To become an effective life coach or counsellor, it’s important to value the power of each of our emotions. According to experts in the field, including Rhodes Wellness College instructor and professional counsellor Greg Gurel, an understanding of ‘emotional maturity’ is beneficial to client and counsellor alike.
If you’re considering a counselling or coaching profession, you’re likely to encounter concepts of emotional maturity throughout your training and career. To get you started on the right foot, Greg Gurel offers his insights on why emotional maturity is so central to wellness, and how it can be achieved.
Learning the Meaning of Emotional Maturity
Emotional maturity is often mentioned alongside the concept of emotional intelligence, or “EQ.” The International Coach Federation defines EQ as one’s ability to “perceive, distinguish, and understand emotions in themselves.” (ICF, 2016)
Emotional maturity takes this idea further—offering not only the ability to recognize one’s own emotions, but also to access them in an empowering way. In Gurel’s words: “It’s my ability to access the full range of my emotions by choice.” (Gurel, 2016)
To be emotionally mature is to acknowledge an emotion as it arises, and act accordingly. For example, one way students in life skills training at Rhodes College practice this skill is within classroom “relationship experiments”—where each student is challenged to form meaningful connections with a member of the class. (Gurel, 2016)
When meeting and being vulnerable with someone new, students can experience emotional responses and assumptions about their classmates and themselves. When these feelings come to the surface, the students are given the space to acknowledge where their emotions are coming from, decide whether they are useful or appropriate, and either work through them or let them go. This ability to engage positively with your feelings is what emotional maturity is all about.
Mindfulness: Key to Emotional Maturity in Life Skills Training and Beyond
“Emotions themselves reside in our physical body,” says Gurel. “They’re not in our heads. So in order to access my emotions, I need to be grounded in my body.” (Gurel, 2016)
Practicing mindfulness, or awareness of being ‘in the moment,’ is therefore an essential part of achieving emotional maturity. Instead of suppressing or ignoring an emotional response, mindfulness involves taking a moment to centre ourselves in our bodies and think about the emotions we are experiencing and why. By staying open to our emotions from moment to moment, feeling them as they come, and letting them go, we become better equipped to handle even the strongest of emotions in healthy ways.
“Emotions have a 90 second life when they’re just given freedom and let be,” Gurel explains. “90 seconds of hurt. What’s the big deal? If I hang onto it, I could hang onto it for a lifetime.” (Gurel, 2016)
Addressing Emotional Roadblocks: Applying Emotional Maturity to Coaching and Counselling
Counsellors like Gurel are very familiar with the results of holding onto unexpressed emotions, which he refers to as “blocks” or “stoppers.” If you become a life skills coach or counsellor, a substantial part of your work may involve unpacking clients’ emotional blocks. (Gurel, 2016)
“When someone is stuck in their life, for whatever reason that is, there’s probably going to be some emotions that don’t come forward. There’s something about their emotional being that’s not flowing freely,” Gurel explains. “So part of the process of counselling is to say: ok, let’s return back to your roots and where you’re coming from, and let’s get a voice for those emotions that didn’t get fully expressed. Then once we’re moving on that path, let’s look forward, let’s keep it flowing, let’s not stuff them again.” (Gurel, 2016)
Addressing Fear in an Atmosphere of Safety While You Train to Become a Life Skills Coach
Through emotional maturity, clients can develop healthy relationships with their own emotions, and learn to maintain a sense of control in their lives. Being emotionally mature involves addressing what Gurel calls “the whole palette” of emotions, but he believes that fear is one that stands out. (Gurel, 2016)
“Our brains are really, really wired to pick up on fear,” he explains. At Rhodes, instructors like Gurel work hard to facilitate a safe space where people can feel their fear and proceed along anyways. (Gurel, 2016)
They create supportive atmospheres by making each individual’s physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing a top priority. People from all walks of life can trust that they are free to express their emotions in these spaces without feeling judged or harmed.
“It’s that idea of creating this atmosphere of safety: a place to say you know what, we’re here to experiment and learn. Just give it a go, see what happens,” he explains. “Step in gently, and here we go.” (Gurel, 2016)
Are you ready to take your first steps toward becoming a counsellor or life skills coach in Vancouver?
Rhodes Wellness College can help you on your way.
International Coaching Federation. (2016). How to Coach with Positive Psychology and Emotional
Intelligence. Retrieved from https://coachfederation.org/blog/index.php/2336/
Walsh, L. (Interviewer) and Gurel, G. (Interviewee). (2016). September 15, Phone Interview [Interview