A Research Paper created by Ann Elliott
(Executive Coaching, THAILAND)
What Coaching is
The International Coach Federation defines coaching in the following way:
“Professional coaches provide an ongoing partnership designed to help clients produce fulfilling results in their personal and professional lives. Coaches help people improve their performances and enhance the quality of their lives.”
What Coaching is not
As a relatively new profession, coaching is a methodology that draws on a range of other more traditional professions including psychology, business consulting, mentoring management theory and adult learning. However coaching is a unique field and there are significant differences between coaching and these fields.
Coaching and Therapy
Coaching is not therapy, counseling or psychology. Although intervention often follows some psychological models such as behavioral theory, the actual process of coaching should not be mistaken for a therapeutic intervention. One of the most obvious differences between the two approaches is that therapy tends to focus on feelings and experiences related to past events, whereas coaching is oriented towards goal setting and encourages the client to move forward. A therapist typically works with a dysfunctional person to get them to become functional. A coach works with a functional person to get them to become exceptional. Therapists typically work with people who need help to become emotionally healthy.
A coach works with people who are already emotionally healthy to move them to magnificent levels. Coaching does not rely on past issues for achieving growth, but rather focuses on goals towards the future. Coaching is action oriented. The focus is on where the client is right now, where they want to be next, and how to get them there.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Cognitive Behavioural Coaching
(CBT) is a psychotherapeutic approach that addresses dysfunctional emotions, maladaptive behaviors and cognitive processes and contents through a number of goal-oriented, explicit and systematic procedures. The name refers to behavior therapy, cognitive therapy, and to therapy based upon a combination of basic behavioral and cognitive principles and research. Much of the original work in this field was done by Aaron Temkin Beck who, from noticing that his patients often appeared to be talking to themselves, realized that there had to be a link between what people were thinking and what they were feeling. He introduced the term Automatic Thoughts and noted that his patients were mostly unaware of them, yet it was these thoughts that typically determined how people reacted in given situations. For example, 2 people faced with the same set of circumstances will often react in totally different ways and this is because of their individual thoughts and almost predetermined reactions based on these thoughts – not on any provable actuality.
If these thoughts are positive and appropriate then generally all will be well and good and we think of such people who think and feel positive as being well adjusted but, when these thoughts are regularly negative, we can see that such people who have them are troubled and have difficulties in their work and private lives. These Negative Automatic Thoughts give rise to actions which are not helpful to individuals either in the short or long term but as, Beck had found out, thoughts could be identified and noted which would allow for a course of remedial therapy to be devised to overcome them – Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.
As previously mentioned, Coaching is not Therapy but coaching can and should draw upon techniques from other fields of human psychology and therapeutic treatment, which can be effective in helping the coaching client attain their goals. The tools borrowed from these areas can lend a better understanding to the causes of problem behaviours and limiting beliefs, and further provide frameworks to overcome them.
When the broader aspects of Coaching such as Business Consulting and Organizational Development are combined with an understanding of CBT, we arrive at CBC – Cognitive Behavioural Coaching which is a non-directive form of coaching in which the coach and client work together to decide on a goal that both will work towards. The Client will be asked to decide what work needs to be done, and how, and the coach will use certain specific tools to assist the client in gaining a clearer understanding of how their thought processes are affecting them through a system known as Guided Discovery (Gladeana McMahon). This is based on Socratic Questioning which helps the client to focus on exactly what they are thinking, will such thoughts help them or will they actually stop the client from achieving what they really want, in their big picture?
Given the nature of Coaching as compared with Therapy it seems possible that cognitive-behavioral practices would be of great benefit in certain situations when working with clients. In fact a limitation of the cognitive behavioral approach is that it can be interpreted as very issue focused not taking into sufficient account the person as a whole or going beyond a surface level of analysis. Although this does not go so far as to say that this weakness of the cognitive-behavioral orientation should be viewed as a strength when in the context of a coaching situation, perhaps the level of analysis typically seen in the cognitive-behavioral orientation as well as the results orientation may be appropriate for some clients who come to Coaching.
People seek Coaching for a variety of reasons and one possible reason is to refine their skills so that they can progress in their careers either by taking on more responsibility or by moving into a more advanced position. In some cases people look to Coaching to help them with certain behaviors that are interfering with their work. Cognitive behavioral techniques are well suited in this situation.
Coaching engagements are normally focused on skills development such as learning to deal with change, clarifying goals or improving skills. In these situations the goal oriented approach of CBT will likely prove a valuable tool for change particularly when the client feels there are facets of their thinking and work styles which are holding them back in some way. Although it’s true that these skills can also be gained through cognitive behaviorally focused programs the one to one personalized nature of coaching increases the likelihood of sustained behavior change.