This is part of an interview series with our certified Forward-Facing® coaches. In this series, we’ll take some time to get to know our coaches, how they found Forward-Facing® and how they’re using it in both the professional and personal lives. This post contains highlights from the interview. The whole interview is coming soon.
Michelle Holmes is a Forward-Facing® Coach, Certified Trauma Support Specialist, and Transformational Coach. She teaches high achieving individuals and teams how to unlock the wisdom of their nervous system so they can improve performance and put an end to self sacrifice, burnout, and anxiety. Her mission is to empower, educate, and lead others with the skills to show up as the best version of themselves, so they can use their unique gifts to create an impact in the world.
Thanks for taking some time to talk with me. Take a moment to introduce yourself.
So excited to be here.
I am a Health and Wellness coach, certified with Forward-Facing® and am a full-time coach. I do coaching, speaking, and some workshops. I work typically with people who consider themselves high achievers or high performers.
I love working with people who want to do big things, but also feel like they’re being held back by things that they’ve gone through and are on track for burnout, anxiety and self-sacrifice. I don’t want people to self-sacrifice their health and their vitality for their work and for the mission of just being a high performer.
What were you looking for when you found Forward-Facing®?
For me, I stumbled upon Forward-Facing®.
I didn’t even really know what I was searching for professionally because I’ve been coaching for awhile now and so I was always developing myself and my skills, but I came to a point where in my own life, I felt like I couldn’t get past certain trauma symptoms: PTSD flashbacks intruding and intrusive thoughts continually day after day from an event that happened in my mid-20s. I’m in my 30s now.
So I said to myself, “I need to figure out what I need to do so this isn’t a daily distressing thing that’s continually happening.”
How did you decide to become a coach with Forward-Facing®?
I discovered Eric through Udemy, actually, I had just taken one of his courses. I was in a place during the pandemic asking “what is the future going to look like for me? What am I going to do?”
I had thought about going back to school to study psychology or neuroscience. I was looking at a lot of different things, really wanting to enter this caring profession, for helping people. My background, the degree that I have under my belt already, is mechanical engineering. It’s very different in that field.
So I had discovered Forward-Facing® through helping myself and I fell in love with it. Learning it was self-motivated for me, but also to continue and gain some skills. I had a conversation with Eric and asked “Do I need to go back to school to be a counselor or a psychologist and he was like “You could be a coach.”
So many people had said that to me before. Therapists I worked with said, “Michelle you don’t have to go back to school to be a therapist, you could start coaching. I have a lady down the hall. She’s a coach. She’s doing things she absolutely loves without the 5 year waiting period of all the development of what it takes to be a counselor or psychologist.”
I asked Eric, “what do you recommend?”
And he was very humble about it and said, “we do have a program.”
What has been most helpful for you in the certification program?
The model of having intake tools and scope of practice was so supportive from Forward Facing®. Defining, “This is within your scope of practice as a coach with us. This is what you can do. This is who you can do it for.” Giving us a guide so that I don’t feel like I am out of my wheelhouse with someone was helpful.
As coaches, we are working in the mental health space and that is a very vulnerable place to be for a lot of individuals and for people that are coming to us for guidance, we want to make sure we’re giving them the right guidance and that we’re not outside of what we should be doing.
I’m also someone who loves knowledge and qualifications and feeling like “I’ve reached the milestone and someone has given me permission.”
How has it been for you navigating as a coach instead of a clinician?
In 2016, I actually had a blog. I did some coaching with that, but primarily I wanted to write to help people with anxiety. In my coaching career I’ve always had a heart for helping people with anxiety.
Social media was different then than it is now. If you were a coach you could make some big waves online. Right now there are so many people online. I had a lot of followers and a brand that was continuing to gain some momentum and traction and a psychologist had found me and left a comment on my blog and she scared me so much.
She said, “I’m reporting you. You should not even be saying the word anxiety in what you’re doing. You’re not qualified. You’re a coach, not a psychologist. Leave it to the people who know what they’re doing.”
That was some painful past learning for me. I said, “Oh my gosh. I don’t want to have legal trouble or a fight with these people who think I’m not qualified.”
Now I’d approach it very differently. I know what I can do and what I cannot do. But that was my first exposure to gatekeeping.
When Forward-Facing is this peer-to-peer model – you’ don’t have to be a therapist. I don’t want to live a student life again. How can I use the skills I’ve acquired so far in my career? How can I apply that in my career now without this 5 year gap?
What benefits do you find from coaching vs. the clinical model?
When I learned about peer-to-peer, that solidified for me the mission behind what Forward Facing® is doing and how they understand the importance of a safe presence with someone regardless of all of the “what have you learned in school?”
I have an engineering degree and what I learned about how to be a good engineer was not taught to me in school. I didn’t just come out of the gate knowing, “this is what you do and how you do it.” There was so much more knowledge for me and experience on the job.
What we do and what we’ve been through in the Health and Wellness certification program, I just loved all the support we got and the ability to know: I can have this safe presence as a coach doing good work with someone who maybe all they need is a coach.
Or maybe, like for me, all of the therapists I had been to I loved, but I had been in therapy for over a decade and still hadn’t made the progress I wanted to make or understood what is trauma, how is it affecting me and how do we unpack it?
I think the peer-to-peer model is so powerful for people to be able to utilize what they can bring to the table in the coaching relationship.
How has the difference between receiving coaching vs therapy affected your personal journey?
I have worked with therapists who are thrilled with who I am and how I show up. The therapists I’ve worked with say, “I wish all my clients were just like you.” But I felt like session after session it got to the point where my therapist would just agree with me. I wanted to be a bit more challenged and I didn’t want the focus to be on the external, but on the internal. I eventually came to my sessions and asked, “Please tell me what can I do? Where am I the problem? I can’t be not a part of this.”
I’ve been through things when I wasn’t the whole problem, but it’s a two way road and I think coaching has some really great things to contribute with being able to set goals that we’re continually checking in on.
How have you seen the peer-to-peer model work with your clients?
When you let someone know “I’m not giving you a diagnosis. I’m not a gate for knowledge, dishing it out when I see fit. When I tell my client this is a peer-to-peer relationship, I see their whole body relax a little bit.
That’s part of the work of creating this really secure relationship with this person. They have to feel comfortable with you.
What has been the most helpful idea for you from Forward-Facing®?
The most helpful perspective is that we can heal trauma in the present. That has been a revelation for me: the only opportunity that we have to do any work whatsoever is in the present. So we need to use that to its full potential if we can so that we don’t have to slog through the old memories.
One of the reasons why I found Forward-Facing® was because I felt like everybody else had the answers and I needed them to give me what the answer was and maybe I’d find that 8 years into therapy. Maybe we’d dissect my entire past and find out “This is it! This is the trauma!”
Now I know I don’t need insight to understand what happened to me. The pain I held from that really was experienced in the present.
Once I made the connection, I realized “Oh, that’s why I feel the whole body response when something reminds me of this.”
When I get a flashback, my whole circuitry lights up. I feel it in my stomach. I had years of chronic illness, and through Forward-Facing®, being able to relax in that and being able to stop the stress cycle where it was like, “you have a flashback that pops in your mind, and then it’s a spiral after that.” It’s a body-wide spiral cognitively with all this added perceived threat that it’s always going to be there, always going to disrupt you and rob you of your joy.
When I was able to use the present moment and connect, it was like “oh wow. So this is how healing happens. It’s not something behind this hidden door that you only get access to if you’ve reached a certain level. It’s simple. It’s not easy, but it is simple and the simplicity originally threw me.
The present moment, having the opportunity to work with our triggers in the present moment is incredible.
How has your learning with Forward-Facing® changed your life on a personal level?
I have a history of many different diagnoses and I was very ill for awhile and burned out and anxious with a panic disorder and OCD and all these different things. My way through all of that was pouring money into acupuncture, massage, therapy – my schedule was work and then paying someone to help me with my self-care. I thought “They have to save me.” I was spending so much money trying to get my wellness back.
I felt calm after acupuncture and then 30 minutes outside the office, I didn’t feel calm anymore.
As someone with chronic illness, I was completely disconnected from my body because my body was painful. My body was failing me in different regards and so I wasn’t connected. Every time I went to yoga, I would bawl my eyes out because of this body connection that would be this relief to me.
I wouldn’t trade my experience. There was a path I needed to take with that.
I love that we are able to utilize skills in real life. Not everyone has the resources. I was lucky that I was able to pay for all of the things I needed to get well – I paid 10k out of pocket.
But looking back now, we can do this every single day. We get to have the connection with ourselves. We get to grow in that so much.
What advice would you give someone who is new to Forward-Facing®?
Take it slow. There is no rush.
For me it was really helpful to continue reviewing the same concepts over and over. Every time you review the whole process and teach other people in coaching and practicum, you’re sharpening your sword. You’re getting better and better and deepening your understanding and you cannot rush that.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. There can be so much perceived threat around asking questions. You gain so much from getting the answers and getting additional support.
It takes practice and lived experience.
Emily Hedrick is Director of Operations and Innovation at Forward-Facing® Institute. One of her favorite things about Forward-Facing® is the people she has met through FFME, training programs, and other Forward-Facing interactions. She’s excited to bring this series to life and knows it won’t be much work because Forward-Facing® draws in amazing humans.
If you’re a certified Forward-Facing® coach and want to have a conversation, she’d love to hear from you. Send her an email: email@example.com