Written by Christine Couch, Mustard Seed Coaching & Mediation, Cheers MT Featured Vendor

Trying to write a blog post to introduce Mustard Seed Coaching and myself to the CheersMT crowd – intimidating!  Ask me anything about coaching philosophy and I am hard-pressed to stop short of 150K words before taking my first breath.  Ask me to introduce myself and I just clam up!  So… I coached myself off the ledge!  I started with some questions I thought might be of interest:

  • What’s my what?
  • What’s my how?
  • What’s my background?
  • What’s my why?

What’s my what?  Whaaat???  What kind of coaching do I do? Though my coaching training was effective and broad and can be applied across the board to just about anything I might have chosen to specialize in, whether that be business or finance or personal development, I landed on relationships (married, engaged, family/friends) because that is where I felt called to focus.  I have a particular passion for marriage and relationships because a) there is a desperate need; b) none of us come out of the womb with conflict resolution skills; c) most of our parents (though well-meaning) didn’t pass down healthy relational skills even though the majority of them loved us and did the best they could with the tools in their toolboxes.  Tools like conflict resolution, communication, trouble-shooting relationships, establishing healthy boundaries, etc. might not always get taught. I focus on relationships with others and with ourselves, because you see, we can conflict with ourselves as much as anyone else.  In fact, that is where our conflict often starts!  I often will only work with one spouse in marriage coaching because only one partner in the marriage sees the need for help or is willing to get help. An often misunderstood concept is one person making a change in the relationship will change the dynamic of the relationship.

What’s my how?  A lot of people have a concept that as a coach, I’m in the business of giving a lot of advice. I do not. I listen for clues in talking with my clients that lead me to areas we together unpack. We “peel the onion together”. I get a lot of clues listening to clients’ language patterns. I teach concepts, tools, and strategies. I ask a lot of strategic questions, sometimes really hard questions. I try to elicit people’s stories because it is in our stories (we all have crappy little stories that reside in our subconscious, below our radar. We aren’t even aware they are our stories) where many stumbling blocks and shackles lie that keep us stuck in unhealthy patterns of dysfunction. I mine for gold in that area. I challenge the stories where needed. Coaching sessions are dynamic and unfold specific to the client’s needs, goals, or challenges that may come up that day. There is often laughter and tears that flow from my office and I always have a box of Kleenex at the ready in case of either. I meet clients in person at my office here in Bozeman or Zoom across the country from my home office. I help people deep-dive into thoughts to create lasting change in thinking, then layer tools on top so that the transformation is ‘sticky’ and sets down new roots of function.

What’s my background? I grew up in a small town in rural Montana. Basically, I spent the summers living in Mayberry. It was an idyllic way to grow up, playing all day, every day, all summer, carefree and innocent. I was the youngest of two. I have an older brother whom I love dearly, and being three years older than me, I thought what he was up to was always so much cooler than what I had at my disposal for entertainment. School was socially challenging in a small-town environment and having transplanted from California in the early ’70s, there were cliques I was not part of.  I wasn’t in the “in” or popular crowd so I was a bit of a loner. I was quirky and always fascinated with why people did what they did, though as a kid I couldn’t articulate that. I absolutely didn’t understand why people (adults and kids alike) were mean. I enlisted as a medic in the Air Force for 4 years after a year of marketing schooling in Spokane, Washington, and was stationed in the UK and New Mexico with some TDY (temporary duty travel) in Mississippi. I returned to Bozeman after completing my enlistment in the Air Force and an 18 month failed marriage. A year later, I met my future husband and completed my nursing degree. In 2006 at 40, after 20 years in and around nursing, I left my nursing career in search of what I wanted to do when I grew up. I started a business that allowed me time to think – and that is what I desperately needed. Time to think. Those are the facts. Now to the juicy part…

In 2003, I became acutely aware of my and my family of origin’s dysfunction after my family life blew up.  I carried over this dysfunction into my marriage. A friend who had known me for several years pointed out that it wasn’t necessarily healthy for me to “have to clean to cope” when I found myself in conflict, and while there are certainly less healthy coping strategies than manic cleaning rants and my house sparkled (think aggressive-silent-treatment dish-washing……we’ve probably all been there!), I nonetheless was not dealing with my emotions in a healthy way. My anger, frustration, and embitterment were being “polished” and stuffed.  It was a pattern that I learned as a kid and carried into my adult life. That’s what we do, we learn patterns and don’t think twice about them. To quote Tony Robbins, “I was a human-doing, not a human-being”.Neither my husband nor I entered marriage with healthy and effective conflict resolution skills. Our pattern was conflict, silent treatment, conflict, silence – rinse repeat. He didn’t understand me or know what to do with my emotions as a woman. He grew up with two brothers and no sisters. I had no voice having grown up with house rules, and any opinion outside of dad’s was not tolerated, let alone welcomed. My mom was angry a lot and used the silent treatment to let the household know that mama wasn’t happy. I learned to perform and to be fake to emotionally survive. Those two issues amongst a host of others were a recipe for marital disaster. Let me be clear, this isn’t about me bashing or blaming my parents. Did they love us? Absolutely! They did the very best they could with what they knew. They did better than their parents had done. Had they known better and had better tools, they would have done better. That said, the tools they had led to unhealthy relationship patterns that were carried on generationally.

As an example of our daily frustrations and dysfunction: my husband Mike and I needed to talk and heal when we had had a disagreement. I didn’t realize that trying to talk and heal ten minutes before he had to be out the door to get to work on time wasn’t the ideal moment to have the conversation!  In my attempt to do the right thing, I was approaching it at the wrong time or way, adding to the stress and conflict! He would leave having just been short with me in total frustration and I would shut down, feeling defeated. Was either of us ill-meaning? Absolutely not! We were just lacking essential relational tools! In 2006, I dove into what became a deep exploration into the practical application of biblical relational wisdom. Over the course of 4 years, the Lord transformed much of my thinking and marital navigation. I became hooked on transformation because I finally had hope enter the relational equation. I had more peace and less feeling of having to “control things”. I knew then that I wanted to help people transform their lives and relationships as I was making great strides towards true peace and healthy function.

At the same time, I also realized most people in crisis, from a practical stance, want solutions now and don’t want to invest 4 years into bible study to get there. I thought, read, prayed, and searched out what my path was to help. I read every book I could get my hands on. In 2014, I studied coaching with the Martha Beck Institute. Seeing other approaches to coaching and wanting every tool I could gather in my toolbox, I followed that coaching program with a year of training with Robbins-Madanes Training. Sprinkled throughout the years before and after both formal coaching schools, I took training in Denver to study some energy work techniques with the specific purpose of serving people who had experienced trauma. I am constantly adding arrows to my coaching quiver so I can bring functional, compassionate solutions to my clients. I believe my mission in life is to come alongside clients with compassion and whole-truth coaching to help people identify and release their limiting patterns moving into healthy, peaceful, truthful, fulfilling lives and relationships.

So now we get to my why.  Why coaching? Simply put, once we know – we can’t un-know what we know. Thought precedes emotion and emotion precedes behavior. If we have dysfunctional behavior, we need to examine the thoughts that are at the root but not necessarily within our awareness. I simply look at thoughts, emotions, and behavioral patterns. I don’t diagnose or label. I encourage my clients to focus forward. There is a reason that the rear-view mirror is so small in a vehicle. We don’t need to spend a ton of time looking backward (not that it’s completely irrelevant). We just don’t need to camp there for a long time. Why coaching? Because when I see the lightbulb go on for a client and they are set free from a toxic thinking pattern that is allowing them to stay stuck or weighed down – their life will be forever changed.   Add to that, when they think differently, they will change how they navigate life, establishing healthy patterns that can positively influence (not control) everyone around them: their spouse, their kids, grandkids, literally changing the legacy of their family. They will vastly increase their quality of life, marriage, and parenting and have peace in storms that inevitably visit their shores whether sooner or later. I know because I have experienced the storms and the change, and, while I am FAR from perfect, I am not where I was… and the fact that I get to be part of the change in people’s lives is so fulfilling and such a privilege. I pinch myself every day that I get to do this.

People ask me about preparing for retirement. My hope is that I will never retire because I pray I never have to!