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9 Failsafe Steps To Help Clients Beat Fears and Blocks

And why you don't fight their fears for them

Can you check under my bed for life coaches?

Fear manifests itself in many ways. From shaking in your boots, to running away screaming, to feeling like your heart just dropped into your guts. Fear can be an existential dread or a mounting terror and everything in between.

While it's unlikely that your client is going to go through a coaching session peeking behind their hands and under the safety of a blanket, every client experiences fear, especially the first timers.

Last week we discussed the reasons why people are afraid to hire coaches, now the CLCI live team with Lisa Finck (A.C.C.), Brooke Adair Walters (M.C.P.C.), Jerome LeDuff Jr. (M.C.L.C), and Anthony Lopez (M.C.P.C). investigate the fear clients have in a coaching session, how fear leads to blocks, what blocks to look out for, and how to overcome the blocks.

By the end of this article you should be prepared to help alleviate some of the fears your clients face and know how to leave the hard work for the client. And maybe even discover how fear can sometimes be okay.

Why are Clients Afraid?

Never introduce yourself to clients by yelling BOO!

We all know what fear looks like and feels like, but not many people can articulate why we fear, especially in the context of something as benign as a coaching session.

The fear responses vary but mainly fall under three categories:

  1. Flee

  2. Fight

  3. Freeze

We will give all our readers then benefit of the doubt and assume they aren't physically threatening their clients. But now we are left with the trickier aspect, the perceived psychological dangers.

Previously we talked about triggers and how our triggers are a fear response to past trauma. But, as coaches, we don't address or try to fix the past. The fears that most clients deal with exist in the present or in the future.

The most common psychological fears a client will wrestle with are:

  1. Fear of change (or the process)

  2. Fear of success/failure (or the results)

  3. Fear of the unknown

Alright, so we know clients are afraid and we know how people react when they are afraid. What does this look like in a coaching session?

How a Client's Fears Manifest

Have you tried knocking?

One surefire way we can gage if a client is feeling fear is if it manifests as a block.

Blocks are the limiting beliefs and behaviors that actively inhibit a clients growth and are the ways we self sabotage.

A client can be both actively aware of a block or completely unaware.

They may want to actively work on fixing the block or they may want to completely avoid the issue.

There is one very important takeaway we need to discuss before we go further with blocks,


It can be incredibly seductive to derail a coaching session to become hyper-focused on a client's blocks. Things may be going smoothly in a session where goals are being set and addressed then BAM! a block shows up.

It can be appropriate to address the block but do not let it become the focus of a session and do not let it become your goal. Keep your eye on the prize and always relate that block to a client's goal for coaching.

This will make more sense when we talk about blocks.

Examples of Blocks


Your client's fear manifests itself as avoidance and a tendency to flee.

This may happen for several reasons, here reasons some examples:

  • They may not be ready for change

  • The idea of change may seem difficult or overwhelming

  • They could be afraid their efforts may amount to nothing, so why try in the first place.

  • They may also not be emotionally attached to the goal, the reward so they aren't motivated to get the ball rolling.

How you can address expressed/implied procrastination is by having a conversation about accountability.


Client: "I've been wanting to do this for some time, but it keeps slipping my mind and other things get in the way."

Coach: "What can you do to prevent it from slipping your mind or allowing other things to get in your way?"

Client: "I can hold myself accountable and make a commitment to do so."

Coach: "How do you hold yourself accountable?"

Client: "I know, you can call me everyday and ask if I did it"

Coach: "Is that you building accountability or me building accountability?"

Client: "...You...hmmmmm.... I could set an alarm for when I need to do this and ask my wife to keep me accountable"

If you notice, the coach didn't even ask why this client was procrastinating. Why they were was not important and it only becomes important if the client think it is.

The coach in this scenario kept the goal in mind and blew right past that block. What was once a block became a minor speedbump.

The coach could use why in this situation if there was a need to attach the client to the goal emotionally. To learn more about how to and when to do that check out the link here.

Learned Helplessness

A mixture of a fear of change, failure, and success. Learned helplessness is a response to having to take responsibility for your own actions, successes, and failures.

A client may feel a passivity or powerlessness, avoiding the fear by appealing to systems they've let define them, such as their family, community, culture, tradition, profession, or institution.

You may hear things like:

"I can't do that, what would my family think?"

"My current job wouldn't allow that."

"It's not possible if I don't have _________."1

In every situation, learned helplessness shifts the burden of responsibility to another party. A party that is not part of the coaching relationship.

The way to handle this is to ask the client to focus on their goal. What do they want and what they will do to get it. They may try to avoid taking this on and fear what it could mean, but don't let them stray off topic for too long. Those other people and systems are not your client.

Help them to explore other paths to the same goal and assist them in discovering new possibilities.

Limiting Beliefs

These thoughts help ease the fear of the unknown and make the client's world smaller and smaller until it's bite-sized and easy to handle. They essentially limit what is possible at the cost of a client not achieving their goals or moving forward.

Imagine you walk into a fully stocked jewelry store. Everything in it is top of the line, but you can only choose 1 item, you do have as long as you want to choose it however, I mean as long as you are alive at least. How would you decide what to take and how long could it take you to choose. This could quickly lead to paralysis by analysis (see the procrastination block), and for those who didn't stop dead in their tracks we would start to eliminate items. That necklace is too fancy for me. I am a woman I couldn't wear a men's watch. I am single I have no use for a wedding ring.

In this example these are perfectly reasonable ways to eliminate items to come to a decision of one. But in life we often eliminate opportunity the same way.

Here's a few examples of limiting beliefs:

  • "I want to go back to school and change careers, but I'm too old"

  • "I want to be an actor, but I have no talent"

  • "I want to be a life coach, but I don't know how to run a business" (we teach that)

  • "I want to write that book, but no one will read it"

  • "I want to leave my relationship, but I'm not attractive or interesting enough to be single"

As coaches, using powerful questions we can make our client's beliefs more limitless rather than limiting. When you encounter a limiting beliefs, here's some questions you can ask:

  • Is that true? Yes or No?

  • Can you 100% know if that is absolutely true in every scenario?/Is that always true?

  • Can you think of a time where that's not true?

  • Do you want it to be true?

  • What would you rather be true?

Removing Blocks and Alleviating Fear

Maybe not all fear. A little bit can be fear of heights.

Overcoming fear and the blocks they bring requires two ingredients for you and the client: patience & time. If it is something your client wants to work on, it requires changing both external situations and their internal beliefs about themselves.

Fear is a subtle thing, because the feeling is so interconnected with our deep seated beliefs about our worth, abilities, and identity. Rocking the boat too much can be seen as a danger to our ego; the response to danger being fear; fear's manifestation? Blocks.

There are many methods to work through a block, but very few for blocks that are inhibiting the coaching session.

Why do we say inhibiting? Because in the above examples, the blocks were more akin to speed bumps or small debris, easily moved past, and are merely distractions to the goal. Blocks become problems when they stop a client in their tracks.

From here it is important to let your client know a little fear and trepidation is completely normal and that it does serve them, just not in the way they intend.

Here are 9 Failsafe Steps To Help Clients Beat Fears and Blocks

  1. Identify the block and where it came from.

  2. Ask the client how the block is serving them. What does this fear response do for them?

  3. Listen with empathy and understanding.

  4. Acknowledge that it may take time, but beliefs can be changed, nothing is set in stone.

  5. Use active listening to really hear your client and what they are trying to say.

  6. Use open-ended questions to determine what are the payoffs for hanging on to these blocks and beliefs.

  7. Allow them to fully empty out their thoughts and feelings.

  8. Ask about creating an action and accountability plan moving forward for when blocks arise,

  9. Rinse and Repeat as needed, always with kindness, candor, compassion and curiosity.

Defeating a block requires the coach to give the clients space and time to approach the problem from their world, not yours. As the client articulates the fear and the block, you will find that they often generate ways to eliminate the fear on their own. With time, these big enormous blocks become smaller and smaller, until they are something easily managed and readily disposed of.


Thank you,

Lisa Finck, Brooke Adair Walters, Jerome LeDuff Jr, and Anthony Lopez!

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