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Using the Labyrinth for coaching and personal development


Labyrinths are used in corporate contexts, as well as in one-to-one development exercises with clients.

Coaching concerns supporting individuals to find "answers from within", working on the principle that we each have the ability to draw upon knowledge or wisdom that is within us, or accessible to us. A coach's role is to listen, question, and help reflect back what an individual is bringing to the surface-not to direct or influence with opinions of their own. It is therefore consistent with the inspiration that often comes when walking a labyrinth, which may also involve bringing insight and knowledge to the surface from the unconscious. As someone who does not directly tell or teach a client of coaching, a coach's role can also fit well with that of a labyrinth host.

Possible approaches for using a labyrinth for coaching and personal development

 Holding open a question, exploring, or setting intention for personal development and discovery.

 Using the turns of a labyrinth to approach different questions and reflections. Allowing individuals to step off the labyrinth's path if they wish, to stay with a particular thought that is emerging, or to explore secondary topics that might come up for them.

 Seeing the centre of the labyrinth as a point where a desired goal will be achieved. Using the path to it as a means of envisioning and developing a way of reaching that goal. Typically, this may involve the coach asking questions and offering prompts as these are suggested by what the individual walking the path is describing to them. The labyrinth's outward path might be used as a means for them to set their mind upon tasks or resolutions that they will put into practice, having seen how their goal might be achieved. This staged approach aligns closely with the familiar "GROW" coaching model that was developed in the 1980's by business coaches Graham Alexander, Alan Fine, and Sir John Whitmore. (GROW stands for GOAL, current REALITY, OPTIONS and OBSTACLES, and WILL or WAY forward).

The coach of an individual who is walking the labyrinth normally stands outside the labyrinth, as would typically a labyrinth host. The coach may sense that it is occasionally appropriate to position themselves on the labyrinth to help illustrate or support a prompt that is being put to the individual walking. For example, if the coach says something such as "Imagine that you have all the help that you need to overcome the obstacle that you believe stands in your way, how will this help you?", the coach might temporarily walk behind the walker, outstretching their hands as though to indicate the idea of support, and to help enhance the walker's process of visioning.

Potentially, more than one person may walk a labyrinth at one time, and be coached as a pair or small group. For example, if the focus is on how to resolve a difference between two people who are being presented with the same questions, and sharing their reflections

As with any labyrinth walk, entering into the labyrinth and leaving it can be suggested as an act of passing over a threshold. The labyrinth can then be proposed as a space for safe and focused reflection on the matter in hand, encouraging the individual to offer their thoughts spontaneously, drawing on intuition as much as analysing what might come to their mind.

Points to consider

 If the labyrinth is only introduced as a "goal setting" or "problem-solving" tool, its wider role and power can be minimised. Individuals may not appreciate its role outside of a corporate or personal development context, and this could be very limiting in terms of their interest to engage with the labyrinth in other situations. It is therefore important for a coach to set the context for the exercise, by explaining that a labyrinth is here only being used for a very specific purpose, and to mention its wider use.

 A coach must themselves experience walking the labyrinth, if they are to properly appreciate its power.

 Coaching tends to encourage individuals to work toward a goal focus. Labyrinth experiences are generally much more free-flowing, if sometimes about having intention, holding open a question, or coming to a point of discovery or arrival. Coaches might then want to be wary of over emphasising a very structured way to walk a labyrinth, allowing for free-form discovery and spontaneity. Trained coaches should be well skilled for this role.

Further information

Internet sources

The GROW Model of Coaching and Mentoring (video and notes)


Coaching for Performance, Sir John Whitmore, published by Nicholas Brealey

The Inner Game of Tennis, W. Timothy Gallwey, published by Random House

The Complete Guide to Managing People, Clive Johnson, published by Proactive Press

Managing Coaching at Work, Jackie Keddy and Clive Johnson, published by Kogan Page

Help contribute to this page

Please help us to add to or improve this section with your suggestions, references, and shared experiences that might be useful to others. Contact us at with any suggestions that you may have. Thank you.

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