Coach Interview Series: Rev. Joanna Bartlett

by Brandon

Rev. Joanna Bartlett

Personal Growth Coach & Grief Recovery Specialist

This is Entry #5 of the National Coach Academy Coach Interview Series.

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 Rev. Joanna Bartlett. Joanna is a Personal Growth Coach & Grief Recovery Specialist based in Eugene OR.

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

Joanna: I am a grief recovery specialist primarily and I help people heal from loss. I help people who are in pain, grief, or any kind of losses that they have experienced in their lives whether that’s a loss of a loved one, the ending of a relationship, loss of health, change in finances, moving, or even the kind of difficult relationship with their not-so-loved ones that we still have a lot of emotional feelings around and they often remain unresolved. I help people to work through that and do the emotional processing they need to do so that they don’t have to be in pain anymore.

NCA: What initially got you interested in this career path and what kind of degree or certifications did you need to complete, if any?

Joanna: I have a bit of an interesting path into what I’m doing now. I am a certified medium with the National Spiritualist Association of Churches and an ordained minister also with the National Spiritualist Association of Churches. I was doing mediumship work and readings for people–essentially connecting in with people’s loved ones who are no longer in physical form or dead, essentially, in Spirit. And I ended up doing grief counseling work as a part of my spiritual calling through my ministerial license, but I found that I didn’t have enough skills or tools. But mediums can be really helpful, very healing for people to connect them with loved ones and be able to resolve what is emotionally unresolved in that relationship but not for everybody and some people got kind of stuck.

I went looking for resources and training and I found the grief recovery method with the Grief Recovery Institute, and so I took training with them and became an Advanced Certified Grief Recovery Specialist which means I can see people in person and online to give some tools to move through the pain of loss. That’s how I got started in this and it’s kind of an odd way.

One of the reasons I don’t do mediumship readings anymore and decided to focus more on life coaching and grief recovery is because I wanted to teach people how to do the work themselves instead of me supplying the answers, and me being the connection to the loved one and that kind of thing. I wanted them to be able to kind of get in it and do it themselves because it’s more satisfying, I think, to do the work yourself.

It’s the IKEA effect, right? Building your own furniture makes you value it more, apparently. It becomes something you made yourself. So rather than me providing this, whether that’s through a mediumship reading or through an intuitive psychic reading, I want people to be able to learn to do that themselves, whether it’s their own intuition or having the tools they can use throughout their life to work through pain and loss.

NCA: What is the most rewarding part of your career? Likewise, what is the most challenging aspect of the work that you do?

Joanna: Seeing people change and heal and shift. Seeing their energy shift and becoming lighter and brighter and I can feel that they have more emotional freedom with themselves. That they’re lighter, they feel better, life doesn’t weigh as heavily on them. I think that’s really cool to be able to help people do that.

And then the most challenging? Doing grief work can be very heavy. People have a lot of big emotions understandably and so occasionally holding the space for that and being present for that — the challenging aspect of being present and holding space for people’s very big emotions is sitting in my chair and not trying to fix it. Letting them and allowing them to have the space for it.

And I can’t fix it. I have to let it be. And that’s part of the healing process sometimes for people is to let these emotions out. When somebody is crying or sobbing and talking about a loved one who has died or a really painful relationship that has ended, what I wanted to do is I want to go sit on the couch next to them and hug them and say “It’s okay, it’s okay. It’ll be okay. Don’t feel so bad.” And I cannot do that. It would not be helpful at all and I recognize that.

So that’s the emotionally challenging part for me. It’s to sit in the chair, to keep breathing, allow them to have that space, allow them through the processing because that’s really powerful for them and really helpful for them. I do hug in my practice. The thing is when you’ve shared something, it’s part of the process that I lead people through, I offer a hug afterwards. But while they are in the middle of it, it’s staying out of it and letting them do the work that they need to do. That’s personally kind of a challenging thing for me because I want to make everybody feel better. That’s why I’m doing this.

So that’s the emotionally challenging part for me. It’s to sit in the chair, to keep breathing, allow them to have that space, allow them through the processing because that’s really powerful for them and really helpful for them.

But it’s important to be witnessed. Being witnessed and being validated and being allowed to have your feelings is very powerful and healing because unfortunately, when we do that to other people, when we basically say, “Oh, don’t feel bad.”, or try to distract people or try to make some kind of an intellectual comment about “Well, you know, look on the bright side.”, or whatever, we’re invalidating and minimizing that person’s feelings. And it doesn’t help them, it just makes them feel more alone.

What I do is the opposite. I let them have their feelings. I tell them it’s okay. I tell them “It makes sense that you’re feeling this way. You’re allowed to feel it.” And I don’t try and squash it at all even though it’s still my engrained or my socialized program reaction is to be like “Oh, I could give you a hug.” Mostly I just want to give them a hug because I see how much they’re hurting. It’s like I send love from sitting across from them.

NCA: Do you ever worry that the cumulative weight of your client’s stories and grief will begin to have an effect on your own life? Has it ever happened to you?

Joanna: I haven’t really encountered it. Sometimes I do think of my clients while I’m at home, at times. And I send them love, I send them good energy, and I hope they’re doing well and then sometimes I would reach out via text if you need some additional support or you’re struggling with — because I give them homework every week — so if you’re struggling with the homework you can reach out to me.

Sometimes if I know that it’s a challenging time or if they’ve told me that there’s like an anniversary, a painful anniversary like of a loved one’s death or something like that coming up, I will reach out and text them and just offer support that way. But I model everything that I ask them to do and I share a lot of my own experiences and I have been through a lot of. And I have used the methods that I use with my clients and with a great success for myself, and so I’m okay.

A lot of what people find very painful about hearing other people’s grief and about other people’s loss is that it will resonate within them and it will reactivate or trigger their own pain and their own losses. And that’s why we find it so painful and so hard to be with other people who are in pain because it reminds us of our own pain that is unresolved and that we don’t know what to do with. And that’s why we try their make their pain go away so that we don’t have to feel our pain.

It’s also beautiful seeing people be so courageous to do their work and to talk about the things that they had wished had been different. […] It’s awe inspiring.

I do my work and in that way, I can be a witness and I can be with my clients without it hurting me. And it’s also beautiful seeing people be so courageous to do their work and to talk about the things that they had wished had been different or better in relationships and figure out what went wrong for them and take the steps to resolve it. It’s awe inspiring. It’s amazing to witness. I mean, it gives me hope and courage, too. I think people would think it’s really hard, but it gives me so much. The resilience of the human spirit is amazing.

NCA: Finally, what advice would you give someone looking to get started in the career path that you chose?

Joanna: Get good training. Get ongoing support, like I receive ongoing mentoring and coaching support myself and then do your own work. Deal with your own stuff so that you can be emotionally clear and clean and strong for your clients.

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