WOW Blog

Use a picture. It’s worth a thousand words.” ~ Arthur Brisbane, 1911

Recently, on a cold, rainy spring afternoon, I curled up on the couch with a warm cup of homemade chicken soup, a thick slice of homemade bread, and a 2014 movie, “Words and Pictures” – an intriguing title, I thought. The soup and bread were comforting on that chilly afternoon, and I found the movie to be thought provoking. The movie focused on a rivalry between two teachers; the rivalry ended in a debate about which more accurately conveyed meaning – words or pictures? I value both as wonderfully descriptive forms of communication; however, I began to wonder, “How do pictures fit into coaching?” 

Coaching sessions traditionally involve the use of many words, spoken and unspoken; the coach formulates powerful questions for the client, using well chosen, explanatory, appropriate, and respectful words. The client phrases goals, concerns, questions, and thoughts in words that are familiar and comfortable to them in order to convey emotions, ideas, questions, and feelings to the coach. Words are available in the spoken and written form – what a reliable way to communicate with others!

Pictures, however, are coaching tools which are available in many forms. Pictures can be photographs, drawings, memories, dreams or visions. In viewing coaching tools from Jean Gebser’s five Structures of Consciousness perspective (Bark, p. 130), pictures can be incorporated into each structure as coaching tools. 

Concrete and visible, photographs and drawings serve as wonderful coaching tools in the Mental Structure of Consciousness. For example, a client may use a printed copy of a 1 – 10 scale and run their finger along the line to identify a number at which an option feels comfortable for them. A pie chart can be a useful visual to reveal the percentage of time a client is devoting to a specific activity. A wellness wheel, can be a visual reflection of areas in life where a client is in need of increasing or decreasing time spent. 

In the Mythical Structure of Consciousness, story is a useful coaching tool; what better way to capture the message or enhance and explain the words of the story, than by incorporating a picture? The picture could be a photograph from a magazine, a drawing that a client has created, or a photograph taken by a client. Imagery, another tool in the Mythical Structure of Consciousness, has been described as, “An interface between body, mind, and spirit… Like a midwife, assisting the birth of conscious expression from the depths of inner experience.” (Achterberg, et. al, p. 36)

The Archaic Structure of Consciousness, considered the earliest structure (Bark, p. 131), includes the coaching tools of meditation and contemplation. Meditation on a religious icon or contemplation of a drawing, can often invite a client to welcome unexpected thoughts that lead a client toward attainment of self-identified goals.

From the Intuitive Structure of Consciousness, spending time in nature or surrounding oneself with photographs of nature scenes, plants, or animals can provide a client with a connection to their roots or provide a sense of peace and serenity. (Bark, p. 131)

The movie, “Words and Pictures” ended with valid arguments being presented for both words and pictures conveying meaning accurately. The symbiotic relationship between words and pictures allows both to carry equal weight as effective coaching tools. How do you incorporate pictures into coaching? 

Diane Shaver, RN, MSN, NC-BC, is a Registered Nurse and graduate of the Wisdom of the Whole Coaching Academy. Diane has over 35 years experience caring for adults and children in acute care hospitals and community health settings focusing on patient education, health promotion, and holistic nursing.


Linda Bark. The Wisdom of the Whole: Coaching for Joy, Health, and Success. Create Space Independent Publishing Platform, 2011: 130, 131.Jean Achterberg, Barbara Dossey, Leslie Kolkmeier. Rituals of Healing Using Imagery for Health and Wellness. Bantam Books, 1994: 36


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