ALAMEDA -- The American Journal of Nursing recently awarded its prestigious Book of the Year Award in the category of professional development to nurse Linda Bark, who runs the Alameda-based Bark Coaching Institute.
The book, "The Wisdom of the Whole: Coaching for Joy, Health, and Success," was recognized by the organization as one of the most valuable nursing texts of 2012.
Bark, who lives in Alameda, has been in private practice since 1970. She has nursing degrees from Northwestern University and the University of Nevada at Reno, a master's degree in life transition counseling from the Santa-Barbara based Fielding Institute, and a doctorate in philosophy and religion from San Francisco's California Institute of Integral Studies.
Bark started her nursing career in the psychiatric field, caring for people with serious mental illness.
But after several years, she felt constrained in that role.
"I wanted to help people who wanted to make transformative, positive change in their own lives," she recalled. First, Bark ventured into holistic nursing, a practice with ancient roots that is now recognized as a specialty within Western medicine. The American Association of Holistic Nurses defines it as "all nursing practice that has healing the whole person as its goal," and which recognizes "the interconnectedness of body, mind, emotion, spirit, social/cultural, relationship, context, and environment."
Bark learned this way of treating patients and then shared her expertise with hospitals interested in improving patient health outcomes. Next she looked for a way to apply the philosophy of holism beyond the world of medicine.
In the 1990s, Bark learned about professional coaching, and knew that she had found her calling.
"What I needed to learn was to let the client lead," Bark said. "As a nurse, I had been trained as an expert, so the shift for me was to realize that my clients had the best ideas of where they wanted to go and how to get there."
Bark's medical background makes her uniquely qualified to coach other nurses and health care providers. Some of her clients are individuals learning to live with a new diagnosis or manage a chronic condition. But the Bark Coaching Institute has expanded beyond medicine.
"Coaching can be for life transitions, business decisions, health -- either way, it is about helping a person make a change by listening to one's whole self," Bark explained. "What I invite people to do is to see what information they're getting, not just from their thinking minds, but from their bodies."
Holistic coaches like Bark help people access the mind-body connection -- a conduit that exists within us all, she said, but which is not always acknowledged in Western culture. It sounds a little mysterious, and Bark said that coaching can bring about huge changes in a person's life. But there is no secret formula involved, and the expert is the person being coached.
"If I'm working with a person who is faced with a career choice, I ask them to notice how their body feels when they imagine choosing the one option, and then the other," she explained. "Sometimes a decision has been tormenting the person for two months, and 45 minutes after they tune into their own body's wisdom, they're clear."
For more information about the Bark Coaching Institute, go to the website at http://barkcoaching.com.