Secondary gain in life coaching is what any beginning life coach comes across, and any experienced life coach has seen a thousand times before. It is sometimes amazing how clients are willing to spend a lot of money, on problems they don’t even want to get rid off. There are many reasons why people don’t want to solve their problems.
When the problem is solved:
1. They are required to take on additional responsibilities. These could even be responsibilities that all of us have, however due to a presenting problem your client didn’t have to take. Like getting a job, or getting out of bed!
2. Your client has to take some very difficult steps. Like a divorce, leaving a career, friendship, relationship, facing the world with having the problem.
3. Your client has to make life changes that require a lot of work. Like for instance going back to school, going back to work, losing a lot of weight, getting in shape, quitting an addiction etc.
4. The client somehow gets something out of having the problem. And this one is absolutely key, no human being does something or stays somewhere unless on some level they get something out of it. This is something you need to anticipate as a life coach. Trying to fix a problem a client is trying to hold on to, is like trying to mop the floor with the faucet open.
So what do you do?
1. Find out the secondary gain, what does the client get out of keeping the problem, what is the positive intention.
2. Use powerful questioning to uncover what the secondary gain is. Example: “What does doing X, do for you?” “And what does having that do for you?”
3. Meeting the positive intention in better ways.
Example: Problem: A client says she wants to loose weight, yet keeps eating each time she feels bad. Secondary gain: Covering up bad emotions by eating.
Solution: In this case, you teach the client coping strategies, when she feels bad, she does something other then eating to fix the problem. Why does the client feel bad? That’s something that needs to be tackled and fixed. Getting the client to do something that makes her feel good about herself, instead of eating. When lonely, pick up the phone. When sad, do something that makes you happy. When bored, find something to do.
Another example: Problem: Client keeps cheating on his wife. Secondary gain: It makes him feel powerful, while he otherwise feel powerless particularly in his marriage.
Solution: Find ways how the client can feel powerful in the marriage, without cheating. There are often larger underlying reasons why people have large problems. To uncover these reasons requires powerful questioning. Sometimes a problem manifests itself already in childhood, and the client has no recollection of it. There are multiple coaching methodologies available to help you uncover this, such as NLP, timeline therapy, etc.