Coaching insights #4 How to coach clients stuck in fantasy


Fantasy – we all do it don’t we? Dream, imagine, fantasise, taking ourselves away from our reality, and for a moment in time transporting ourselves to another place, another world, another experience.

Gazing into thin air, watching coffee swirl in an endlessly stirred mug or drifting deeply into a novel, we all have our favourite, innocent forms of escape.

For some people imagination is their art or even their science. They make their livings and fulfil their purpose by dreaming up creations bigger than most could ever imagine.

For others dreams are simply short lived, or even forbidden, as they fight their way through the daily reality of their lives.

Daring to dream a luxury they think they can ill-afford.

Then there are the dynamic fantasies, the ones created by our psyche which look real. A fantasy deceptively dressed up in truth’s clothing. These exist for many reasons, often intricately woven by us to protect us from feeling the pain of our reality, for example:

  • The man who stays in an affair and calls it love
  • The teenager who hangs out with troublesome kids and calls it friendship
  • The executive who secretly moves money around to balance the books and calls it business
  • The woman who lives with a man who doesn’t want her and calls it intimacy
  • The high flier with a drug habit who calls it reward

As a coach you meet all sorts of clients and are privileged to hear their secrets, fears, dreams and longings. The longer and more deeply you work with your clients the more of their unconscious story unfolds and over time this naturally includes their fantasies.

So how do you navigate this territory with your clients.  How do you best support and coach people who are caught in a fantasy?

It starts with being able to discern the fantasy.

How to recognise a client stuck in fantasy

  • Be mindful of incongruence in a client’s story
  • Listen for longings that are repeatedly not met by life
  • Hear declarations that are repeated over and over
  • Look out for client’s who find it hard to move on and accept what has happened
  • Watch out for client’s who fall fast into situations or who accelerate experiences beyond their natural pace

How to coach a client stuck in fantasy

  • The first thing to remember is that you can, and have lived in fantasy yourself

It might help to spend some time journalling all of the encounters you recall where you were distorting reality. This is important because it balances the dynamic between you and your client. I’m not encouraging you to share this with your clients, simply knowing you are capable of similar actions to them helps maintain your own humility.

  • Secondly it’s important not to attempt to move your client out of their fantasy

This might seem counter-intuitive, however your client has created this fantasy for a reason.  There will be upset associated with it that unconsciously they are trying to express.  If you crush the fantasy you remove the opportunity for this upset to be expressed and healing is prevented.

  • Thirdly your role is not to indulge the fantasy 

Instead the position you can take is maintaining the truth based on what your client has told you (not from your moral perspective of what you believe to be right or wrong!) This means highlighting discrepancies in their story, illuminating pain points and shining a light on your client’s reality so they can see it more clearly.

  • Finally let the unravelling take the time it takes

Don’t be in a hurry here.  These constructs have been created over time.  Your role is not to fix your client but to allow them to express their story at it’s rightful pace over time.

If you are an experienced coach interested in deepening your development I will be launching an advanced coaching course next month.  To get on the list for more information sign up here.

If you have any questions or comments please write them in the comments box below, I love to hear from you.

With love,


2 Responses to “Coaching insights #4 How to coach clients stuck in fantasy”

  1. j

    I just figured out a client has been telling me a narrative that isnt based in reality and this article has been so helpful for me to figure out how to approach the situation. Thank you!

    • Danielle Marchant

      Hello, so glad this was helpful for you – I hope you have been able to support your client in a new way that works for you both. Good luck!


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