Coach Tales: Christopher Kabakis & Dmitrij Achelrod
Coaching for deep inner work
Coaches do incredible work everyday, however, a lot of this work happens behind closed doors. So we, at Medoo, have made it our mission to highlight and augment the extraordinary work of coaches. We are relishing the opportunity to get to know our early adopters deeply, as we build our product and community.
In this episode of our series of coaches’ profiles, we’re excited to talk to Christopher Kabakis and Dr. Dmitrij Achelrod, founders of the Evolute Institute! We talk about their approach to coaching for deep inner work. Enjoy!
Hi Chris & Dimi, so great to be discussing coaching with you! Let’s start with the ‘what‘ first, if that sounds good, Chris: could you please share with us what you do?
Chris: Of course, sounds great! I do a lot of speaker coaching. This involves consulting regarding strategic communication or how to move into the direction of thought leadership. I support speakers with everything from brainstorming on ideas, throughline & storyline development, storytelling techniques to delivery. Beyond communication-centred coaching I do ‘traditional’ business and personal coaching with a focus on topics like resilience and self care, developing clarity on important decisions or regarding your professional orientation, and dealing with difficult relationships at work.
The third branch of my work is coaching for what you call ‘deep inner work’: this involves somatic coaching including bodywork, presence-based process work, connecting to the source within, to your own personal power and creativity. I also work in facilitation and coaching around Altered States of Consciousness (ASC) which can be a powerful tool to catalyse deep inner work and processing.
All of my coaching work is very customised, bespoke. I like the 1:1, deep, personally tailored work over a period of time to make sure it’s sustainable and gets to the core of the issues.
It is so interesting that you have such a broad range within your coaching practice! We’d love to dive into the ‘why‘ a little bit more: why do you do what you do?
Chris: There’s nothing more fulfilling and meaningful for me to support people on their journey of personal development and growth, to build a safe container and a trusting relationship and then curate and facilitate a personalised journey of learning through the topics and concerns that are important to the client.
Each client and each session are a new challenge for me and an opportunity to learn and to grow. I prepare myself well, but then I need to empty myself completely to be just present with the client. In each client, there is a process waiting to happen, and in order for the process to be able to happen I need to become as large and spacious and fully present as I am able to become. To be able to hold the space for the client in the appropriate way demands a very high degree of skill. I think only highly skilful coaches can hold the appropriate context for the client’s process to unfold. It is a lifelong journey for me to become able to hold more of the experience that wants to happen and that can, or could, happen given the right conditions.
In the best moments the session just flows, and deep processing happens, unexpected insight happens and inspiration happens. Such a session can leave both the client and myself satisfied, whole and energised and I live for these moments and sessions. Moments of inspiration, connection and of the sacred inner work.
Love how you described working on your coaching craft as a ‘lifelong journey’. We’d love to hear a bit more about the ‘how‘. What is a coaching experience like?
Chris: Each coaching journey is tailored to the needs and context of the client and each session is different. I use a wide range of approaches and methods depending on the interests, needs and level of consciousness development of the client. However, the key to everything and more important than the chosen tools is to act from embodied, mindful presence, and - speaking with ancient Eastern wisdom traditions - to be ‘aligned with the Tao’ as it is expressed through the consciousness of the client in the moment and to flow with it. This approach to coaching is presence-based, body-mind integrated, and non-violent. It works with the personality, the habituated elements of the self of the client, their way of thinking, feeling and acting in the world. In the best moments of the coaching process we study the organisation of the client’s experience together, how they create their world. This can lead to surprising insights, spontaneous processing of past experiences, and new, nourishing experiences in a co-regulated environment. This is the deep inner work that interests me, the work beyond ideas, concepts and tools. It’s a journey of discovery, connection, learning and integration for both the client and myself.
That feels like a great segue to introduce Dimi, and talk about your work with the Evolute Institute. Dimi, could you please share your journey into the coaching world, and founding Evolute with Chris?
Dimi: I took a somewhat meandering path into coaching. I originally studied International Business, but found it too narrow, so I ended up studying public health instead at the London School of Economics. Subsequently, I did my PhD in the public health space at Hamburg University and as a visiting researcher at Oxford University. Through this I became interested in the applications of Data Science and Machine Learning in health, and worked as a Data Scientist and senior manager for 5 years at a leading tech start-up in Germany. After a life-changing experience in South America, I realised that I understood very little about myself. I became very interested in how mindfulness, meditation, somatic work and psychedelics enable deep introspection. So when I met Chris through a mutual friend in 2020, our shared interest in these areas, and deep discussions over long Covid-lockdown walks led us to go all-in into founding the Evolute Institute.
What an incredible journey from Business to Economics & Public Health, and then Data Science to Evolute! We’d love to hear more about the work you do at Evolute, if you would like to share more?
Dimi & Chris: Absolutely. In a nutshell, our flagship program is a 5-week program for leaders, called Evolead, during which we help them with transformative change through a combination of mindfulness, meditation, breath-work and psychedelic experiences, in a safe environment. We start the 5-week program by setting up and preparing our coachees for their immersive experience into Altered States of Consciousness (ASC). We coach them through what to expect, how to prepare, set intentions for the program, and build trust with their leadership cohort. Following this, we have a 4-day retreat in the Netherlands, where we meet in-person. This retreat involves individual and group coaching exercises to encourage deep introspection and insight, assisted by a psilocybin ceremony. Post-retreat, we support our coachees with 1:1 and group coaching sessions to unpack the experience and integrate their insights into their day-to-day life. This integration step is critical to ensuring true, transformative growth that lasts a long time.
That’s a unique approach to transformative growth: don’t think we’ve seen anything of a similar nature before. Could you perhaps describe to us how you went about designing the program? Why use psychedelics for instance, and how are you handling any associated risks?
Dimi & Chris: There has been a lot of recent research into psychiatric applications of psychedelics that demonstrate positive outcomes for people struggling with mental health issues. Based on this research, and our own transformative experiences, we wanted to create a safe space for people to explore deeper within themselves, and support them through coaching in the process. For example, many outwardly successful people feel like they lack deeper purpose and meaning. While becoming highly accomplished people in their respective fields, they have lost their sense of joy and fulfilment. We believe that our work helps them to re-connect to their inner source of meaning and joy, to build or enrich relationships to make them more fulfilling, as well as to re-orient towards where they can generate the most impact as leaders.
We put a lot of thought into the design of the program in order to create a unique space for personal and leadership development. The program is based on the latest academic research into coaching and psychedelics. If you are looking for a fun, weekend trip, this program is not for you. We spend a lot of time preparing our coachees, and we assess applicants for psychological risk factors before we accept them into the program. We have multiple specialists, including a doctor /psychiatrist and a psychospiritual guide, in addition to coaches and psychedelic integration experts, to support our coachees through the entire journey. In the rare event that an individual’s trauma gets activated, we have trauma-informed coaches who can gently support them and ensure they get the help they need.
Sounds like you are working at the very edge of research into inner development and coaching! How do you see this space evolving in the future?
Dimi & Chris: We are starting to see the use of psychedelics to support mental health gain more and more mainstream acceptance. One concern we have is that rapid commercialisation of this could lead to exploitation, and possibly being viewed as a ‘silver bullet‘ to solve all issues. If this happens, we think it will perpetuate our already broken systems.
We believe that it’s important to view the use of psychedelics through the lens of inner development and growth, in alignment with the work being done by the Inner Development Goals organisation. We’ve kept this view throughout the design and implementation of our program, and we hope that we can be pioneers of a more intentional future for transformative inner growth and change.
It was so great to hear about your work, Chris and Dimi! Thank you so much for sharing this with us. Are there any last comments you would like to add? And where can people find and follow you online?
Our next Evolead program will run in August. Please reach out via our website if you would like to join the program. We are also available to connect on LinkedIn: Christopher Kabakis and Dmitrij Achelrod.
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