Tied up in knots? Does knitting therapy bind the coach-client relationship?

When I first heard of coaching sessions, where both coach and client talk as they knit, my first thought was someone was trying to pull the wool over my eyes. There’s enough clack clack going on in many coaching conversations as it is. However, a recent paper from the Serbian Institute of Applied Coaching Psychology provides a rationale for shared creative activity of this kind. The authors claim, on the basis of experiments with 32 coaching pairs over a two-year period that finding a common interest, which can be expressed during the coaching sessions without diverting attention from the topic of conversation, enhances relationship quality in a number of ways:

  • it provides a point of common purpose that binds people together. The authors point out that most of the participants were newcomers to knitting, but enjoyed the act of learning together. After some hesitation, even senior male executives found that they had discovered a therapeutic activity they could apply more widely. One reportedly introduced group knitting for his regular weekly team meetings!
  • It creates a rhythm for the learning dialogue, speeding up and slowing down with the pace of the conversation
  • It offers a metaphor for making progress. When summarising the coaching conversation, coach and client are also able to show how much they have achieved in the object they are knitting. And they can share the satisfaction of a complete knit. 
  • It’s an antidote to being overly serious. Coach and client can end up in stitches!

I have to admit being somewhat sceptical, on the basis that I can see this kind of activity being more of a distraction than a help to a deep conversation. But maybe I’m working off a different pattern!

Irena Plane, and Nathalie Pearl, (2024) Knitting Together: the role of shared creative activity in building coach-client rapport, SIACP Quarterly Review, March

©️ David Clutterbuck 2024

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