Presented to: Gdansk Psychology Conference © Martyn Carruthers, 2001

Part 1: Diagnosis of Mental Illness
Systemic Coaching

Success in any field can be inhibited by behaviors and symptoms generically called mental illness. These symptoms can affect people of all ages, races, cultures and class. They range from acute, short-term distress to chronic, long-term impairment.

Acute, short-term symptoms are often associated with identifiable stressors. The most common symptoms result from physical stress, such as dehydration, infection or exposure to poisons, toxins or stimulants. Acute emotional stress may also result from overwork or a relationship change.

We offer an existential approach to life and death, freedom and bondage,
responsibility and consequences. We coach people to search for sense of life
and deals with senselessness by exploring self-awareness
as part of the totality of human existence.

Individual Systemic Coaching Flowchart

Diagnosis & Subjective Experience
  • Personal history – mapping a “timeline” of personal and relationship events
  • Past representations – mapping the spatial matrix of important memories
  • Relationship maps – mapping the spatial matrix of significant relationships
  • Goalwork – mapping the matrix of personal goals, expectations and beliefs
  • Dreamwork – mapping the metaphoric matrix of past, present and future

A person’s nonverbal signals enrich their verbalized content, and may support or deny it. Our systemic coaching includes noticing and consciously responding to unconsciously expressed communications.

We examine clients’ relationships, history, goals and congruence, the benefits and consequences of continuing the client’s behaviors and of achieving the client’s goals, compared to three hierarchies:

  • Abstractions (incorporating the work of Dr Gregory Bateson)
  • Relationships (incorporating the work of Annegret Hallanzy)
  • Actualization (incorporating the work of Dr Clare Graves)

Achieving a goal marks the end of coaching. A goal may include alleviating or controlling symptoms. So many people are depressed, suicidal or addicted to drugs because they didn’t receive the love and protection they needed, and became stuck in immature feelings of victimization.

People Diagnosed with Personality Disorders
  • People who demonstrate overwhelming narcissism
  • People who demonstrate poor impulse control, with troubled relationships
  • People who demonstrate inappropriate emotional responses

Personality Disorders . Borderline Personality Disorder

People Diagnosed with Anxiety Disorders
  • People who report generalized fear, with rapid pulse and difficulty breathing
  • People who report fearfully reliving traumatic events
  • People who control fear through obsessive thoughts or compulsions

Anxiety Disorders . Trauma & PTSD . Abuse

People Diagnosed with Mood Disorders
  • People who report chronic sadness, hopelessness and worthlessness
  • People who report chronic mood swings, exaggerated self-importance and agitation
  • People who report chronic swings between manic and depressed behavior

Bipolar Disorder . Passive Aggressive

People Diagnosed with Dissociative Disorders
  • People who show amnesia
  • People with distinct personalities that alternate in controlling behavior
  • People who report being detached from their bodies or minds

Schizophrenia . Identity Loss

People Diagnosed with Psychosomatic Disorders
  • People who report inexplicable physical symptoms
  • People who report blindness, deafness or seizures without a somatic cause
  • People who fear a disease and interpret any symptom as evidence of it

Psychosomatic Disorders

People Diagnosed with Substance-Related Disorders
  • People who report symptoms attributed to the effects of drug abuse, the side effects of medications, or exposure to toxic materials


People Diagnosed with Eating Disorders
  • People who report fear of weight gain and avoid eating
  • People who report binge eating and self-induced vomiting
  • People who use drugs to prevent weight gain

Eating Disorders . Overweight

Our Systemic Coaching

We can use our systemic coaching as it is, or embedded within other modalities. We also encourage clients to consult a physician or clinician regularly, and to benefit from a healthy diet, regular exercise, pure water, time with friends and walks in nature.

  • Health coaching includes: nutrition, exercise, medication and emotional management. Although helping professionals have long recognized the importance of diet, exercise and drugs; behavioral, relationship and psychological factors are often ignored.
  • Coaching produces and supports healthy behavioral changes, such as diet, increasing physical activity, and increasing knowledge and skills.
  • Coaching provides many possibilities for improving relationships and emotional stability.
  • Coaching helps people live full lives. It promotes emotional well being and life activities (e.g., educational and vocational goals, recreational activities).
  • Coaching supports disease management and professional health care. It helps a patient and family cope with emotional distress and treat severe emotional problems.

In this talk, I outlined some of the potential of our coaching, both as a form of individual changework and as a complement to psychotherapy, although we also coach couples, families and teams. Thank you again for inviting me to Gdansk to talk at this conference.

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