The Ithaca Journey, Model for Caregivers


A Coaching Model By Susan Haffner, Life Coach, UNITED STATES

The Ithaca Journey Model for Caregivers

Caregiving is a journey. My model is a way I can focus my coaching work on each individual that is journeying along the special and important path of caregiving. Many people in the caregiving role, are people who are suddenly faced with a loved one who needs extra support. Many caregivers were never prepared to be in this role, they simply want to do their best to help the one they love. Unfortunately, they can be faced with little or no support while facing challenges for which they had no preparation. Caregiving is a learning process, balancing the needs of the loved one and the caregiver themselves, learning about resources, and experiencing both challenges and joys. My role as a coach is to provide support to those that are helping and supporting others. The Ithaca Journey Model for Caregivers is my way of providing that support. In spite of the challenges, caregiving can be joyful, fulfilling, and life-giving work.

The Ithaca Journey

The inspiration for this model comes from the following poem:

As you set out for Ithaka
hope your road is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians, Cyclops,
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians, Cyclops,
wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope your road is a long one.
May there be many summer mornings when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you enter harbors you’re seeing for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind—
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to learn and go on learning from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you’re destined for.
But don’t hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you’re old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you wouldn’t have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you’ll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

P. Cavafy, “Ithaca” from C.P. Cavafy: Collected Poems (Princeton University Press, 1975). Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard. Translation Copyright © 1975, 1992 by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard.

The inspiration of this poem is to love the journey, and appreciate it for the experience itself.

I.T.H.A.C.A Model Elements:


Each person is at a different place in their journey. The coach will start wherever the client is. Each caregiving experience is unique. The client is to be honored as an expert on their own experiences. Items to explore: What does caregiving mean for you? How does your role impact you?

Thought Partner

The coach’s aim is to have a true connection with the client. Not to lead, not to follow, but to be a partner to journey with. The coach will utilize presence and active listening to create a trusting relationship with the client and provide a safe space.


Caregiving can be an emotional rollercoaster. Helping the client to cultivate mindful awareness of what those emotions are, and how those emotions can be used as valuable information in helping the client discover what they truly need to not only take care of their loved one but also to take care of themselves. This is an important element, as caregiver burnout can be common but can be overcome by connecting with the heart. Exploring with the client: How does this experience make you feel? Walkthrough a single day of caregiving; what are the emotions that arise for you throughout the day? What are the ups and downs?


Creating awareness with the client is a way to help them recognize their own needs. It is common for a caregiver to ‘lose themselves in their role as they focus all their time and energy on their loved ones. A caregiver often embodies a selfless attitude, but it can become a detriment as the caregiver can become depleted if they are lacking in self-care. As a client becomes more aware of their needs, they can become empowered to take care of themselves and in turn, both the caregiver and their loved one may have an even better care experience. Explore with the client; What is your identity? What was your identity before caregiving? What do you feel about how your identity has changed since you have become a caregiver? What would it look like to you to nurture your truest self?


Caregivers face some unique challenges. Solutions may be reached through a creative problem-solving approach. Helping the client to discover their own strengths. Exploring the environment and systems present that may be affecting a situation. The coach will utilize powerful questioning and direct communication to foster ‘out of the box’ thinking. Explore with the client; What might some alternatives be? What else? What might this situation look like for your loved one? What influences are impacting this situation?


The coach will support the client in moving towards their solution through focus on action and accountability. Will explore ways the client can support themselves as well as possibilities of resources and means of additional support outside themselves. Continual exploration of actions that were successful or unsuccessful can be discussed, which may lead to increased awareness and new creative ideas and alternative solutions. Explore with the client; What steps would you like to take to make this happen? Who can support you? What else do you need to feel supported in moving forward?

Caregivers Coaching Support on Ithaca Journey

These elements are not linear, but fluid, as the client journeys through their experience. Caregiving needs can change quickly and the aim of this model is to provide coaching support throughout everchanging circumstances.

For many, being a caregiver is on-the-job training. There are many that are informal caregivers (those with no training, but are taking on the role of a loved one). There are also many formal caregivers, those trained to assist with various tasks and in a variety of ways in different healthcare settings. Although training is received, the role is such a personal one, and the caregiver must make changes based on the unique needs of their clients. This is often a job of constant reassessment and adjustment on a regular, often daily, or even sometimes hourly basis.

The hope of this model is to be supported any caregiver, formal or informal as they travel and grow along their journey.

Learn How to Create Your Own Coaching Model

Your Coaching Model reflects your values,
philosophies and beliefs and must communicate who you will coach
and the problems you will solve.
Read more about creating your coaching model

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