The Aletheia coaching model and method
So, Robin, what do you actually do when you coach people?
I want to write about what I do in my coaching practice. This post is possibly one for the geeks out there, as I’m told that most people are not interested in methodology!
The Aletheia Coaching philosophical model is the most awesome synthesis of spiritual and self-development paths I’ve come across. I don’t think this model is only useful in coaching. In fact, I’m intensely interested in how we can democratise and embed it in communities. If this resonates for you as you read, please get in touch.
Aletheia's backstory (NB Totally tangential geeking out. Feel free to skip to the 4 Depths!)
Steve March, the creator of Aletheia, trained as an Integral coach in 2001. As the name suggests, Integral theory was arguably the twentieth century’s most ambitious synthesising project. Its originator, Ken Wilber, tried to consider every single philosophy and religion in world history 😲, and extract the common threads. He did a pretty amazing job, articulating simple ideas that have permeated almost every industry and country in the world. If you’ve heard of ‘Teal’ organisations in connection with organisational development, that’s just one example. Here’s an intro to Integral Theory if this piques your interest.
Anyway, following in this tradition, Steve has made it his life’s work to create a coaching system that can meet people where they are at - wherever that is - and help them to unfold their potential. He has studied many modalities and reflected on which ones work for people in which circumstances. And then, the key move for a great synthesiser, he looked for, and articulated, a deeper truth about the human experience that explains the differentiation...
The 4 Depths model
Steve’s Big Idea is that people cycle through 4 depths of being, all the time (like, several times a day). The coach’s main role is to accompany the client skillfully as they navigate these depths, moment to moment. The depths are, from shallowest to deepest:
The Depth of Parts
This is where we spend most of our time. Our conscious awareness is populated by different parts, each with its own personality and habits. These parts have quite a bit of stability over time, allowing us to recognise them once we start to view our experience through this lens. For example, we may know that we have an inner critic, an inner cheerleader, and a people pleaser.
Having parts is normal and useful, but usually we need to get to know our parts better so that their viewpoint can be integrated with our overal perspective and goals for our lives, and they can work in harmony. The method for working at this depth is based on Internal Family Systems therapy. Some of you have already used my Guide to Solo Parts Work, which is a free resource to support you to work with your parts.
The Depth of Process
At this depth, we are in the fluid flow of felt experience. When people practice mindfulness, this is where they mostly spend time. For example, when following the body sensations of breathing as you inhale and exhale, you’re in the depth of process. Here, our parts have melted away. That’s why it can be such a relief when we focus on the ‘here and now’ of our experience - we find that there is something other than the voices in our heads!
When working at the depth of process, we use the natural wisdom of the body, breath and imagination to support self-unfolding. Aletheia’s methods are informed by neo-Reichian body psychotherapy, and Gendlin’s focusing method, among other things. From my perspective as a circling facilitator, there is a lot in common between circling and focussing. As circling is usually done in a group, this makes me curious about bringing more of the Aletheia method into group work.
The Depth of Presence
This depth contains our inherent resourcefullness. Understanding this has profoundly improved my experience of life. There are qualities of Presence, common to everyone, which can arise in us when needed. Qualities of Presence are many: for example, compassion, calm, and strength. When we feel ourselves as these qualities, we feel we are completely whole and sufficient to meet the situations we encounter.
We often don’t feel resourced like that. Why not? Because, at the level of parts, we believe we don’t have those qualities. The parts’ response to this sense of deficiency is to try to imitate the quality of Presence needed. Unfortunately, in doing that they block access to the real thing, so this strategy is self-defeating.
Presence work is, to a degree, parts work because, as our parts integrate, Process naturally follows and Presence often arises from that flow of experience. However, there is benefit to understanding how the qualities of Presence show up, and how to increase awareness and saturation of those qualities. Aletheia has a basis in the Diamond Approach here, and structures the qualities of Presence around the Enneagram of personality types.
The Depth of Nonduality
Here, we experience the interconnectedness of all things, and there is a complete knowing (not just an intellectual understanding) of our own non-separateness. This is how it is in moments when we are simply aware that we ‘are’. We aren’t engaged in our thoughts and we aren’t identified with any particular experience. Being in this state of non-attached and radical inclusivity transforms our perspective on life.
Nondual awareness can arise when we really take the foot off the gas, let go of all attempts to go somewhere, fully meet and become one with the present moment. As a coach, there is really nothing to do here except accompany the client in this agendaless exploration. At the depth of Nonduality, Aletheia is based on the teachings and practices of Vajrayana Buddhism. I haven’t taken Aletheia’s course on nonduality, so my approach is based on that of my meditation teacher, Michael Taft, who teaches secular mindfulness from a nondual perspective.
Unfoldment coaching, in summary
Wow, you got here! I hope that wasn’t too painful and there was a least one tidbit that interested you. Despite the apparent complexity outlined above, the main principle that allows all of this depth to emerge is simply letting be, letting unfold - letting things be exactly as they are, and attuning to how things are naturally arising and passing away. In addition, we do this with the 'poetic' attunement of loving Truth, Beauty and Goodness for its own sake.
It is pretty lovely, beautiful and magical.
If you'd like to discuss working together, I offer a free exploratory call.