Research Paper By Alina Bebia
(Life Coach, ROMANIA)
Adolescence is best known as the period of physical and psychological development between childhood and adulthood when individuals separate from parents, cultivate significant peer relationships and veer toward independent, goal-directed living.
The psychological study of adolescent development has grown steadily in recent years, as the multitude of physical, physiological, cognitive, and social transitions that characterize this period make adolescence an ideal stage of life to study. Evidence indicates that adolescence can be difficult due to conflicts with parents and other authority figures, increased risk-taking behaviors, and fluctuations in mood. These hallmark adolescent challenges, in conjunction with a slew of others, suggest that a large portion of teens is vulnerable to emotional states and behaviors that produce significant negative consequences. Furthermore, such patterns reinforce the common conceptualization of adolescence as a time of storm and stress.
Identity formation, a complex process of individuation and self-identification, is at the core of adolescent development and maturation. According to Erikson (1980), a prominent developmental psychologist who pinpointed critical psychosocial stages of development throughout the lifespan, adolescence is the stage during which past and partial personal identifications become integrated into one cohesive identity. In this way, individuals can easily maintain continuity between internal and external expressions of the self. The paradoxical nature of identity formation, with ever-increasing foci on both differentiation and inclusion, can often create social and emotional discord throughout adolescence, as attempting the two simultaneously may feel contradictory.
Why Life Coaching Supports Youth
Life coaching for youth has become an increasingly popular niche within the coaching industry (Youth Coaching Academy, 2010). Although research on life coaching for adolescents is limited, evidence suggests that youth who participate in life coaching programs experience myriad benefits to their health, social and emotional wellbeing, as well as their academic success (Green, Grant, &Rynsaardt,2007; Lindgren, 2011).
Coaching is an ideal pathway for maximizing adolescent wellbeing for a variety of reasons.
First, adolescents who are turned off by the stigma of traditional therapy are increasingly attracted to coaching. Where “therapy as usual” often focuses on healing dysfunction and suffering, coaching appears to be a more appealing option because it focuses on leveraging strengths as opposed to diagnosing weaknesses.
Second, the coach can act as an objective listener, supporter, an accountability buddy. Coaches have an opportunity to support youth in making smart, self-honoring choices while still holding their feet to the fire with necessary accountability.
Third, coaches provide a safe space for adolescents to share their greatest hopes, fears, joys, and sorrows. While many parents believe to have an open, communicative relationship with their teens, adolescents often harbor painful secrets that breed, embarrassment, shame, and self-loathing. Coaching allows youth to cultivate trust with a caring, open-minded, and educated adult who can offer effective,custom-tailored support.
Lastly, the ongoing developmental nature of adolescence lends itself well to the teaching of tangible tools and strategies that can aid teens in effectively coping with future challenges. Furthermore, the ability to extend or “transfer” information from one context to another is particularly relevant given that teens’ lives are not compartmentalized: clients can transfer what they’ve learned during coaching sessions to the everyday settings of home, community, and school (Stanford University, 2003).
How Coaching Supports Youth
The supportive process by which coaching can support young people includes experience, self, life skills, goals, and future.
Experience – coaching can be considered a perspective awakening tool that gives youth the power to choose a perspective and sculpt a reality. It allows them to differently ask questions of themselves and deeply explore their thinking processes, actions, and life choices in a very safe environment. The coaching process helps youth be invested in the path they choose and the decisions they make.
Self – Coaching is important for youth to become more self-aware and self-confident. It helps young people to explore who they are and what they want in life. An effective coaching relationship supports and fosters the development of their core strengths and innate gifts. Coaching provides tens with an opportunity to gain clarity and their own direction.
Life skills – Coaching helps youth learn valuable thinking skills, especially around decision-making and self-understanding. The relationship with the coach brings accountability, helps to find resources, challenges, support, encouragement, time management, it is a means for young people to take responsibility for their lives.
Goal setting – Coaching helps young people to understand who they are, achieve goals, and become able to experience success. Coaching helps teens prioritize their goals when many teens are not even thinking about goals. It also helps them discover their dreams and goals and then choose to take action to move forward toward their goals and dreams.
Future – Coaching supports youth to find what they want, discover their dreams and desires, identify and design a future, namely take a short-term and a long-term perspective. Young people appreciate being heard and having someone affirm the dreams they are willing to share.
Benefits Youth Receives from Coaching
The benefits young people receive from individual coaching could be gathered in three categories:
Self – the benefits are related to themselves: identity, confidence, well-being, thoughts about the future
Self-awareness – becoming more aware of self includes an understanding of their own strengths, values, and weaknesses. They become more self-aware so they can make better-informed choices, can identify and change their thoughts if they chose. Young people start to see who they are about others around them. they start to see who they are as a unique individual and identify what is truly important to them
Self-confidence – Confidence in one’s self and self-esteem is a very important benefit to youth. Coaching gives confidence for youth to make decisions. Youth learn that they are capable and confidence helps them to make decisions. They begin to trust in themselves and gain the confidence to ask for what they want or need that will support them. Confidence allows youth to try something new without the doubts or expectations of others getting in the way.
Well-being – Well-being includes self -acceptance, autonomy, self -appreciation, self-empowerment, and personal growth and is one of the benefits of coaching to youth. Increased self-awareness leads to increased self-acceptance, self-empowerment, and personal growth.
Future–The last section under “self” relates to the youth’s vision of their future. Coaching assists youth in discovering and gaining clarity of their wants, needs, and dreams. The importance of youth being able to have some clarity and visualize their future is helpful to youth, as they have their dreams affirmed and are made to realize their individuality and power through choice.
Coaching relationship – the benefits are related to the experience of being in a positive coaching relationship and what it provides
Environment – the most frequently mentioned benefits of coaching to youth are related to what the coach provides: a non-judgmental, supportive, and safe environment. In this environment, youth can speak their minds, explore and experiment with ideas, and move forward. Young people appreciate the coaching environment as being a safe environment where they can explore themselves or their ideas and experiment with new ways of being. Through coaching, youth receive a non-judgmental acknowledgment of them as valuable, unique individuals.
Being listened to and valued–this experience for youth for who they are with an adult they can trust is an important benefit of coaching in the eyes of young people. This includes feeling respected, important, taken seriously, treated equally, feeling connected, acknowledged, and validated. They feel listened to and the coach is someone who really gets them and listens to them and has no hidden agenda for them other than the one which is specified in the coaching agreement. Being seen, heard, acknowledged, recognized, valued in very specific ways that help them connect to their uniqueness. The coach is seen by the young people as someone to trust, someone to confide in, someone who is on their side, someone there to help hold accountable, someone who truly believes in their greatness.
Perspective and objectivity – The last category of benefits related to coaching relationship is that t provides perspective and objectivity to the youth. By establishing a coaching relationship, the youth become able to hear views and perspectives different from their own parents, family, or friends. In this way, youth themselves can develop a broader view of their own situation. Coaching allows youth to “see the bigger picture” and “get a different perspective” on various concerns from someone more neutral than their parents, family, or friends. Brainstorming with another adult can provide new and different ideas and opinions without pressure or influence of those close to them. Even if young people can appreciate the role of parents in their lives, working with a coach allows them to separate from parents, while still benefiting from an adult’s close involvement in supporting their growth and development.
Coaching helps youth think larger than they are accustomed to thinking, it lays out options on the table that youth may not have otherwise considered. Young adults come equipped with many adopted or inherited concepts from family and friends, and coaching allows them to sort through these ideas and decide which ones they want to hold onto and which ones don’t work for them any longer.
Tools / Life skills – which tools, life skill,s or strategies youth gain from the coaching experience
This last area of benefit for youth from coaching relates to what the youth learns from coaching experience: many of them gathered learning needed skills, strategies and having more tools to support their continued learning and development. They also learn tools that are applicable across all domains of personal and future professional lives. They learn valuable life skills and tools early, rather than stumbling on them over time.
An important benefit is related to goals: goal setting, goal striving, and goal attainment were mentioned more than any other life skill or tool. Clarifying values and goals leads to a more empowered state as a youth and to more fulfilling decisions that lead to where they want to be, meaning a sense of purpose.
There are many other skills young people can benefit from coaching: decision-making, communication, time management, and learning how to focus. Other skills include problem-solving, organizing, executive functioning, stress reduction, empathy, planning, independent and critical thinking, learning discipline.
Some other very important skills youth gain using coaching is about having options of choices: the “power of choice”, “awareness of choice” as well as the importance of knowing that they do have a choice leads to improved decision making. Learn more skills and strategies change and develop their brain/decision-making skills, have more confidence, achieve at higher levels, faster than without coaching. The other piece related to more tools of life skills includes that youth learn accountability and responsibility through coaching. Finally, they get the benefit of learning to establish realistic goals and learning how to set action items and follow-through, they learn about accountability.
In summary, teenagers and young people can benefit enormously from life coaching and career coaching. Through coaching, young people maximize their resources where they are while developing the skills they need to achieve their potential. The young people will be empowered to overcome the challenges unique to their situation and to create a life they can be proud of. Through coaching, youth report experiencing enhanced confidence, self-regulation, optimism, self-awareness, social and emotional skills, goal orientation, motivation and performance, relationships with family and peers.
Erikson, E. H. (1980). Identity and the life cycle. New York, NY: W. W. Norton.
Youth Coaching Academy. (2010). Youth coaching course. Retrieved from http://www.youthcoachingacademy.com/youth-coaching-course.html
Green, S., Grant, A., &Rynsaardt, J. (2007). Evidence-based life coaching for senior high school students: Building hardiness and hope. International CoachingPsychology Review, 2(1), 24-32.
Lindgren, J. (2011). A supportive youth coaching model: Relevance to life coaches. (Unpublished dissertation). International University of Professional Studies, Maui.
Berger (Hopkins), J. (2014), “From Paralyzed to Catalyzed: Supporting Adolescent Girls Through Positive Psychology Coaching”. Master of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP)
Why we coach Teens, retrieved from https://www.youthcoachinginstitute.com/why-we-coach-teens