Creative Coaching

About Valerie

Meet Creative Coach Valerie Monti

Decades of Experience in Sociodramatic Facilitation and Business Coaching

My specialty programmes are born of decades of experience in the field of group facilitation and proven sociodramatic techniques. In the UK and around the world, I’ve helped countless individuals and groups communicate more effectively and problem-solve more efficiently.

Some coaching and facilitation workshops impose unrealistic goals, leaving attendees feeling overwhelmed and disheartened. I pride myself in meeting people where they are and encouraging minor yet meaningful changes that lead to real world differences.

My goal is to create an approachable, uplifting and creative experience for every attendee, with targeted yet realistic expectations.

Facilitation is about creating the space to see differently, with more objectivity and often with new ideas. Innovation springs out of open spaces that are gently held where everything is possible and words like ‘no’, ‘but’ and ‘should’ are at least temporarily banished.

Using action based methods like sociometry, sociodrama and other applied theatre techniques gives license to play, experiment and move away from the rehash or business as usual meetings that bore.

You might not know what they entail and I can give you more info if you want. Suffice to say that they are ways of getting you on your feet, out of your chair, using your body more, listening harder, having encounters with people that may not feel comfortable all the time.

I’m not against comfort. I love baths. I like cosy clothes, good food, hot tea and great coffee. There are moments when we need to step away from that, even if we drop the bread crumbs to find our way back to them later.

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Here I am, next to my father. He passed away at 95 years old and was a massive influence on me. I was born in South Philadelphia, another daughter in a family of lots of them. But no sons. Another defining fact.

South Philly (The Early Years)

Beyond the Vocation: Why I Chose to Follow My Own Path

My father owned a funeral home. When I was 12, I told him I wanted to take it over one day.  But the universe had other plans. 

As a teenager I worked at the funeral home – making car lists for the next morning’s funeral which I would also attend if it was on a Saturday. Later I was the bookkeeper for the business so I had an intimate knowledge of many aspects of it. 

The only problem was that a business like this grounds you. It’s not a job, it’s more than a profession, it’s a vocation. The rest of my life would need to be spent in South Philly. 

It wasn’t about South Philly; it was being tethered to anywhere – that I couldn’t bear. 

You can imagine the heartache that followed when I had to tell my father. For years we held this heartache, for a very, very long time. I think he’s finally accepted that he managed to raise 6 girls to a university level education, help us throughout our adult lives, loved every minute of his working life and that this was a triumph. He only stopped at 88 years old when he couldn’t get out of bed on time. (How many people can say that?) 

In addition to that, his business did not die or even wither – it  has gone on to thrive in a way it surely never would have had I taken it on.

Theatre, Enter Stage Right

While I knew that working in my father’s business was not meant to be, I still had to find my passion. The theatre had always called to me as a place of imagination and escape. It started with shows in the back yard with my best friend and led into studies at Hofstra University on Long Island, New York, completing a BA in Theatre.  

Interestingly, shortly after graduation, it was my Dad who spotted an ad in a paper calling for actors for the Children’s Repertory Company (CRC), a touring theater company. It took me subway rides both north and west of the city and then a bus into the ‘burbs to find an old school functioning as a community space where CRC held auditions and then rehearsals. 

By the time I got to the end of that journey and then home, I half hoped to never hear from them again. It was my first audition.

The Bubblyonian Effect

Well, I got the part. Little did I know that their flagship play, “Bubblyonian Encounter” would influence the rest of my career. A play about an alien who comes to Earth and is befriended by Bill and Betty who teach him about the sense of touch. 

Cathy Pregmon, the director of the company, explained how this play motivated kids to share stories of their abuse, stories they had never told anyone before.

I don’t think I understood what she meant until after one of the first shows, a young boy approached me as Betty, the character in the play who’d promised that the hurt would stop if he only told someone about it. It was his uncle who touched him in a way that made him feel bad. 

Looking beyond the boy, I could see that there were at least 4 others waiting to talk to me. I was just 22 when I realized the transformational power of theater. I grew a lot that year, envisioning the many, many ways that theater could transform lives, not just entertain.

Theatre, Meet Social Change

Within five years of my first job, I had moved to Sheffield, England and started a Masters degree in Applied Theatre focused on work in prisons. I knew nothing about prisons, had no experience of them, had never been inside one. 

It wasn’t long before I realised that the kids I had worked with in the children’s company were people with similar stories to the adults with whom I was now working in adult jails. 

Everywhere the echoes of those whispered stories, those hopeful looks, were apparent in the eyes and voices of these men. All I could wish was that our play had made a difference in at least some of those children’s lives. Would any of them have avoided the fate of those who were now in my groups? 

After three years of facilitating bullying and victim awareness workshops in a high security local men’s prison in the north of England, I was offered a position as a transnational manager for a project at a large, national charity. 

This entailed working with women at all stages, from still incarcerated to seeking employment or education opportunities, all funded by the ESF (European Social Fund). It also involved travel to European countries: Sweden, Germany, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Hungary, Austria, Italy, Latvia, Spain, Switzerland and Greece. 

We were seeking exchanges of best practice, spaces for collaboration and influence over legal perspectives regarding women involved in the criminal justice system both on national and transnational bases. A tall order but not one without merit or success. 

As this was a European project, the funding had a hard stop. It was one of the reasons I took the job (part-time for most of the 4 and a half years) as I have always felt more comfortable as an entrepreneur and remain so to this day.

At this point, I chose to collaborate instead of growing my business coaching from the inside. I saw too many facilitators who expanded and ended up managing other people to do the work they used to love. How often do we see that across any sector or business? 

Instead, I have been fortunate enough to make my living pursuing the projects that piqued my curiosity and which enabled me to discover things I would never have dreamed of – the ethics of using robotics in health care or bridging across scientific research methods to bring about an end to using animals for testing – as well as incredibly useful ways of introducing innovation techniques into companies to expand and deepen client relationships and to promote well-being in the workplace. 

Travel throughout Europe expanded westward to the United States to craft a leadership development programme with financial executives; then further east to Romania for leadership training with young adults; Croatia and Serbia to teach sociodrama to young professionals; on to Australia to explore the ways sociodrama can be used to bridge cross-cultural boundaries; to Israel and Palestine learning about cultural narratives and the differences in communities living – often with hostility – next to each other. 

Finally, to India to design a programme with a Mumbai-based facilitator focused on femininity and masculinity and how the differences in these energies play out in the workplace. (Sadly this work was interrupted due to COVID and may be a long time until we can return if at all possible.)

Each project, each interaction, yields a broader understanding of the commonalities and conflicts on a global scale.

How it all comes together.

I integrate hard-earned life lessons like these with the rich experience of working with the private, public and charity sectors around the world.

It took a while for me to realise that the breadth of my portfolio was an unusual aspect and that because of it I am able to cross-pollinate understanding, perspective and learning with all of my coaching clients. 

From work with big corporations and universities to small groups in community settings, identifying the pain points and devising creative solutions are the hallmarks of my practice. 

The trajectory of my practice may seem uncommon until you look at actor training and how it teaches us to see the endless possibilities at play, make conscious choices and live with the consequences. There’s that life lesson thing again…

Underpinning all of my practice are the principles of sociodrama as created by Jacob Levy Moreno. A certificate course I began in 2002, believing it to be a one year commitment evolved into an entirely new world view as a systemic group worker.  Along with this new perspective came a community of practice as well as a diploma and status as a trainer with the British Psychodrama Association. 

Val's Qualifications:

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