The Art of Strengths Coaching

H is for Helping People To Move From Haemorrhaging To Healing and Hope  


There are many models for helping people to manage a crisis. One approach is to stop the haemorrhaging. It is then to move on to healing and hope.

This latter part is crucial. People often gain strength to recover if they can focus on realistic hope. They must also see a way, however, that will enable them to achieve their picture of success.

Sometimes this involves physical recovery – such as recovering from an accident or illness. Sometimes it involves psychological recovery – such recovering from a trauma, redundancy or other setback. Sometimes it involves both physical and psychological recovery.

Stopping the haemorrhaging can take many forms. Sometimes it means stopping the bleeding after an accident. Sometimes it means moving on from an abusive relationship. Sometimes it means spending time with positive people rather than being exposed to constant negativity.

Healing can take many forms. It can mean spending time in a physical or psychological sanctuary to heal the body and soul. This then provides strength to begin shaping your future.

Hope can take many forms. It may mean people seeing how they can regain their health, retake control or have a better quality of life. This feeling must be based on reality, however, and people given practical tools they can use to achieve their picture of success.

Looking at your own experience, can you think of a person or a group of people that has been helped to go through these stages? You may have known those involved or have heard about them.

It could be a person who has been helped to recover from a trauma or personal setback. It could be a group of people who have been helped to reshape their lives after experiencing redundancy. It could be a community that has recovered after a natural disaster, conflict or other event.

What help was the person or group of people given to stop the haemorrhaging? How did they go through the process of healing? How did they focus on realistic hope and work towards achieving their picture of success? What happened as a result?

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe a person or a group of people that was helped to stop the haemorrhaging and then move through the stages of healing and hope.  

Describe the specific things that happened that helped them to move through these stages. 

Describe the specific things that happened as a result of them going through these steps.




Different people help others to go through these stages in different ways. They may do this when working as a nurse, counsellor, crisis manager or in another role.

Many organisations also help people to go through these stages. Let’s explore one example. This is the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims. You can discover more at its website.

A person who is dealing with torture is often consumed by three kinds of pain. These are the remembrance of the past pain, the feeling of the present pain and the anticipation of the future pain.

Inge Genefke has devoted much of her life to helping such people. She is a Danish doctor who founded the ITCT in 1985. The organisation aims:

To rehabilitate people who have been tortured and to care for their families. 

To educate people in the treatment of torture victims. 

To contribute to the prevention of torture.  

Here is some background about Inge and the work of the IRCT. This is based on Thomas Larsen’s book The Meeting with Evil – Inge Genefke’s Fight Against Torture.

Dr Genefke became aware of the existence of torture while still a child during Germany’s occupation of Denmark in World War II.

With a father who was active in the Danish resistance movement there was a very real risk that torture would have a direct impact on her life.

Fortunately, that risk never materialised. But it had set a young girl on the path of remarkable journey. 

In 1974, after training as a neurologist, Dr Genefke, together with three fellow doctors, responded to a call by Amnesty International (AI) to help diagnose torture victims and produce forensic evidence that could help hold torturers to account in a court of law.

Forming AI’s first medical group focusing on the question of torture, the doctors began to see torture survivors who had fled the cruel regimes then in place in Latin America, notably Chile, Argentina and Uruguay, as well as in Greece. 

“After examining just the first 15 victims, we concluded they suffered horrible psychological sequelae. Of course we found physical sequelae.  

“But the worst sequelae were psychological: depression and anxiety, the inability to concentrate and the terrible guilt”, says Dr Genefke, who has personally provided direct treatment to hundreds of torture survivors.

In 1982 she founded one of the world’s first clinics specialised in torture rehabilitation, the Rehabilitation Centre for Torture Victims (now the Rehabilitation and Research Centre for Torture Victims).  

Three years later, she founded the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT).

Ever since she has worked incessantly and with fierce energy to garner support for the fight against torture, countless times addressing politicians and loudly criticising those in power in a wide-range of countries- democracies as well as dictatorships.

Commenting on the so-called “War on Terror” she has time and again refuted the notion that torture can be a safeguard against terrorism:

“Torture is not about extracting vital information to make the world a safer place, but rather to break the spirit of dissidents.

“It does not prevent terror; it creates terrorists. When you torture, you create violent hatred.

“If my father had been tortured by the Germans during their occupation I’m sure I would have become violent” says Dr Genefke. 

The key to her remarkable achievements and dedication lies in her insistence that indifference and ignorance are the greatest foes of a world without torture: 

“Often I am asked how I can stand being involved in this field.

“I also find it painful hearing about torture, but rather that than be left in ignorance. 

“With knowledge, I can fight it.”

The knowledge and attention that her work has helped create plays no small role in the fact that across the world there is an ever-growing number of citizens who refuse to turn their backs on the mention of torture, let alone on its victims and those working against torture.

The IRCT continues with its necessary work around the world. It keeps the human spirit alive and has drawn the following response from the Dalai Lama:

Your organisation is actually compassion implemented.

There are many ways to help a person to stop the haemorrhaging and then focus on healing and hope. Imagine, for example, that you are helping somebody to move on from a distressing experience.

The first step will be to help them to find a place where they feel safe. Filled with self-doubt, they may need time to heal their body and soul. You can then help them to spend time in a sanctuary, shape their future and achieve success. Let’s explore these steps.


People who suffer a setback often need to lick their wounds and begin to make sense of the experience. They need to spend time in a sanctuary.

Different people choose different kinds of sanctuaries. They may rest, sleep, write, listen to music, see a counsellor or whatever. People begin to heal and regain their strength.

Sanctuaries are great. But there comes a time when a person needs to move on, otherwise the muscles atrophy. They can then focus on what they can control and start shaping their future.

A person recovering from an abusive relationship, for example, can set short-term goals and get a success. They can spend time with people who are supportive rather than those who sap energy. Gaining in confidence, they can then take more steps towards shaping their future.

Looking ahead, can you think of a situation in which you may want to help a person or a group of people to take these steps? You may do this as a friend, counsellor, problem solver at work or in another role.

What can you do to stop the haemorrhaging? What can you do to help them to go through a period of healing and then focus on realistic hope? How can you help them to achieve their picture of success?

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe a specific situation in the future when you may want to help a person or a group of people to stop the haemorrhaging and then move through the stages of healing and hope.  

Describe the specific things that you can do to help them to move through these stages. 

Describe the specific things that may happen a result of them going through these stages.





    P is for People Who Live In A Positive Universe rather than A Negative Universe  


    People sometimes seem to live in different universes. Some people seem to be always positive, some to be always negative. Some veer between these extremes.

    There are several names for these different approaches to life. They may be called philosophies, attitudes, belief systems, mind-sets, mental models, paradigms or other names.

    During the past 50 years I have met many people who have chosen to live in a positive universe rather than a negative universe. They take the following steps towards encouraging other people during their time on the planet.

    They have a
    positive attitude

    Such people are positive realists rather than starry-eyed optimists. They choose to have a positive attitude towards life but are also good at reading reality. They then focus on what they can control and manage what they can’t.

    People make choices every moment. They can choose to be positive or negative, to take responsibility or avoid responsibility, to be creative or keep complaining. The choices they make have consequences, both for themselves and other people.


    People who stay positive do what they believe in. They may choose to do work that gives them positive energy, for example, rather than that which has the highest money or status. They then build on their strengths and follow the daily disciplines required to achieve success.

    Such people often gain strength by choosing to serve something that is greater than themselves. A person will aim to serve their loved ones and they may also choose:

    To serve a spiritual faith, a set of values or a philosophy

    To serve a purpose, a mission or a cause

    To serve a vocation, a creative drive or a project

    A person who serves something greater than themselves is more able to withstand outside pressures. They keep focusing on what they really value in life. When in doubt, they go back to their inner compass and ask:

    What are the principles I want to follow in life? How can I follow these principles, even during difficult times? How can I do my best to follow these principles during my time on the planet?

    Such people often do more than follow their chosen life principles. They also take the next step.

    They follow
    positive principles

    They study humanity at its best. They study what works, simplify what works – in a profound way – and share what works. They ask some of the following questions.

    When do people achieve success? When do they find positive solutions to challenges? When do they perform brilliantly? 

    What do people do right then? What are the principles they follow to perform brilliantly? 

    How can people follow similar principles – plus maybe add other skills – to perform brilliantly in the future? How can I help them to achieve success?  


    Such people often have positive eyes. When looking at individuals, for example, they ask some of the following questions.

    What are the person’s strengths? What are the activities in which they deliver As, rather than Bs or Cs? What are the things that give them positive energy? When are they in their element – at ease and yet able to excel? When do make complicated things appear simple? 

    When do they see the destination quickly? When do they go ‘A, B … and then leap to … Z’? What are the activities in which they quickly see patterns? Where do they have the equivalent of a photographic memory? When are they are calm, clear and deliver concrete results?  

    What is the person’s successful style of working? Looking back, what for them have been their most satisfying projects? What made each of these projects satisfying? Are there any recurring patterns that give clues to their successful style? How can they follow their successful style in the future?

    Such people also focus on when a team or organisation does fine work. They ask some of the following questions.

    When have people in the team or organisation performed brilliantly? What were people doing right then? What were the principles they were following? How can they follow these principles – plus maybe add other elements – to perform brilliantly in the future?

    Who are the positive people in the team or organisation? Where is the positive energy? How can we build on these assets? How can we build a positive culture that enables motivated people to achieve ongoing success? How can we enable people to do the basics and then add the brilliance?

    Many people now focus on the positive principles that individuals, teams and organisations can follow to reach their goals. Martin Seligman, for example, helped to give birth to the modern approach to positive psychology. His work led to creating the Positive Psychology Center at The University of Pennsylvania. The Center says:

    Positive Psychology is the scientific study of the strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive … It has three central concerns: positive emotions, positive individual traits, and positive institutions.

    Other researchers in the field include people such as Ed Diener, Robert Diswas-Diener, Christopher Peterson, Tal Ben-Shahar and Sonja Lyubomirsky. Senia Maymin, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Positive Psychology News Daily, writes:

    Positive Psychology studies what is right with people and how people live the good life.

    David Cooperrider and Diana Whitney took a similar approach when creating Appreciative Inquiry. This is a positive model for helping teams and organisations to develop.

    Different people apply AI in different ways. Whichever approach they use, however, they invite individuals, teams or organisations to build on their positive core.

    People clarify the particular area they want to explore. They are then invited:

    To clarify when they have performed brilliantly in this area in the past.

    To clarify the principles they followed then to perform brilliantly.

    To clarify how they can follow these principles – plus maybe add other elements – to perform brilliantly in the future.

    AI has been used by people in all walks of life to tackle challenges. People like the approach. It shows that they have already done what works. They simply have to do it more – plus maybe adding other elements – in the future.

    In the video below David Cooperrider gives real life examples of how AI can nurture entrepreneurship and create encouraging environments. He shows how it can help to create a sustainable and successful future for the human family.

    You can discover more about David’s work on his website. Here is the link.

    They help to build
    a positive planet

    Different people choose different ways to plant seeds of hope during their time on the planet. Some do this by simply being kind, encouraging and helping other people.

    Human beings are often at their best when they choose to be generous. As the Buddha said:

    A generous heart, kind speech and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity.

    Some people help others by demonstrating the qualities that are admired across many civilisations. Martin Seligman and Christopher Peterson wrote about these qualities in their book Character Strengths and Virtues.  

    They led a research team that studied the qualities of moral excellence that are admired across different philosophies, religions and cultures. After extensive research, the team settled on six key virtues, though these are obviously interlinked.

    Martin Seligman provides the following introduction. You can discover more via the following link.

    When we look we see that there are six virtues, which we find endorsed across cultures, and these break down into 24 strengths. 

    The six virtues that we find are non-arbitrary – first, a wisdom and knowledge cluster; second, a courage cluster; third, virtues like love and humanity; fourth, a justice cluster; fifth a temperance, moderation cluster; and sixth a spirituality, transcendence cluster. 

    We sent people up to northern Greenland, and down to the Masai, and are involved in a 70-nation study in which we look at the ubiquity of these. 

    Indeed, we’re beginning to have the view that those six virtues are just as much a part of human nature as walking on two feet are.



    Erik Erickson, the psychologist, said that people often reach what he called The Generative Age. He described this as:

    A concern for establishing and guiding the next generation.

    The most common form of taking this step is being a parent. But it can also be expressed through encouraging people, passing on knowledge or leaving a positive legacy. Here are some examples.

    A counsellor may help people to manage problems successfully … A nurse may help people to regain their health … An educator may provide tools that help students to shape their futures … A scientist may work to find a breakthrough cure. 

    A chef may make nurturing food that feeds the body and soul … A singer may uplift people with their songs … An architect may make beautiful buildings … An environmentalist may make TV films that encourage people to appreciate the beauty of the Earth.  

    A social entrepreneur may work to improve the quality of people’s lives … A lawyer may work for social justice … A trusted advisor may pass on knowledge that helps other people to succeed … A leader may build a positive culture that enables people to thrive.

    Let’s return to your own life and work. Imagine that you want to live in a positive universe rather than a negative universe.

    How can you continue to have a positive attitude yet also be good at reading reality? How can you follow positive principles that work? How can you encourage other people?

    If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

    Describe the specific things you can do to have a positive attitude – though also read reality – and encourage people during your time on the planet.  

    Describe the specific benefits – both for you and for other people – of taking these steps and encouraging people.





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