Christopher J. Coulson, MAHPP
Eating Disorders Coach
The basic facts of a person's existence
give little sense of who s/he really is. So I've attempted in this section
to give you both the bare facts and a more subjective flavor of my way
of being. There are many words here but I believe it's better to know
too much rather than too little. To make discovery easier, here are
the section headings:
The answer to this question is to be found in my own combination of personality and family history. Much of that history is not mine alone so I cannot divulge too much of it. However, I engaged in many self-damaging behaviors during the course of a very difficult childhood and early adulthood. I was fortunate to survive adolescence with no worse outcome than addictions to alcohol and smoking and an utter disregard for my personal welfare .
Like many of my clients I was a highly intelligent young person. This was the key to my survival, 'though not in the form of academic success.
When I am with a client who has used eating or self-harming as a survival strategy, we frequently find we have experiences in common at the psychological level. This creates great rapport and fuels optimism and growth.
The fact of my being male while most of my clients are female has not been a difficulty. Indeed, many have valued the way in which the demands put on me as a self-supporting male forced me to adopt a rigorous attitude to my problems or go under. I know how physically and psychologically distressed we can be while still feeling the need to survive. I am very conscious, therefore, of the steely determination that fuels any eating disorder.
Education and Licensing:
2001-Present (Resident of Tulsa, Oklahoma)
1992-2001 (UK Resident)
1978-1992 (USA resident):
1965 -1978 (UK resident):
I try to be the kind of developmental partner I want for myself.
For instance, I don't like to be told what I should or shouldn't do.
Whether I'm going to explore a black hole in my psyche or try some
new social strategy, I want to do it myself and mess it up myself
if need be. But I do want someone standing by so I can tell them about
my experience, gain their perspective, and increase my understanding
of it. That way I have truly learnt from it.
In terms of my practice, this means I typically don't give clients
advice: I urge them to find out for themselves.
I am thorough in my explorations. In my youth, my friends would tire
of my need to check out every country lane when out walking, every
pub for the best social life, every newspaper for the most information.
"There's nothing down there!" they'd cry, and more often
than not they were right. But when I returned to them I was the only
one who knew there was nothing there. I was the only one who
had actually learnt something.
Time and again my need to cover every inch of ground has reaped rich
dividends for my clients and myself. Whether you call it self-awareness
or personal insight, the certainty that comes from deep self-knowledge,
however quirky we find ourselves to be, is a major contributor to
confidence and empowerment.
I have some faith in psychometric testing as a way of gaining a general
insight into another human being. The results of my tests won't help
you recognize me in the street but they might give you a guide as
to my general direction in life.
Assorted other tests show the same broad picture of interests and motivations. I'm basically a feeling person who is also a deep thinker and a communicator with a strong drive to follow through on my chosen path.
You are unique in the history of the universe. No-one else will ever be conceived at the exact point in space and time as yourself. No-one else will ever replicate your exact mix of physiological and psychological characteristics.
You have your own understanding of the world, your own physical experience of the world, your own arrangement of internal and external organs.
In other words, you are a universe of one. This effectively means no-one else has the right to tell you how you should look, sound, or behave.
However . . .
Your universe coexists with my universe and - today - 6 billion other universes. And that's only the human ones. So even if you want to live totally alone you are forced to take the rest of us into account in your daily dealings.
Your task, it seems to me, is to manage the conflict between your drive toward individualized 'unique' existence and your need and desire to coexist with others. In other words, to grow while meshing your perfectly legitimate idiosyncrasies with those of others: all without losing sight of yourself.
This is important for all of us, because we need you - I need you - to be everything you can that is true to your essence. Only in that way does the larger universe of humans benefit from your activities and the activities of each of us.
My attitude toward you, therefore, is predicated on a deep respect for your uniqueness and a selfish - because beneficial to me - desire to see you fulfill yourself.
I don't believe that there is such a thing as an eating disorder in the sense of it being a disease like measles or the common cold. Disordered eating is really an external manifestation of an internal state.
To oversimplify for the sake of illustration, anorexia can be seen as an attempt by an organism to show that it is being starved of a vital nutrient. The physiological self-denial mirrors the psychological deprivation. In this sense, it is a survival strategy.
In reality, there is always a combination of factors that contributes to the selection of a survival strategy. For example, anorectic behavior also provides a sense of control, a sense of being lovable, a sense of tragic identity and so on. Like all other behaviors it is multi-motivated and a wonderfully economic way of meeting a number of needs.
But a survival strategy is not a disease. It may result from muddled thinking, faulty assumptions or a distorted world view, but the essential operation of the human system is healthy and appropriate. The organism is functioning correctly but, in computer terms, it is running inaccurate data through a faulty program.
Although this may sound a bit tragic in itself, it is in fact the key to successful growth. Faulty assumptions - psychological as well as intellectual - about oneself and the world can be replaced with more accurate ones. Then the drive to be healthy is more closely aligned with what is actually healthy and the need for managing life through food disappears.
One of my guiding principles is that life is a process of trial and discovery - never of error - and we enjoy life most when we apply what we have discovered and go on discovering. I'm glad to say I do learn from my experiences. For example, after several false starts I now have the kind of marriage that I always believed ought to be possible.
I have a passion for excellence and my working life is characterized by my association with the leaders in their fields. I see no point in aiming to be other than world class, and regard this as an attitude rather than a measure of achievement. After all, there are probably five hundred world-class tennis players, but only one champion at each tournament.
I believe that a full life is only possible if we are ready to take it on, and that readiness is an amalgam of physical, intellectual and emotional fitness. These are all things we can do something about.
I do a great deal of exploring on my own but it is really only
in preparation for the greatest pleasure in my life - exploring
with others. Each working partnership is different. Each shared
voyage of discovery is a distinct and separate volume in a library
of adventures, each with its own theme, plot, subplots and characterization.
Each also has its own resolution.
There are three essential components in the preparation of a coach/practitioner:
Without the third component the first two are virtually useless.
Life experience without reflection contains nothing learned and
therefore nothing worth passing on. Professional training without
rigorous self-examination makes it impossible for practitioners
to be sure they are acting on their client's behalf rather than
from their own unconscious motivation.
I offer the following personal and professional autobiography to
help you in your decision-making.
Today I live in Tulsa, Oklahoma, my wife's family hometown. I am an active member of the Tulsa Rowing Club and work out regularly on my Concept II rowing machine. I also jog as a form of cross-training. I don't smoke, I only drink socially and I'm happily married.
For seven years, until returning to the USA, I was General Secretary of my professional association. I read avidly on my subject and enjoy the challenge of staying abreast of developments in my field.
In particular, I enjoy the incredible variety of people I work
with and feel fortunate that I have found my niche at last.
But it wasn't always this way . . .
I was born in 1946, son of a Royal Air Force officer who completed his career in the British Foreign Office. My mother was born and brought up in South Africa, the daughter of an expatriate German mother and English father. I have two sisters, one older than myself, one younger.
My formal education was carried out over ten years at a very traditional
English public school. I was intelligent in class and successful
at sport but this was not a happy time for me and I rejected the
idea of going to university.
I left school at 18, completely unprepared for anything, so in 1965 I moved to London and followed my interests. Eventually,. at the age of 21, I trained as a systems analyst.
This was soul-destroying but intellectually and financially rewarding
and I worked my way up to IT consultant before moving sideways and
becoming an IT industry journalist. I married but my wife and I
weren't very good at it and after three years we separated.
I left my job and went to work as a deckhand on a classic ketch
working out of Antibes in the South of France. I thought of buying
a boat and settling there but was sidetracked by the offer of money
and friendship and joined another weekly IT newspaper back in London.
I had just started editing this when it was sold to a competitor
and I was made redundant. My overwhelmed response to finding myself
freelance and almost penniless did nothing for the second marriage
I had recently entered.
I starting working as a consultant to hi-tech companies, helping
them on marketing and marketing communications matters. Most notable
among them were IBM, Unisys, Burroughs and a range of software companies
whose names have now gone out of existence.
It was in 1978 that I started to take control of my life. Up until then I had lurched on from opportunity to opportunity, totally reactively, with never a serious thought of putting together a strategy to give me the life I wanted - even if I'd known what it was.
I was naturally task-competent, so I stayed busy and financially
OK, but I was life-incompetent. In 1978, however, I took a job in
the United States and put myself into therapy. The reasons were
fairly classic: I was 32, my second marriage had just ended, I was
smoking and drinking heavily, and I couldn't see what I was doing
But I found out. Over the next fourteen years I maintained a course
of individual and group therapy and coaching. It transformed my
life. I learnt a tremendous amount about myself and about others
and continually tried new things. I married and divorced for a third
time. I trained as a psychotherapist with the Cambridge Psychotherapy
Institute. I started my relationship with my present wife in 1985.
My wife and I returned to the UK in 1992, determined to take a sabbatical from the IT industry.
Today we are living in Tulsa, a delightful city at the southern end of the Great Plains. It provides a peaceful and encouraging environment in which to continue to develop and discover
new approaches to personal growth. Thanks to technology, I
am able me to stay working with my clients no matter where they
or I find ourselves.
As I indicated above, the bulk of my training took place at the Cambridge Psychotherapy Institute (CPI), Massachusetts, USA. This was a private institute with a very rigorous approach to self-discovery and a strong emphasis on experiential development. It was a requirement, for example, that we remain in weekly individual and group therapy while with the Institute.
CPI combined aspects of psychoanalysis with humanistic and existential beliefs. Here, over fourteen years, I learned psychotherapy, counseling, supervision and a good part of my coaching skills.
The rest of my formal training has consisted of taking a number
of workshops, a diploma course for coaches in sports psychology,
another in business coaching, and a prodigious amount of reading
and writing. I also have my own psychotherapeutically-trained coach
in the USA and peer mentoring in the UK.
This is a daily pursuit with me. Whether sweating my way through a 60-minute stint on my indoor rower, or simply sitting with a pad and pen, I am constantly reflecting on life and what I am learning from it. I hold internal dialogues with the writers of the hundreds of books I read; I reflect on the patterns and dynamics of my clients' lives and activities; I look at my own life and my partnerships. I have written literally millions of words in my journals and drawn countless diagrams in my efforts to understand what makes us tick.
I also reflect in conjunction with those around me: my clients,
my wife, my friends and my coach. I question until I feel I have
a solid base of conviction from which to operate and can then act
with strength and focus.
This review of myself is intended to show you myself as I see myself:
a thinking person who has had a lot of experience in life. It hasn't
all been pleasant or conventionally successful, yet I feel satisfied
with my approach and my ongoing progress. I'm looking forward to
much more in the next fifty years.
I believe my journey has equipped me extremely well to do the job
I do, and my clients' successes would seem to bear me out in that
belief. It is not often that I am left struggling to comprehend
a situation or a state of mind, and my instincts and intuitions
have been well-honed and tested in high-stress situations on both
sides of the Atlantic. I am creative and resourceful both on my
own behalf and on behalf of my clients.
I hope this information has been helpful to you. If you would
like to find out more about me, please email
or call to schedule a free 30-minute face-to-face or 'phone discussion.
The contact details are below:
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