Coach Interview Series: Atieno Bird

by Brandon

Atieno Bird

Certified Psychodramatist and 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 Atieno Bird. Atieno is a Certified Psychodramatist and ICF-certified Life Coach. She is the Founder and Principal of Two Bird Coaching.

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

Atieno: My practice is over the phone with clients all over the world. My clients are typically just the people I have a strong connection and good rapport with, so that is a range of people and professions. I have been especially able to help people in high stress professions, like attorneys and media executives, with self-care and planning strategies, and also, interestingly, women who are married to men with High Functioning Autism, which is a very specific experience that is not widely understood, even in the world of counseling and therapy.

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

Atieno: When I finished my Master’s degree in conflict resolution, I was very interested in the arts in healing and lucked into a training program at a psychiatric hospital in a creative arts group psychotherapy department. After two years and over 800 hours of supervised group facilitation and coursework, I was certified as a Psychodramatist. And although I’ve since been certified as a Co-Active Coach, I still very much work from that Psychodrama foundation. I don’t pathologize people, we work from their strengths, I use physical movement and role-reversal techniques to help shift blocks and old patterns, I help clients expand their role repertoire and build out a healthy social network. And the training I got in Appreciative Inquiry and as a Co-Active coach also reinforces that strengths-based perspective.

Look for your coaching community; look for those people who can help you along the way because you value the same mindsets. None of us get where we are without other people, remember that.

NCA: What is the most rewarding part of your career?

Atieno: It’s humbling and sacred and precious to be someone’s confidante. Being trusted with the inner work a person is undertaking, often painfully, or even just to be in the everyday trenches with them, and being able to accompany and to offer perspectives and ask tough questions is an awe-inspiring privilege. I think the methodology of coaching makes it possible for this to be a safe and healthy dynamic. Even if I don’t feel perfect as a human being, I know that I can be adequate if I lean on the process and let it work.

NCA: What is the most challenging aspect of the work that you do?

Atieno: I guess at this point in my career it would be keeping myself freshly up to speed. By that I mean asking myself things like “Where am I coasting? Where am I betraying my training by leaning on my supposedly expert opinions instead of on asking questions? Where am I being lazy in terms of my own spiritual practices or operating overtop of resignation instead of having a sense of the miraculous? Am I embodying possibility, or am I feigning curiosity? Do I have faith in this person’s resourcefulness, or am I unconsciously sliding into a mindset of fixing and helping? Where am I pushing instead of allowing what wants to unfold?”

As you get older, keeping a growth mindset takes work, at least it does for me. In Psychodrama, we talk about conserves, something already established, and spontaneity, something you tap into freshly at each moment to come up with adequate or new responses. Working from a conserve isn’t bad, but you always want to be able to access spontaneity, and that’s what you are helping your clients do too, to come up with their own answers.

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

Atieno: I hate to pick just one. My Psychodrama trainers, Shelley, Milton, Barry, Ann, and Dorothy exposed me to this truly unique and profound and expansive methodology and cognitive framework that I consider a perfect match for my essential self. And, I have been able to hang every important concept thereafter within that framework and integrate it.

I also want to acknowledge a woman who was a theater professor, she now works with sexual abuse survivors trying to prevent further abuse within religious institutions. Barbra was instinctively using some Psychodrama techniques even without having heard the term, and I consider some one-on-one scene work she did with me as my director to be my first Psychodrama protagonist work. But the main reason I consider her a mentor is how she later was, and still is, so genuinely excited to work with me as my client at the women’s retreats that I give, and to recommend the retreats to all her friends. That is such a huge vote of confidence; it’s a real gift.

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

Atieno: If you have a desire to be a coach, and love to do it, go for it. Hire a coach. Every time I have needed to build something new or add a new role to my repertoire, I have hired a coach. Coaching works, even for building a coaching business! And look for your coaching community; look for those people who can help you along the way because you value the same mindsets. None of us get where we are without other people, remember that.

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