Making your way out of poverty not only requires determination, but also a lot of meaningful support to stabilize your life for long-term success.

A fundamental component of Peterborough Social Services is the provision of case management and coaching. Life stabilization coaching is used to support participants who are pursuing long-term stability.

The Bridges Out of Poverty model through aha! Process informs our thinking as we continually improve the programs and services we offer. Through the Bridges lens, we have been successfully improving relationships and assisting our clients to stabilize their lives for a better quality of life. This framework supports long-term success for individuals, organizations, and communities.

Bridges defines instability as the extent to which an individual does without the following 11 essential resources:

Recognizing that life stabilization is crucial for long-term employment success, using this model has provided a framework for our coaching approach. In addition to our financial case management supports overseen by the government, and combined with our daily crisis management with individuals who access our services, we continuously work on supporting our ongoing caseload of clients in building these 11 essential resources for stability through a coaching relationship.

Coaching is a professional relationship that helps people break through their limitations to achieve desired results in their lives. The process of coaching encourages the individuals’ learning, improves their performance, and enhances their quality of life through self-discovery and self-empowerment. Coaching concentrates on discovering and clarifying goals and uncovering strategies and solutions to support individuals to get, and stay, on track to achieve their future goals—at a pace that is achievable for them.

The ability to build rapport and trust effectively is the most critical skill in coaching. A coach absolutely must build a relationship of mutual respect. Dr. James Comer put it best, “No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship.” Building a respectful relationship doesn’t mean becoming the client’s buddy. It means that the flow of information goes both ways and is equally valued. Only then can we insist on high-quality output and hold each other accountable to achieve it.

A key element of coaching revolves around how a coach can relate in a way that inspires people to trust the coach. Trust is an essential element in coaching and communication. Trust in coaching is all about competence, character, and communication.

Great communicators stand out from the crowd; they’re tactfully honest, they’re authentic, and they genuinely listen. They excel in communication because they value it, and that’s a critical first step to becoming a great coach. To grow in your journey as a coach, you must learn how to be an effective and compelling communicator.  An effective coach doesn’t tell the individual what to do. Rather, in each meeting, the individual chooses the focus of conversation while the coach listens and contributes with observations and questions. This interaction creates clarity and moves the individual into action.

Good coaches believe that the individual has the answer to their own problems within them and facilitates dialogue that helps the individual find that answer. Coaching focuses on the present in order to achieve future goals. Counseling focuses on the past and what is hindering achieving those future goals.

With a clear definition of successful coaching, as well as a framework for life stabilization, Peterborough Social Services has effectively created three core components of our life stabilization coaching for clients that include three days of training with practice of useful tools and resources:

  1. Phase 1 – “Laying the Foundation” (2–4 sessions)
  • Build rapport and trust (ongoing through all phases).
  • Discover the individual through sharing of story. What is their societal lens? Who are their supports?
  • Assess personality type, learning style, growth vs. fixed mindset, and communication style.
  • Introduce the 11 essential resources for stability.

 Tools and resources are explained in detail through one full training day.

  1. Phase 2 – “Building Capacity” (1–3 sessions)
  • Preferred future discussion
  • Resource assessment
  • Discussion of change process (includes path and programming)
  • Building capacity for success – resources and scripting

Tools and resources are explained in detail through one full training day.

  1. Third Phase – “Coaching Phase” (1–2 sessions for each SMART goal)
  • Executing a plan via SMART goal setting to build resources for their preferred future. Priority determined by client.
  • Identify controllable/uncontrollable obstacles to achieving goals with action/coping plans for each.
  • Regular 30-day meetings. Support, tweak, hold accountable, celebrate, then set another SMART goal.

Tools and resources are explained in detail through one full training day.

By combining elements of the Bridges Out of Poverty model with elements of the Canadian Coaches Federation Coaching Framework, we intend to support our clients through this newly designed and localized life stabilization coaching model for long-term success. Ultimately, this strategy can and will support long-term success for individuals, organizations, and communities.


Suzie Johnson-Smith of Peterborough, Ontario, Canada, has been working in human services since 1992, primarily supporting low-income people in need of financial and employment assistance. She provided front-line case management for 12 years before becoming a coach and supervisor within the social services division. She leads the local office in promoting person-centered service while modernizing the delivery of social assistance. In 2012, Suzie began to introduce and promote the Bridges framework starting with her local social assistance office. In 2016, as a certified trainer, she began expanding to the broader community. Suzie strongly believes that the Bridges out of Poverty framework can and should inform our practices for improved relationships and outcomes. Suzie has been a presenter of the Bridges Out of Poverty model for teachers, employers, social services organizations, health agencies, landlords, community volunteers, and interested citizens.