Coaching in the Helix – a preview

By Elisabeth Goodman, 17th September 2022

I’ve been working on two new books1,2 over the past year, and I’m really excited to share this pre-view of Coaching in the Helix for those of you who choose to buy and read this in early 2023!

Cover illustration for Goodman, E. (2023) Coaching in the Helix. How self-development impacts the quality of our coaching. RiverRhee Publishing

Here is an adapted extract from my introduction.

This book is about learning, self-development and growth.  It’s about the journey I have been on, and continue to be on, to become who I truly am.  It’s an exploration of other coaches’ journeys too, to see if there are any common themes in our experiences.  And it’s an exploration of if and how these journeys of self-development, for us as coaches, influence the quality of our coaching.

The concept of “coaching in the helix” arose out of several experiences, discussions and reflections.  

Jackee Holder3 brought the phrase “coaching from the inside out” into my awareness when I attended her course on working with nature. We explored what different aspects of nature conjured up within us, and then how to express that.  It helped us feel more a-tuned to what we were experiencing: making the unconscious conscious.

As I was recounting this to my first one-to-one supervisor, Michele Roy, she came up with the idea of coaching being like a spiral, moving backwards and forwards between different points within ourselves and within our clients.  The appreciation and articulation of these inner dynamics influences the external dynamic between us as we work with our clients.

Reflecting on this further, the spiral became a helix. When we work with our clients, we create a coaching relationship.  This is what I am calling “a helix”.  We as coaches bring one strand into the helix.  Our client brings the other strand.  We work together in the helix, and then our strands go their own ways, reshaped in various ways by the experience.

The helix feels soft to me.  Organic.  Constantly changing.  Fluid.  It’s only tangible at a point in time, in the moment.  And then it’s different again.  We will be in flow with our client.  How long that lasts will be variable.

We are each responsible for our own strand in the helix.  We contract and re-contract, partner and re-partner.

Nancy Kline4and Maria Iliffe-Wood5, amongst others, have written about the qualities that we need to bring as coaches to our strand: our ability to listen, our presence, our empathy, our intuition and more.  These are qualities that we can develop.  These qualities in turn affect the quality of the coaching relationship: the rapport between ourselves and our clients; and what results from that.

Becoming a qualified coach has caused me to examine who I am and the influences that have shaped me; my values and beliefs; the way I live my life.  It has caused me to unlearn, re-learn and learn many new things.

What I suspect will be known as “the covid years” has been a time of accelerated development for me.  The aspects of my personal strand that I have experienced the greatest changes in have been my emotional capability, my spirituality, recognising my Neurodiversity and my creativity, and bringing nature-cum-mindfulness more fully into my life.  This time has been a period of “developing my muchness”.

Our work with coaches (whether as work or life coaches) involves helping our clients to recognise and value who they are, address the issues that are holding them back, develop the internal resources and learning habits to support them in the longer term.  We often find ourselves working in niches with our clients that reflect what we have worked on within ourselves.

What I am curious about, and what this book explores are the following questions: 

  • What is the impact of our self-development on our qualities as a coach?
  • How does this self-development impact the nature and quality of the coaching relationship?
  • How does it impact the client’s growth? 
  • How does working with the client impact our own growth?
  • What areas of self-development are significant to us and how do we approach them? 
  • How does our self-development as coaches impact the other relationships in our lives – with our families and friends?  And vice versa?

This book is for coaches who are just starting on their journey.  Coaches who are wondering about what self-development they want or need to do for their work as coaches, and how to go about it.  More experienced coaches might find something in these pages too; a reflection of some of their own journeys; a way to explore some of the questions they are asking themselves.

The book is divided into the following chapters:

  • Chapter 1 explores the nature of what I am calling “the coaching helix”: the coaching relationship. What it is.  What it seeks to achieve.  It has a strong basis on supporting literature as well as on my own experiences.
  • Chapters 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 explore the five areas of my own self-development (emotional capability, spirituality, neurodiversity, creativity, nature-cum-mindfulness) and how they have influenced my qualities as a coach and the coaching relationship.  

I have not chosen these topics consciously.  They simply emerged as areas that have been important to me in the last two to three years especially.  These topics have shaped me, and I have shaped them.

My coaching gives me meaning, and my five areas of self-development feel filled with meaningfulness too.

Emotional capability, for me, is about living with myself, ourselves, and others in harmony. This, and indeed all of my five areas of self-development, feel especially poignant against the current backdrop of war, pandemic, climate change.

Spirituality, again for me, is about finding a way to be at peace with death that comes to us all.  It’s also about respecting each other’s right to have our own perspective on this, without imposing our own.

Neurodiversity is about understanding and valuing our differences instead of expecting everyone to confirm to some concept of norm.

Creativity provides a source of meaning in my life that is constructive, rather than destructive.  It is a form of self-expression.  The process of creating can be sufficient.  The outcome is something I can offer to others for their enjoyment or use, or simply keep for my own enjoyment.  I might leave a legacy, or make some kind of difference to the world.

Nature-cum-mindfulness is a way of appreciating, enjoying, drawing strength from my environment and the universe.  I hope to leave it undamaged, or enhanced by my passage.

How do these themes compare with those that have featured so far in your self-development?  How are they the same?  How are they different?

My own experiences, things I have read or heard, and the people I have come across who are active in these areas all provide context for these themes.

  • Chapter 7 explores what I have learnt from the people who have kindly agreed to be interviewed by me for this book: what their self-development has entailed.  How it has been similar or different from mine: common and divergent themes.  What impact it has had on the quality of their coaching and on the growth of their clients. 
  • Chapter 8 explores the connection between our self-development as coaches, and the dynamics with our families and friends: in both directions.
  • Chapter 9 is a space of reflection for my readers: further prompts, exercises, tools they might consider to aid their own self-development and that of their clients

Finally, each chapter of the book, as well as the introduction, comes with a list of references relating to the authors and sources that I’ve cited within it.

In developing my ideas for this book, I have come full circle to an early influence in my professional life: Stephen R. Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”6. His habit of “Sharpening the Saw” is all about our learning and development to enable us to be the best we can be.  

Writing “Coaching in the helix” has been an unusual and beautiful experience for me.  It has been so through its collaborative nature. I wrote a previous book with a co-author, and included insights from people that I interviewed in that and in one other book.  Writing this book has been a collaborative project right from the start, with the support of my coaching “tribe” and many others.  Writing a book in this way has also been a significant development for me.  I’ll be saying more about this and the people who have supported me in my Acknowledgements.

I have written this book because sharing ideas is one of the main ways in which I express my creativity.  Coaching is the other.  My self-development is not static.  It benefits from others’ experiences.  

I am looking forward to hearing, in due course, how this book influences you and your practice as a coach. 


  1. Goodman, E. (2023). Coaching in the Helix. How self-development impacts the quality of our coaching. RiverRhee Publishing
  2. Goodman, E. (2023). Wellbeing Mindfulness. RiverRhee Publishing
  3. Holder, J. (2021). Working with nature from the inside out. Barefoot Coaching, online course.
  4. Kline, N. (2020). The promise that changes everything.  I won’t interrupt. Penguin Life, UK.
  5. Iliffe-Wood, M. (2014) Coaching presence.  Building consciousness and awareness in coaching interventions. Kogan Page, UK.
  6. Covey, S.R. (2004) The 7 habits of highly effective people.  Simon & Schuster, London, UK.

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