by Keith Merron (USA)

The world of medicine offers a powerful metaphor for the journey of transformation. In medicine, there are two primary forms of care: allopathic and holistic. Allopathic care, the dominant form in Western medicine, focuses on the relief of symptoms. In Western medicine, almost all illnesses are treated through allopathic means, be they chronic, acute, or temporary. Got a cold? Pop some cold medicine in your mouth. Got a headache? Take some aspirin to relieve the pain. Neither cold medicine nor a pain pill gets at the cause. They just relieve some of the suffering.

Holistic care is about seeking ways of living a healthy life. When faced with illness, a holistic care practitioner will likely seek to find the causes of the illness and restore the person back to wholeness or health. The key question for the holistic doctor is: what conditions are present in the mind, body, and/or spirit such that the symptoms’ and their causes are occurring or reoccurring?

The basic approach of all holistic forms of medicine is to treat the whole person and to enable patients to step up and own the process. In other words, patients are asked to learn to take care of themselves, and to own their symptoms, both causes and effects. The holistic care practitioner becomes a teacher and guide, while the allopathic practitioner acts more like a micro-managing boss.

The Necessity of the Active Client

This sense of ownership of one’s own growth and learning is crucial to transformational coaching. Owning one’s own patterns as a coachee and the exploration to find and embody an alternative are the essential elements in addressing any deeply rooted patterns. For a transformation to endure, it requires clients to engage in the process much as they would engage in their own healing were they to work with a holistic medical doctor. Instead of buying the notion that the client is a victim of circumstances beyond his or her control, the key is to guide the client to sit front and centre in his life. To be effective agents of transformation, your clients must adopt the attitude that their patterns, conditions and tendencies are their own. And no pill or quick fix strategy will fix that.

Shifting away from a ‘doctor, please fix me’ paradigm is perhaps the most crucial step in the process of transformational coaching. It entails helping your client not only to see and explore their paradigms, but to believe that they can become an active agent, even the leader, of their own healing. This means setting the right expectations, helping the client become more spacious, slowing down the process, and offering learning tasks designed to help the client deepen her self-awareness.

Source: iCN Issue 32  (Coaching Tools, Techniques & Models for Coaching); pages 

About Dr. Keith Merron

Keith Merron is the Managing Partner of Leadership Pathways, a consulting firm dedicated to helping organisations with bold visions achieve sustainable high performance and industry leadership. As an organisation’s effectiveness and an executive development consultant, he has more than 35 years of experience assisting executives and managers in business, government, and education.

In the context of his consulting, he works with the C-suite as a transformational coach. In addition, Keith has designed and led over 100 seminars and workshops for leaders. He has helped create some of the most innovative leadership training programs in the country. Through his consulting firm, he regularly offers a workshop for coaches called: The Art of Transformational Coaching. See his website: for more information.

Keith received his Doctorate from Harvard University in 1985, where his studies spanned the fields of human and organisation development. He is the author of five books on human and organisational change and is putting the finishing touches on a new book, tentatively titled: The Art of Transformational Coaching.