Life Coaching in Greece today.

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Fania Pallikarakis studied Communication, Organisational Psychology and Translation. She worked for many years as a Cultural Manager for European Organisations but also with young freelance artists from Greece, Belgium, Portugal and Sweden. Until recently she lived in Brussels but since last year she is based mostly in Thessaloniki. She is the person who can show us how to create simple solutions simply with Solution Focus.

Please, introduce yourself. Who is Fania Pallikarakis?

I was born in Belgium. For some inexplicable reason, I have gone through a double digit-number of relocations.
I love travelling (like everybody) and two great things I discovered recently are kitesurfing and playback theatre. What I would love to do at some point is to combine my work with contemporary dance and theatre and then travel the world doing something that I still (!) haven’t quite found out…

What is Solution Focus exactly?

It’s a very powerful tool that teaches us the way to make the best use of our thoughts, experiences and words in order to improve our quality of life. It’s a brief and simple process based on dialogue with a specialist, trained professional. It started as a research field on the borders of philosophy and psychology with elements of chaos theory, cybernetics and communication theory. Today, the essence of all this knowledge acquired, can be shared in a way that everybody understands.

Are we basically talking about life coaching services? Could you explain what life coaching is?

Coaching means that two people – the coach and the client – work together so that the client may clarify his goals and provoke changes on a personal (life coaching) or a professional (business coaching) level.

What’s the difference between life coaching and psychoanalysis? I have the impression that people tend to confuse these two notions.

Coaching is in no way a psychoanalytic or psychotherapeutic service. It doesn’t analyse the past or the feelings of the client. What it does is to offer the client practical tools that make it easier for him to plan the future and to take action. If we see psychoanalysis or psychotherapy as a way to find out how the past influenced who we are today, then coaching is a way to find out how – by being who we are today – we can influence the way things are tomorrow.

Has it ever happened to you that clients have confused these notions? What do you do in such a case?

I always take good care to explain the way I work. Despite this, there was this one client that insisted on describing his problem. I had to interrupt him. We only have 60 minutes. If we invest them in the problem, then when are we going to find the solution?

How did you decide to get into this field? What was the triggering event?

A few years ago I was without a regular job for some time. That was an unpleasant period of my life and I was trying to find the way out. That’s how I changed my professional direction, to discover that we can do things more simply. It’s easy but not necessarily obvious.
We are used to think in a complicated way. By taking this path, I try to share with others what I have learned. I was trained in Solution Focus by a leading professional in the field and I consider myself very lucky for this. Today I am an Associate Certified Coach by the International Coach Federation (ICF), the international organisation that supports the research, development and dissemination of coaching.

When you were a little girl, what did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was little, I wanted to become a writer. But I was told that writers die penniless and so I rejected this option. Then, I decided I wanted to become a psychologist and later on, a film director. In the end, I didn’t become any of that but I was left with a lot of material from these dreams I had. That’s what helps at the ups and downs, whether mine or those of my friends.

Does that mean that you have always been helping your friends?

They say that I help them to see things in a more positive way but what I think is that they just enjoy the fact that I can listen to them for hours. In the end, they all do what they want and that’s a positive thing in itself.

What is the profile of the people who come to you? What kind of issues are usually solved through life coaching?

The people I work with do not have a specific profile as to their age or profession. Their common characteristics are related to their personal qualities. They are independent, want to stand on their own two feet and want to take life in their hands.
Our partnership focuses on goals, solutions or changes that are important to them, may that be on the professional level (a new start, a better atmosphere at work) or on the personal level (a relationship, a decision such as whether to move abroad or not, a health issue that disturbs the usual balance). But it can also be about goals that are less clear such as how to put thoughts in order, understand what they want, stop feeling cramped.

What’s the process followed in order to reach the solution?

It’s as if you had to make a project plan only this time the project is about you, your ideas, your dreams, your life. You need clear and realistic answers to questions such as “What do I want to do from now on? What’s the best option for me? How will I get what I want? How will I feel pleased?”.
My role is to offer the right questions. I don’t interpret, give advice or appraise. And I am always impressed with the ideas that people invent in order to help themselves.
I was once working with a young man on smoking. He concluded that the best way for him to quit smoking was to increase it for a while. I doubt whether any professional would offer him such advice. But for him, that was the key to success.

What kind of solutions do Greeks look for today, in this time of crisis?

My impression is that most people are interested in strengthening the optimism they already feel. This might sound like a paradox but it seems that the climate of crisis creates a challenge for them to stick to their positive thinking. They want to know that – even through the toughest times – they will feel confident that they can make it. It’s like a personal bet that they will keep their mind clear and offer their best self to others who, just like them, are determined to progress despite any obstacles, by using whatever resources or abilities, however many or enough, they have at their disposal.

But people in our country seem to hesitate to ask for help, psychological or even practical, isn’t that true?

Yes, that’s true. The most common argument is that “my problem is complicated, I have tried everything, if I cannot solve it then nobody can”.
This might be true. However mankind has acquired sufficient knowledge to allow us to face even the most complicated situations. In this sense, I don’t see coaching as a kind of help but as a part of learning.
What’s also true is that people that choose to work on themselves are more than we know. But only a few stalk about. The others keep it as their little secret.

Have you ever faced this hesitation? How do you overcome this obstacle?

Of course I have and I think it’s reasonable. Only a few people know what coaching is and even fewer have tried it, with the exception of big company executives.
Most people in our country don’t know how they could benefit from it and that justifies their hesitation. There is a need for people to be informed and that – in a way – is also part of my job.

So are Greeks “ready” for this kind of service? Isn’t coaching seen as something pretentious and… “foreign”? Or even as a “luxury”?

I think that what someone deems a “luxury” is not the result but the process. I don’t think that there is anybody that would hesitate to make his life easier. But there are a lot of people who would hesitate to make the small investment in time and money that it requires. It’s weird. As far as being foreign is concerned that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
This is not a recommendation for a new lifestyle. It’s an invitation to learn something that is necessary today: how to find the way out and create more options for ourselves.

Interview for LIFO.GR by Alkistis Georgiou.

Published: 13/03/ 2014

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