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Effective Signposting as a Coach

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May 15, 2024
CEO, Founder & Executive Coach
4 min read
As a coach, foster a supportive environment by recognising mental health issues, promoting open communication, and guiding clients to professional help.

Effective Signposting as a Coach

One of your primary responsibilities as a coach is to foster a supportive and empowering environment for your clients. While focusing on learning, development and performance is paramount, recognising and appropriately responding to mental health issues is equally critical.

Effective signposting can serve as a vital tool in helping individuals access the mental health support they need. This article provides a detailed guide on how to signpost a mental health issue effectively as a coach.

Understanding Signposting

Signposting involves recognising mental health concerns and directing individuals to appropriate professional resources or support services. It does not mean diagnosing or treating the issue yourself; instead, it focuses on being a pivotal link between the individual and the help they require.

Recognising the Signs

The first step in effective signposting is recognizing the signs of mental health issues. These signs can often be subtle and vary widely, but some common indicators include:

  • Changes in Behavior or Mood: Look for significant changes in an individual's mood, such as increased irritability, sadness, or withdrawal from social interactions.
  • Alteration in Performance: A sudden drop in performance, lack of concentration, or diminished interest in practice could be signs of underlying issues.
  • Physical Symptoms: Frequent complaints about feeling tired, having headaches, or other physical ailments without a clear cause might indicate mental distress.
  • Increased Absenteeism: Missing multiple practices or sessions without a clear reason can also be a red flag.

Creating an Open Environment

Before you can effectively signpost, it’s crucial to create an environment where mental health can be openly discussed.

This involves:

  • Educating Yourself: Understand the basics of mental health issues and familiarise yourself with common terms and conditions. Training in mental health first aid can be highly beneficial.
  • Promoting Open Communication: Encourage discussions about mental health just as you would physical health. Make it clear that mental health is a priority for your team or organisation.
  • Being Approachable: Ensure that your athletes or clients see you as approachable and compassionate. Regular check-ins can help build trust and encourage openness.

Approaching the Conversation

When you notice signs that concern you, it’s important to approach the conversation with sensitivity:

  • Choose the Right Time and Place: Find a private and quiet place to talk, ensuring there is enough time for an unhurried discussion.
  • Express Your Concerns Gently: Start by expressing your observations and concerns. Use specific examples and speak from a place of empathy.
  • Listen Actively: Give them space to share their feelings and thoughts without judgment. Active listening can provide further insight into their experiences.

Signposting to Professional Help

Once you’ve initiated the conversation and assessed the need for further support, the next step is to guide them towards professional help:

  • Provide Information on Resources: Have a list of mental health resources such as therapists, counselling services, or crisis helplines. Websites and local health service providers are also good sources.
  • Encourage Them to Seek Help: Sometimes, individuals may be reluctant or unsure about seeking professional help. Encourage them gently, emphasising the importance of their well-being.
  • Follow-up: After your initial conversation and signposting, check in to see if they have contacted the recommended services. Your ongoing support can make a significant difference.

Handling Emergency Situations

In situations where there is a risk of harm to themselves or others, immediate action is required:

  • Know Emergency Protocols: Familiarise yourself with the emergency procedures of your organisation or locality. Know when and how to contact emergency services.
  • Stay with the Individual: If the situation is acute, stay with the person until professional help arrives. Ensure their safety and provide reassurance.

Continuous Learning and Improvement

Effective signposting is an ongoing learning process. Regular training and updates on mental health issues can enhance your skills and understanding.

Feedback from mental health professionals and your own experiences can also inform improvements in your approach.


As a coach, your role in recognising and responding to mental health issues is crucial. By effectively signposting, you can make a profound difference in the lives of those you guide.

Remember, the aim is not to become a mental health professional but to connect your clients with the support they need, reinforcing the message that their mental well-being is as important as their physical health.