When you think about coaching, what pops into your mind? Not everyone is clear on what coaching is, what a coach does or how it differs from other ‘helping’ activities like mentoring and therapy. Add to this the fact that there are now coaching psychologists and the whole area can seem a bit complex.
In this series of articles, we’ll explore coaching psychology and its application in more detail – so you can make an informed choice about whether coaching is for you. In this post, I’ll look at a more recent addition to the collection of professional psychological roles: the coaching psychologist.
Inspiration for this series
A little while ago, I ran a team development session for a group of clinical psychologists. They were a really lovely group of people and it was genuinely interesting for me to hear more about what it’s like to work in a clinical setting.
Over coffee after the workshop, I had a great conversation about professional identity and how we psychologists communicate this to non-psychologists. We don’t always do a great job of this, and it’s not always easy. And when fellow psychologists found themselves asking what a coaching psychologist does, I knew I had to do something.
But let’s start at the beginning.
What is coaching psychology?
Coaching psychology – at least when compared to other strands of inquiry in psychology – is a relatively new discipline. For example, the study of memory, emotions, psychological wellbeing, child development – these are all much older and well-established domains.
The International Society for Coaching Psychology defines it at:
The practice of coaching psychology may be described as a process for enhancing well-being and performance in personal life and work domains underpinned by models of coaching grounded in established adult and child learning or psychological theories and approaches.
And in a recent publication on coaching psychology, Dr. Siobhain O’Riordan & Prof. Stephen Palmer defined it as:
‘the application of psychological theory, research, and evidence-based practice to encourage the coachees’ learning, resourcefulness, and self-insight in a non-directive collaborative way to enhance their goal-striving and achievement’.
So coaching psychology is that slice of psychology (technical term!) that concerns itself with the theory and practice of coaching from a scientific, evidence-based perspective. In other words, the stuff that actually works.
What’s a chartered psychologist?
As with most professions, there are different kinds of psychologists. Chartered Psychologists have completed an extensive academic and practical development journey, including primary and advanced degrees in psychology, plus multiple years of supervised practice.
Therefore, Chartership represents a professional level of accreditation and recognition.
Chartered Psychologists in turn can take a number of forms, including clinical, counselling, sports and exercise, forensic, educational and occupational. They work in hospitals, prisons, educational establishments, research institutes and organisations of every kind.
Each psychological specialism sits in its own ‘Division’ within the British Psychological Society. And of course, it’s worth pointing out that this system will vary depending on where you are in the world. But much of the Anglophone world follows a similar system – psychologists require significant training and operate within a clearly defined specialism.
So what are coaching psychologists?
The newest recognised ‘division’ within professional psychologists here in the UK is coaching psychology, ensuring that psychologists who use evidence-based coaching approaches have a professional home.
Coaching psychologists bring their understanding of how people think, feel and behave to coaching contexts. This might be coaching for wellbeing, careers coaching, coaching to overcome challenges or to develop new skills.
They build on their domain knowledge of people at work, and use coaching skills to support their clients’ journeys to valued outcomes. An example would be a deep understanding of the origins and causes of stress, its impact on wellbeing and performance, and an evidence-based stress management programme to help a client improve their situation.
What about us?
We bring coaching to life across our three main areas of professional focus: wellbeing, productivity and effectiveness. This might be about helping a client cultivate some new and healthy habits, overcome barriers to delegating, or adapt to a new level of organisational seniority. We coach people to overcome a lack of confidence in presenting, in preparing for retirement, and for cultivating a varied and effective coping toolkit.
At WorkLifePsych, the evidence-based approach the underpins our coaching is called Acceptance and Commitment Theory. With its roots in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (and usually referred to as ACT) it has been translated for coaching contexts and represents a powerful way to improve a client’s wellbeing, productivity and goal-attainment. You can learn more about it here.
What’s important about this is that decades of research into ACT have shown that it works, have demonstrated how it works and for whom it works. The main ingredients of any evidence-based approach.
Where can I learn more?
You can visit our Coaching page, check out our new Coaching FAQ or take a look at our coaching playlist over on our YouTube channel. And of course, you can get in touch with your questions about coaching or coaching psychology – just visit our contact page and leave us a message.