Coach Interview Series: Erik X. Alonso, Psy.D., MSW, MS

by Brandon

Erik X. Alonso

Neurolinguistic Life Coach

Our main objective here at the National Coach Academy is to enable aspiring coaches to reach their full professional potential. One of the most effective ways to educate students about the world of coaching is by offering them a window into the world of real, practicing coaches and showing them all the different ways coaches make a difference in the lives of their clients.

We hope today’s interview adds another insightful glimpse into the dynamic world of coaching.

Today we are interviewing Erik X. Alonso, Psy.D., MSW, MS. Erik is a Neurolinguistic Life Coach based in Miami, Florida.

NCA: Can you describe your coaching practice and the kinds of clients you typically work with?

Erik: I first became a clinical social worker and then started doing therapy as a licensed clinical social worker. Then I went back to school and completed another Master’s and a Doctoral Degree in Psychology with a concentration in clinical and forensic psychology. From there I continued doing mental health psychotherapy.

From the year 2000 all the way to around 2018, I realized that because of all the bureaucracy with insurances and the treatment that I was providing to my clients—some were effective and some were not as effective — I felt that coaching, not psychotherapy, will probably have a better outcome. At least with the population that I was treating: predominantly adolescents and young adults seeking to find things that they wanted to accomplish in life and were having difficulty.

Slowly but surely, I begin to morph into coaching with a background in mental health, seeing things from the lens of a psychologist and a psychotherapist. What I do now is coaching predominantly focusing on the areas of neurolinguistics, sports, and mental health coaching. I primarily use coaching as a tool, but nonetheless, taking advantage of my background in order to create a very formalized and individualized approach to how I deal with whatever issues that my clients are experiencing.

NCA: In working with your clients, what you would say is the most rewarding part of that process and on the flip side of that, what would you say is the most challenging aspect of the work that you do?

Erik: The rewarding aspect is watching clients set goals to achieve the dreams, the passion, the fantasies, the ideas that they want to be able to conquer and seeing them being able to get there. Being able to walk with someone through the process of what it is that they want to accomplish from where they are and where they need to be and seeing that type of metamorphosis take place. It takes a little longer with some clients than others, but the most rewarding aspect is being able to see that whatever goals that particular client wanted to achieve, they’re able to achieve it. It may have been something that I saw as simple to achieve or maybe a little challenging, but however which way it happened, they got it.

As far as the most challenging or most difficult, it would have to be whenever I come across some clients that are seeking some coaching for certain issues, but I immediately identify an underlying cause that is keeping them from achieving such a goal. It’s typically related to some form of mental health disorder, whether it’d be a mood disorder, a personality disorder, or even a substance abuse disorder. Although I am not specifically choosing to do treatment for that, I know that it is one of the things that is keeping them from moving forward. I try to do the best I can, given my knowledge, my experience and my qualifications.

It’s difficult when I see that what’s keeping them from getting from point A to point B is something that they first need to address before they choose to go into coaching. A very simple example would be someone who wants to be able to achieve something but because of their substance abuse issue with alcohol, it’s keeping them from achieving that. Otherwise, they would not have that issue.

I also do a lot of hypnosis, past life regression, and techniques that are more holistic. Sometimes, I see from a holistic perspective how there are certain things that are keeping them from moving forward. Let’s say they’re very pessimistic or very negative and they are not being grateful or appreciative for even the little things they have and that keeps them from moving forward. I try to use a combination of different tools or an eclectic approach to how I treat them. Again, whenever I find that there is something that’s keeping them from moving forward, such as a mental health issue or a disorder of some type, it’s what makes it more challenging and difficult, to say the least.

One thing I’ve learned is that you may be the only person that your client feels comfortable opening up to. You may be the only chance that that person has to be able to get them to process whatever it was that they’re talking about and move forward.

NCA: Can you think of a mentor or a coach in your own career who was the most vital to your success and in what ways did this mentor help you thrive in your career?

Erik: Because of my background in the mental health field, I never really had a mentor from a coaching perspective but I did have a mentor from a psychological teaching perspective. I think about professors that really made a difference. But ironically or maybe perhaps because of the way that I came into this, I really never had a coach myself. It’s all been based on my own experience, my own education, and then doing my own reading.

I have two Masters degrees and a PhD. Given all of my background in terms of education, I’ve used all of that to do coaching. But I really never had someone that I can say, “Wow, this person really made a difference in my life as a coach.” Never. I met people that have told me stories of some mentor, someone that made a difference in their lives that changed their lives. In a good way, I become envious and I’d think, “Wow. I wish I could’ve had that kind of person.” Fortunately and unfortunately, I never had that.

NCA: One of the most common challenges new coaches face is self-doubt. Some coaches call it Imposter Syndrome, where early on they feel somehow inadequate to take on the role of coach. What is one piece of advice that you would give to somebody who is in the beginning stage of their coaching career and dealing with these doubts in their mind?

Erik: I remember myself experiencing that in the beginning of my professional mental health career—not feeling equipped, competent, educated, and experienced enough. One thing I can tell you is that it’s only a matter of time before you begin to accrue the necessary tools to be where you are. And many times, you do need to seek out some type of counseling, or consulting, or mentoring to discuss a particular case.

One thing I’ve learned is that you may be the only person that your client feels comfortable opening up to. You may be the only chance that that person has to be able to get them to process whatever it was that they’re talking about and move forward. You may be the only person that they ever feel comfortable enough with. It’s a big deal because you don’t know if they’ll ever do it again or if this was a one-time thing the way you handle it will make a difference.

To give you a very basic example, someone discloses in the process that they were a victim of child abuse, sexual abuse, or some other type of abuse. They feel that because of that trauma, they are not able to move forward and interview for jobs in order to be able to get a good position. They’re very shy. They’re very scared. They’re very anxious. That person felt comfortable enough to tell you exactly how they felt and it is our duty and responsibility as their coach to make them feel safe and make them feel, at the very least, glad that they did what they did—opened up and they disclosed that information. You use that information to help them move forward.

Even when we don’t feel that we are competent or that we don’t have the necessary tools to handle something, sometimes just listening and being there for that person is sufficient because that person disclosed something that may very well be a huge weight off their shoulders. That’s all they needed to do to move forward. If you accept them and you say, “I’m sorry that happened to you. But that has no bearing on whatever it is that you want to achieve nowadays,” that’s probably all they needed to hear. “It’s okay that you feel scared but, hey, it’s okay. Let’s move forward. That happened back then. We’re here now. Let’s move forward.”

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