5 Coaching Tools to Avoid for Aphantasic Clients

anauralia aphantasia aphantasia academy aphantasia awareness aphantasia coach coaching techniques coaching tips inner world coaching neurodivergent coaching sdam Mar 17, 2023
Aphantasia Academy founder Sassy Smith writes about 5 coaching techniques not to use with people who have aphantasia

Coaching is a powerful tool that can help individuals achieve their goals and reach their full potential. However, traditional coaching techniques may not work for everyone, particularly those with Aphantasia, SDAM and Anauralia.

Aphantasia is a condition in which a person is unable to visualise mental images and affects 3.9-5% of the population.  Whilst people with Aphantasia do have the ability to imagine things, these imaginings are formed of words and don’t contain any images.

SDAM (Severely Deficient Autobiographical Memory) is a memory disorder which affects approximately 2% of the population and is often associated with Aphantasia.  People with SDAM are unable to recall past memories of events in their lives.  Whilst not everyone with Aphantasia also has SDAM, it’s reported that most people with SDAM do have Aphantasia.

Anauralia is often linked with Aphantasia and is sometimes called the Silent Mind.  People with Anauralia have no inner monologue and may not be able to recall any sounds, or hear their own voices, in their heads. 

These conditions can make certain coaching techniques ineffective and frustrating for people with these conditions.

In this blog, we will explore some of the traditional coaching techniques that may not work and the questions and tools to avoid using.

1. Visualisation Techniques

Visualisation techniques are often used in coaching to help individuals picture themselves achieving their goals. It can be used to inspire, motivate, clarify and encourage clients but is not a tool which should be used for people with Aphantasia.  Asking them to imagine a specific scenario or to see themselves in a certain way will not work for them and can prove frustrating.

Questions & statements to avoid: "Can you see yourself achieving your goals?" or "What does success look like to you?" “Where do you see yourself in 5 years”  “Picture yourself taking action every day”

2. Inner Voice Techniques

Another common coaching technique involves asking people to listen to their inner voice and identify their thoughts and emotions. However, for people with Anauralia, they may not be able to hear their inner voice and they may have a weak connection with their emotions.

Coaches are often taught that it is our thoughts which produce our emotions, and our emotions which drive our actions.  In order to change our actions we need to change the thought, but that’s not an easy thing to do when you can’t hear the thought in the first place.

Questions & statements to avoid: "What does your inner voice tell you?" or "What were you thinking at that exact moment” “What were you saying to yourself” “What does your inner critic sound like?”

3. Mindfulness Techniques

This is an interesting one because, by default, people with Aphantasia and Anauralia are by default more in the moment that those who can hear their thoughts and visualise.  As a result, mindfulness techniques in and of themselves are usually easy for them to pick up.  However, using mindfulness as a technique to becoming aware of your thoughts and feelings, can prove challenging.

Questions & statements to avoid: "Visualise yourself in a peaceful setting" or "Listen to your breathing and focus on the sensations." “Focus on your breathing but also pay attention to the thoughts which pass through your mind”

4. Analogies and Metaphors

Analogies and metaphors are often used in coaching to help individuals understand complex concepts. However, for people with aphantasia, these techniques may not work as they cannot visualise the metaphor or analogy.  Having said that, people with Aphantasia have a strong connection to the left hemisphere of their brain and may be able to get some benefits from analogies if they are able to use their words to create an imagined metaphor.

It is best to avoid using these unless your client is already speaking in metaphors and/or has said that they are comfortable using this technique.

Questions or statements to avoid: "Imagine yourself as a bird soaring high above the clouds" or "Picture yourself as a ship sailing on the sea."

 5. Learning from the past

Past learning is often used to help people to recognise patterns of behaviour which has led to them either achieving or failing to achieve life goals.  It is a useful technique for reflection and to identify and plan new actions, behaviours and habits but is not always a useful tool for people who have SDAM.  This is because people who have this condition may not be able to easily recall past events in their lives which would provide this insight.

Questions or statements to avoid: "Can you think of a time when you did achieve a challenging goal?" or "When was the last time you felt powerful and in control and what was happening at that time?”

In conclusion, coaching techniques that involve visualisation, inner voice, mindfulness, analogies and metaphors, and past learning may not work for people with limited access to their inner world. It is important for coaches to understand these conditions and tailor their techniques to the individual's needs. With the right approach, coaching can still be an effective tool for people with these conditions to achieve their goals and reach their full potential.

Want to find out how well you are able to adapt your techniques to work with clients with little access to their inner worlds?  Sign up and take my quiz here.