Research Paper By Brittany Andreaggi
(Life Coach, UNITED STATES)
Introduction to Neuroplasticity
Neuroplasticity can have a positive impact on a client when integrated into a coaching session to help clients achieve new perspectives and subsequently transformed actions regarding a current problem they are facing. Oxford Languages defines neuroplasticity as, “the ability of the brain to form and reorganize synaptic connections, especially in response to learning or experience or following injury.”(1) There have been conversations for decades regarding our brain’s ability to change. When we are born we instantly begin processing everything in the world around us that then programs our brains and makeup who we are as a person. Our brain is processing each experience we have from the moment we take our first breath to the moment we take our last. Neuroplasticity shows our brain’s ability to change and proves that our programming within us is not hard-wired but soft-wired. (2) Once we have awareness around this fact we are then able to use it to our advantage by changing a pattern that doesn’t serve us to a pattern that does.
How Neuroplasticity Works
Our brain is compromised of billions of neural pathways. These neural pathways are made up of neurons and connected by dendrites and are created in our brain-based upon our habits and behaviors. When the frequency of a habit, behavior, or thought process increases, the number of dendrites increases in tandem. When this pathway is used more frequently it begins to strengthen and psychologist Deann Ware, Ph.D. said, “the messages that travel the same pathway in the brain over and over begin to transmit faster and faster.”(3) As this continues, they then become automatic and replace old neural pathways (old habits). What is so empowering about this process is that it proves your brain can be molded and changed and therefore you can mold and change. This includes your habits, thought processes, behaviors, and any aspect of your life. This is why awareness of neuroplasticity allows you to use it to your benefit and speaks so well to why coaching truly works.
How Neuroplasticity Connects to Coaching
Neuroplasticity ties so seamlessly into coaching simply because neuroplasticity is evidence of why coaching works so well. Neuroplasticity highlights how the human mind has the ability to change, mold, and create new ways of thinking and perceiving life, which speaks so much to what coaching stands by. If our minds did not experience neuroplasticity, our minds wouldn’t have the ability to change, therefore making coaching impossible. On a more basic level, neuroplasticity goes hand in hand with coaching from the perspective of repetition. A client that attends multiple coaching sessions creates new neural pathways in their brain with new ways of thinking, skillsets, and tools due to continuously exploring new perspectives and action steps as opposed to the old patterns that have not served them. Neuroplasticity is happening within a client all the time; the client is just usually unaware. Therefore, educating the client on the power of neuroplasticity builds upon this phenomenon even further and the client is then able to use this superpower more consciously across all aspects of their life as well. Many times patterns appear in our life that are mirroring back to us blocks we have within our subconscious that keep us stuck in the same thought loop. When we create new neural pathways that oppose the current loops that don’t serve us and we build these new pathways through consistency, they become stronger. (3)These new pathways allow us to create new narratives in our mind, unblocking the old patterning rooted in our subconscious. This allows for coaching to have a long-term and lasting effect for the client that they are then able to sustain. This furthermore ties into my Power Tool of Desperation vs. Surrender, displaying that when a client has a deep-rooted block in their mind that usually stems from a place of low self-worth, it can cause them to act out of desperation and fear instead of trust and surrender. When we use neuroplasticity in a session and in tandem with the outside work the client continues to incorporate, a client can move from a place of desperation to surrender by creating new neural pathways that build upon trust and high self-worth. Neuroplasticity is happening constantly within our minds, but we can use this power consciously to reprogram our minds with positive pathways instead of negative ones.
How to Utilize Neuroplasticity in Conjunction with Coaching and in a Session
Neuroplasticity can be integrated into a coaching session in many different ways. The best way to integrate neuroplasticity into a coaching session would be to first educate the client on what neuroplasticity is and how it has the capability to be something they can benefit from and use to their advantage. Once the client is more educated on the topic and is open to exploring how to integrate neuroplasticity into their sessions there are then several ways to pair neuroplasticity with coaching. One way that I find works very well is through Power Tools. Power Tools allow clients to build new neural pathways in their brain by shifting from a perspective that hasn’t served them into one that does. The more they build and deepen this new perspective through exploration on how this thought pattern better serves them, action steps that support this way of thinking and consistent practice on this newfound perspective, the client builds upon a new neural pathway in their brain. The deeper this neural pathway gets, the more it will begin to override old neural pathways that did not serve the client. With consistency, the neural pathway will become much stronger than the old pathway and the client’s new perspective will become their constant instead of the alternative.
Another method that I find very successful when integrating neuroplasticity into a coaching session is through subconscious reprogramming. Subconscious reprogramming takes the client even deeper into their blocks and this can be especially beneficial when a client is having trouble maintaining their new shifted thought patterns and actions. Many times when we are trying to change the thought processes that no longer serve us and shift them into a place of high self-worth, we are working against thought patterns that have been deeply ingrained within us for the majority of our life. Due to this, it can take many repetitions, continued sessions, and even diving deeper into modalities such as subconscious reprogramming. This tool allows us to step out of our conscious mind and into our subconscious mind, the mind that we live most of our life through without even realizing it. Since our subconscious is formed from our very early childhood, we have ingrained programming that we then continue to project into our adult life. Many times when a block is very deep-rooted, subconscious reprogramming is necessary to unblock it. Subconscious reprogramming requires an understanding of three main brainwave states that support its effectiveness, beta, alpha, and theta. Driving can provide great examples for each of these different brainwave states. The beta brainwave state is what we live in when we are actively working on a task that requires us to be fully present and aware. Such as when you are driving somewhere you have never been before and there are many rights turns, left turns, and street signs that you have to be aware of. As you are driving to this new location you are in a beta state because the brain is aroused and needs to be fully engaged in the activity. (4) In the beta state our brain is fully present and we are using our conscious mind to focus on the activity. The next brainwave state is alpha which is a slower frequency but higher in amplitude. (4) If our brain were in a beta state while we were navigating a new road, our brain would switch to an alpha state once we arrived at our destination and relaxed for a moment. Alpha brainwaves are where we begin to access our subconscious mind, expand our imagination, and usually take place when someone is relaxing, daydreaming, or in light meditation. (4) The final state that is the main focus of subconscious reprogramming is the theta brainwave state. Theta brainwaves are the slowest of the three and take place when someone is in deep meditation and light sleep. (4)When someone is driving to work every day on the same highway and they realize they arrived at work without even fully remembering the drive because their mind went into “autopilot”, that is theta state. In theta state, the mind is completely conscious of its surroundings but is in a state of deep relaxation. Theta brainwaves are most ideal for subconscious reprogramming because at that frequency is where the brain can fully access its deep-rooted programs and where visualization, creativity, and mind reprogramming are most profound. (4)Subconscious reprogramming begins by having clients relax and bring themselves into a meditative state as much as they are able, bringing them into alpha frequency and ideally theta frequency. When our brain goes into this meditative state our brain shifts out of beta brainwaves (conscious mind) and into alpha and theta brainwaves (subconscious mind). This allows neuroplasticity to work on a deeper level because we gain access to the area of our mind that we live most of our waking life through. When the client is in this state they can then let their subconscious mind guide them toward the deep blocks that are holding them back. Through guided meditation, hypnosis, visualization, and other methods the client can reprogram these thought patterns by replacing them with beliefs supporting high self-worth. When new neural pathways are created while someone is in a theta state it becomes much more impactful because it bypasses the conscious mind and is directly reinforced much deeper within the brain. When this process is done consistently and reinforced in the client’s day-to-day life through their conscious mind, it allows the new positive neural pathway to build much quicker. This can be especially beneficial for certain aspects of a client’s life where they feel they are continuously struggling and want to try a deeper approach.
The backbone of integrating neuroplasticity with coaching is repetition and reinforcing the practices from sessions into the client’s day-to-day life through actions. A client most likely will not have one session and then a new neural pathway is created that is automatically stronger than the long-rooted programming already embedded within them. It takes consistency to build new positive, strong neural pathways. The more repetition of this new thought process done consciously and subconsciously especially, the quicker the new neural pathway will become stronger and faster and eventually override the old pathways that do not serve the client. Repetition is the key to neuroplasticity having an immense impact.
Neuroplasticity is one of our many superpowers. It allows us to change at any time into anything we wish; all it requires is consistency. This power adds so much value to coaching because it demonstrates how with continued sessions and practices incorporated into a client’s daily life, real change can be made. Coaching is about empowering the client to establish new perspectives and consistent actions that support those perspectives and allow them to be maintained. Neuroplasticity proves to the client that it is possible to change their life and maintain that change.
Definitions from Oxford Languages on Neuroplasticity.By Google.
Neuroscience and Nationalism. Dr. Tara Swart. TEDx LSE. TEDx Talks. Published June 2017 (Youtube)
The Neuroscience of Behavior Change. By Julie Hani, Fit4D. Startup Health. Published August 2017
Types of Brainwaves and the Meditative States.Graham Johnson Cultural Arts Endowment. Published 2021