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Values-Based Coaching
A Guide for Social Workers and Other Human Service Professionals
Marilyn Edelson
ISBN: 978-0-87101-398-9. 2010. Item #3989. 300 pages.

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As the first book to be published on coaching specifically for social workers, Values-Based Coaching gives voice to the social work profession on a controversial topic that presents tremendous opportunities for bringing about positive change. Health care and human service professionals in other disciplines will also benefit from its theoretical grounding and practical information on coaching with diverse clientele.

Voted "Top 10 Business Coach" by Women’s Business Boston, a division of the Boston Herald, Marilyn Edelson drew upon her considerable experience as a licensed social worker and business coach in private practice to write Values-Based Coaching. The book presents a historical overview, business case, theoretical foundations, and practical skills pertinent to the field of coaching.

With its fresh perspective and broad appeal, Values-Based Coaching is useful to a wide range of social service and health care professionals interested in learning about an emerging profession which, in spite of global economic woes, is thriving in the areas of health care and nonprofit management. The book is useful not only as a print or digital text book for courses and teleconferences in social work, nursing, medicine, psychology, counseling, management consulting, and education, but also as a practical guide for practitioners who are starting and building coaching consultancies of their own.


Chapter 1: The Practice of Coaching

Chapter 2: What Coaching Is

Chapter 3: The Need and Opportunity for Coaching

Chapter 4: Coaching as an Alternative or Complement to Existing Practice

Chapter 5: The Theory and Substance of Coaching

Chapter 6: Schools of Coaching

Chapter 7: The Coaching Process

Chapter 8: Skills

Chapter 9: Getting Started

Chapter 10: Marketing and Practice Building

Chapter 11: Personal, Legal, and Ethical Issues

Chapter 12: Specialty Coaching

Chapter 13: Personal Self-Development

Chapter 14: Making a Difference

Chapter 15: Clients



Appendix A: International Coach Federation (ICF) Code of Ethics

Appendix B: International Coach Federation (ICF) Core Competencies

Appendix C: Top 10 Indicators to Refer a Client to a Mental Health Professional

Appendix D: Coaching Vocabulary

Appendix E: Psychotherapy and Coaching Compared

Appendix F: Coaching and Consulting Compared

Appendix G: The Coaching Intake

Appendix H: Checklist for Going into Business

Appendix I: Starting Up a Business Checklist

Appendix J: Business Plan Basics

Appendix K: Marketing Communications

Appendix L: Sample Marketing Materials

About the Author
My two lovely daughters, Sara and Jessica, are and have always been my main inspiration. They have been wonderful coaches to me over the years – gently admonishing me, often late at night while I am still at my computer, not to "work too hard" and to keep balance (something we coaches talk about a lot) in my own life.

I am grateful to both my friends – particularly Pam Narahara and Kris Lasker – and staff – particularly Forum leaders Roger Smith, David Cunningham, and Joe DiMaggio – at Landmark Education, where, as a result of my experience participating in the Landmark Forum and other courses, I learned to live life from a place of new possibilities, to bring possibility to others, and to expand my world into a space larger than I ever would have imagined.

I also want to thank Mimi Sohn Licht, Patience Sampson, and the late Bonnie Jaffe, my trusted "peer group." We came together over 18 years ago to discuss cases but have ended up "doing life" together – marriage, divorce, raising children, grandchildren, illness, job transition, and career reinvention. Carol Trust, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Chapter of NASW, has been my main champion. It was she who had the courage to promote my conferences both locally and regionally, produced home education tapes that have been widely distributed, and encouraged me to spread the word on this new and somewhat controversial area. I salute her for her groundbreaking approach to social work in her column in NASW Massachusetts’ Focus newsletter, "Possibilities."

Thanks also to Mike Harris, a corporate client who trusted me enough to actually go into business with me, and to David Herron, a respected senior IT consultant who welcomed me into that world.

I also have been fortunate enough to be mentored by Roz Zander, who was instrumental in pointing me to Landmark Education, where I experienced a significant personal transformation that led me toward coaching; the late Laura Whitworth, an original founder of the Coaches Training Institute, who was one of my initial trainers in co-active coaching; Frederic Hudson, whose workshop I audited with friends at Fielding Institute in the 1980s; and Carl Kaestner, good friend and neighbor, who I met while he was teaching an executive coaching course on Cape Cod and with whom I have had the pleasure of brainstorming and collaborating since. Also an inspiration, as well as the person responsible for my sticking with my game plan over the past 10 years, is Jinny Ditzler, creator of the Best Year Yet planning process. Jinny was coaching long before there was even a word for it.

I am grateful to Carl, Marita Frijohn, David Cunningham of Landmark Education, Virginia Kellogg, Randy Nathan, Phil Sandahl, Ruth Hegarty, and others – some well-known in the field and some not – for sharing their experiences of coaching with me.

Finally, I thank my cousins, Natalie and Arthur Schatz, for their support and kindness over the years. Special thanks go to Arthur, who helped with the painstaking editing process of my initial homegrown publication, and to my good friend Joyce Levine, author of Breakthrough Astrology, who gave me the real push to submit my proposal to the publisher. Finally, I thank Daniel Dreyfuss, whose persistent challenges to help him understand how coaching is distinguished from psychotherapy and wise commentary on my manuscript helped me refine my thoughts and clarify my message.
When I began my journey as a coach, I had no idea what a roller coaster ride it would be. I only knew I loved to witness the joy of people transforming their lives. As a therapist, I enjoyed deep, long, intimate relationships and many profoundly moving moments; yet something was missing. The ethical guidelines of my profession often prevented me from saying everything I felt ought to be said. They also prevented me from giving needed hugs (which, I confess, I often did anyway) and from addressing my clients’ whole lives, including their businesses, their finances (except when they didn’t pay and the "transference" needed to be addressed), and their spirituality. But, most of all, I would hesitate to ask powerful questions or suggest that they might be responsible for their own happiness. Instead, I indulged their stories, many of which were, in fact, extremely painful, and I participated unwittingly in reinforcing their notions of themselves as victims. I had tools for helping clients get in touch with denied anger toward their families, but none to help them successfully move through to the other side of that anger. Of course, I too felt like a victim in my own life, despite years of my own personal, successful, life-altering psychotherapy. Therapy had helped me heal my childhood pain sufficiently to function successfully in my work, to marry, and to have children. However, it took much too long and still did not leave me feeling fully in the driver’s seat of my life. I enjoyed my work and did well at it, but . . . something was missing.

In 1981, I participated in a one-day workshop in adult development with Frederic Hudson, author of Adult Development, LifeMaps, and The Coaching Handbook and founder of the Hudson Institute. During the workshop, Frederic drew a simple wheel representing various areas of our lives – work, family, friendship, money, personal growth, and so forth. He asked us to rate our level of satisfaction in those areas. He then had us write our goals in each area for the next three months, six months, one year, two years, five years, and 10 years on index cards, and he instructed us not to look at them for at least a year. I actually forgot about the cards altogether until a number of years later, when they literally fell out of a book I was taking off the shelf. Amazingly, almost 75 percent of what I had written had come to pass! When I wrote them down, many of those goals seemed unimaginable, yet I achieved them. What I didn’t realize then was that my workshop with Frederic had been my first experience of coaching.

I had left my job of 15 years as chief social worker on a general hospital in-patient psychiatry unit in the Boston area and spent a transition year selling residential real estate. I felt burnt out after 17 years of in-patient psychiatry. When I started my private practice, it filled quickly. Other practitioners began to call me and ask me my "secret." I told them I had none, but when asked to speak with the private practice committee of the Massachusetts Chapter of NASW, I sat down to think about it and realized I had integrated some valuable lessons from real estate. I realized I was not afraid of marketing or self-promotion – concepts that many therapists find distasteful. I also had integrated the possibility of selling as a service that could make a difference.

Around 1992, I began to think about new career options. Managed care was looming large in Massachusetts, and although I was doing well and enjoyed my practice, I had a strong wish to expand beyond the safe four walls of my office. I wanted to make a bigger difference than I could one-on-one, with families, or small groups. Many of my consultations with other therapists supported or inspired interesting and valuable directions and projects. I saw that I could make a difference with them. I was also curious about and drawn to the world of business. Some "coaching" I had offered a client resulted in a large windfall for him. Around that time, I discovered the growing profession of coaching and knew that coaching was what I wanted to do.

This book is a product of the transformation I have made from therapist to coach. Unlike many coach/therapists who have completely given up their therapy practices, I continue to practice both. My perspective is that coaching is both a set of new skills and a new career path. You can choose for yourself. Hopefully, the following pages will give you some direction. I provide the basic framework for understanding the developing field of personal and professional coaching, exercises to help you directly experience coaching and understand its potential in working with clients, and some tips on developing and marketing a coaching practice.

What I describe as "values-based coaching" is more than the expression of the basic value of collaborating and partnering with (as opposed to managing or controlling) others to help them achieve their goals. I am speaking of coaching that is informed by the core values of social work – serving underprivileged and underserved populations and taking on big problems with small dollars.

The primary mission of the social work profession is to enhance human well-being and to help meet the basic human needs of all people, with particular attention paid to the needs and empowerment of people who are vulnerable, oppressed, and living in poverty. A historic and defining feature of social work is the profession’s focus on individual well-being in a social context and the well-being of society. Fundamental to social work is attention to the environmental forces that create, contribute to, and address problems in living.

Social workers promote social justice and social change with and on behalf of clients. "Clients" is used inclusively to refer to individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities. Social workers are sensitive to cultural and ethnic diversity and strive to end discrimination, oppression, poverty, and other forms of social injustice. These activities may take the forms of direct practice, community organization, supervision, consultation administration, advocacy, social and political action, policy development and implementation, education, or research and evaluation. Social workers seek to enhance the capacity of people to address their own needs. Social workers also seek to promote the responsiveness of organizations, communities, and other social institutions to individuals’ needs and social problems.

The mission of the social work profession is rooted in a set of core values. These core values, embraced by social workers throughout the profession’s history, are the foundation of social work’s unique purpose and perspective:

  • service,
  • social justice,
  • dignity and worth of the person,
  • importance of human relationships,
  • integrity, and
  • competence.

This constellation of core values reflects what is unique to the social work profession. Core values, and the principles that flow from them, must be balanced within the context and complexity of the human experience.

Coaching, which began as a somewhat elite service (much as psychoanalysis once was for well-heeled individuals and corporate entities), can and increasingly does have a place inside of social agencies, grants, and organizations being designed and brought into existence by creative coaches from both the social work profession and other backgrounds. Social entrepreneurship, a relatively new phenomenon, is also using coaching to increase effectiveness and build business skills in a new generation of social change agents – the nonprofit leaders who understand the importance of knowing how to obtain and grow an organization’s financial reserves to thrive and make a difference.

The International Coach Federation (2009) Code of Ethics does not place value on serving needy populations. What is stated is the following: "Coaching is partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential" (Part One, Section 1).

My goal is to share the basic principles of coaching, highlight the current trends in the field, present a number of case examples, and finally share with you some inspiring applications of coaching. Ultimately, my goal is to leave you touched, moved, and inspired by what coaching has to offer and open to creative ways to bring coaching into your work – be it in an agency or with special populations. Please read this book with the filter of what is important to you – in your work and in your own life and career.
Marilyn Edelson is an International Coach Federation master certified coach as well as a certified co-active coach. Her career as a business and leadership development coach is a natural evolution of 30 years’ experience in human services, 15 spent in private practice. In 1996, having achieved success in business as a real estate broker, Marilyn shifted her career path from family systems counseling to coaching. Over the past seven years, she has worked with entrepreneurs, executives, professionals, and family business owners who are committed to their own personal and professional success. Her focus is on helping clients create powerful mindsets and actions that maximize their results. A graduate of the Coaches Training Institute, Edelson holds an MS in social services from Boston University. She received advanced training in organizational development and family business consulting at the Cambridge Center for Creative Enterprise. She is an active member of the International Coach Federation–New England Chapter and belongs to the New England Women’s Business Owners.
Marilyn, has been a mentor and guide supreme for me, as a coach and as a professional. She brings great integrity, love, creativity and passion to her work with clients. I continue to work with her and would recommend her to anyone interested in challenging themselves to be their finest, as a professional and as a person. She is a rare and wonderful person, colleague and coach.

Deirdre Danahar, MSW, MPH
In Motion Coaching and Consulting


Marilyn is an intelligent, articulate and dynamic entrepreneur as well as a gifted business coach. A brief conversation with Marilyn is like holding a brainstorming session with a mastermind group. You come away refreshed and full of actionable ideas to improve your professional and personal development.

Cenmar Fuertes
Founder and CEO, CoachLink, Costa Mesa, CA


Marilyn’s training was invaluable to me personally and also gave me a new paradigm to bring to my agency where we work with HIV+ teens. Guiding the kids to look ahead to a future they could design according to what’s important to them not only instilled new hope in their lives but directly led to increased medication compliance, and inspired all of us.

Bea Fulton, LICSW
Philadelphia, PA


Marilyn is an engaging and experienced coach and teacher. In her seminar, she instructs attendees on the differences between coaching and consulting, explains personal and professional coaching, and describes how to build a coaching business. I found the sessions very worthwhile and recommend them for anyone who thinks coaching may be of professional interest.

Mike Oleksak, CMC
President, Trek Consulting, Milton, MA


Beyond excellent.

Debra Lefkovic-Abrams, LICSW
Boston, MA


A very powerful combination of psychological expertise and great business talent.

Judy Silverstein, PhD
Needham, MA


I attended three coach-related workshops, listened to approximately twenty-five hours of coach-related tapes, read many articles, spent hours on the internet "checking out" coaching websites, newsletters, and various general philosophies of coaching. I was "turned-off" by "hard sell" approaches I encountered. In contrast, your conference had many refreshing, practical aspects that could be beneficial to [any] professional transitioning into coaching. A day well spent. Thank you.

Anne Gooding, PhD, LICSW
New York, NY


Recently, Marilyn accepted a high profile coach training assignment with the Epilepsy Foundation Massachusetts & Rhode Island. The focus of Marilyn’s work will have significant impact in New England as well as other Epilepsy Affiliates through out the United States. Marilyn’s professional yet relaxed training style left the EFMRI employees energized and motivated to build a successful employment program. The knowledge that was gained affects both the employees’ personal and professional lives in a positive manner. Her humor and engaging personality created a safe haven to explore potential roadblocks and to enhance insight into successful goal planning. Marilyn is an exceptional ambassador for the coaching profession bringing credit to women in business in Boston and beyond.

Leslie G. Brody, PhD, MSW
President and CEO
Epilepsy Foundation Massachusetts & Rhode Island, Boston, MA


Marilyn’s mix of coaching, teaching and writing keep her at the cutting edge of her field. Her positive approach brings out the best that people need to discover about themselves and others.

Rev. Stephen C. Washburn
Marshfield, MA