is open to innovative approaches and methodologies that will help us to achieve our goal. We realize that collaboration amongst leaders is necessary to grow our capacity and truly make a difference in the abortion healing movement. So, when we learned about Chris McCluskey’s data-driven approach with a 97% success rate, our interest was piqued. The current operating framework for pregnancy centers pulls from a more scripted approach. This desire for a scripted approach is partially due to volunteers wanting to feel prepared with a sort of checklist to work from. The problem is, while volunteers may feel more prepared to serve, research shows this methodology yields a success rate of 20-50% industry wide. If something isn’t working, it may be time to explore new options—like a coaching approach as compared with the traditional counseling one.

Chris McCluskey, President of the Professional Christian Coaching Institute and member of the Board of Directors for a Pro-life Center, explains the science and value behind the questioning approach of coaching.

What’s the Difference between Therapy, Counseling, and Coaching?

Therapy and counseling are alike in that they are synonymous with healing. Therapy looks for the underlying motivations and aims to diagnose and identify disorders. Counseling is centered around advice. It is directional, with the goal of guiding individuals in their behaviors.

Coaching, on the other hand, is not directional or diagnostic. Coaching aims to draw what is on the inside out and into the light. The goal of this approach is for the individual to come to the answer on her own. The answer is theoretically in her all along; the questioning approach of coaching just pulls it out and onto the surface.

What’s the Science behind a Directional Approach versus a Coaching Approach?

When an individual goes to a crisis pregnancy center for help, they are often paired with a volunteer or staff member. This volunteer or staff member typically works from a sort of script. They have a series of steps or questions they are trained to work from and directionally lead that individual to the desired result. The problem with this common methodology is that this directional or counseling approach indirectly places these individuals in a reactionary-level of thinking. They merely react to the input given to them. They do not process their situation. Because they receive information from an external source, they evaluate and filter the guidance for danger or risk. McCluskey explains, “Humans are built to assess and evaluate risk and danger through the primitive part of our brain, the amygdala. The amygdala is responsible for the fight, flight, freeze, appease responses. As service providers, we often tend to position people here in this reactionary level of thinking.”

The questioning approach of coaching creates an atmosphere where the individual feels like she is seen, and she is heard. She does not feel like a service provider moves through a series of steps to convince her of something. Because the questions are genuine and caring, they help draw the answer within her out of her. This approach naturally allows the individual to let her guard down. She no longer feels the primitive instinct to assess the level of risk or danger because she feels safe. “Because she feels safe, her neocortex is activated, and she can really think about and process the situation,” explains McCluskey. “And Christian or not, this method reveals that deep down, no one wants to kill their baby,” adds McCluskey.

What does the Coaching Approach look like?

The Top 5 moments from the Support After Abortion Virtual Conferences include a roleplay between Chris McCluskey and Support After Abortion CEO Lisa Rowe. The two roleplay the typical counseling approach, followed by the coaching approach.

With the counseling approach, viewers are able to see that while the woman is in crisis, so is the service provider. A level of urgency and stress can be seen in both individuals. While the service provider does a good job of leading and guiding the individual, it isn’t difficult to see how the individual is experiencing a reactionary response of fight, flight, freeze, or appease.

In contrast, the coaching approach is visibly calmer. While the individual is emotional, the service provider asks a series of questions that allow the individual to speak aloud and process her thoughts. She is naturally led to an answer that is within her, and visibly seems at peace even though she is experiencing a crisis pregnancy. The woman walks away in this scenario feeling at peace with the truth that she came to on her own and learning that she is not alone and has the support of the one who helped her get to that place.

What does the Research show for the Coaching Approach?

McCluskey serves as a member of the Board of Directors for a Pregnancy Center. Abortion-minded clients account for 70% of the center’s intake. Despite the high number of abortion-minded clients the center serves, the coaching approach has helped them achieve a success rate of 97% when it comes to lives saved. And as mentioned previously, McCluskey reminds us, “These individuals hear the truth from deep within themselves, and none of them want to kill their baby—Christian or not.” McCluskey attributes the approach’s success to the answer being drawn out of the individual versus guiding the i individual in a direction in which they may be unsure. The individual arrives at the conclusion on their own.

What might the Coaching Approach do for the Abortion Healing Industry?

Many pregnancy centers are beginning to implement the restorative arm of abortion healing. Suppose pregnancy centers can get equipped with training in the coaching approach. In that case, they have an opportunity to help individuals before they turn to abortion, thus lessening the volume of individuals needing support after abortion.

For more information on the Professional Christian Coaching Institute and their available training, click here.