Heron and Helping

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John Heron has been one of the most active and insightful leaders in the world of helping and counselling, yet relatively few coaches and mentors have heard of him.

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‘I don’t know how to Handle my Boss’s Hostility toward me’

This is a typical problem that you may hear from a colleague or client and, if you want to help, there are a number of ways that you could do so.

“What you should do is …”

“Let’s look at some of the things you could do …”

“What behaviours seem hostile to you?”

“How do you feel about this?”

“What’s going on when your boss seems hostile?”

“No-one should feel hostility from their boss …”

These are six examples of a response you could give and, working originally with the medical profession, John Heron identified six categories of intervention in 1974, which are equally helpful to teachers, managers, advisers, counsellors, and consultants.

They help us to understand the relationships between counselling and coaching, or between coaching and mentoring.

Six Category Intervention Analysis

John Heron’s model of six different ways we can intervene to help first divides interventions into Authoritative and Facilitative Interventions.  These each have three styles of intervention within them.

Authoritative Interventions

These interventions are clearly led by the helper, who takes on some of the responsibility for the client.  Here, the helper will guide, raise awareness, and even give instruction or hold the client to account.

  1. Prescriptive
    Giving advice and direction to the client
  2. Informative
    Focusing on giving information the client information and ideas that will help them generate solutions
  3. Confronting
    Focusing on the problem and challenging the client in a supportive way

Facilitative Interventions

These interventions are ‘client-centred’ in the sense that the client must take complete responsibility for themselves and the direction of their support.

  1. Cathartic
    Focused on helping the client to gain insights into their emotional response by expressing their emotions
  2. Catalytic
    Helping the client to learn and solve problems for themself, drawing upon the client’s own resources
  3. Supportive
    Focused on the emotional and confidence needs of the client, by encouraging them and affirming their worth
The ancient Sumerian god Ningishzida, the patr...

Image via Wikipedia

The depiction of the Sumerian serpent god Ningizzida, the patron of medicine, dating from before 2000 BCE, gives us our modern Caduceus symbol for the healing arts and sciences.The god itself is the two (copulating) snakes entwined around an axial rod. It is accompanied by two gryphons.

Misleading Labels

The labels ‘authoritative’ and ‘facilitative’ are, perhaps, misleading.  Each of the six categories of intervention could be led in an authoritative ‘I will take control’ manner, or a facilitative ‘you tell me where to explore next’ manner. Indeed, in his later work, in ‘The Complete Facilitator’s Handbook’, Heron identified three modes of facilitation, which he called:

  1. Hierarchical
    Facilitator directs the process
  2. Co-operative
    Facilitator and client or group share responsibility for the process, the facilitator offering ideas and listening to suggestions to achieve a consensus
  3. Autonomous
    Client or group dictates the process

So here’s the deal

Why do we spend so much time worrying over precise definitions of coaching, mentoring, counselling, advising, consulting and the myriad of supportive help we offer one-another.  John Heron showed us at least three times six = eighteen different ways to help each other and there are doubtless many more.

Coming in future blogs will be insights into resolving conflict, coaching, and, later this week, mentoring.

Management Pocketbooks on these topics

And, in the Teachers’ Pocketbooks series:

And look out for The Cognitive Behavioural Coaching Pocketbook later this year.

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