The art of facilitation-Putting the psychology into coaching
Coaching psychology is seen as having a direct impact on personal effectiveness, which translates in the business world into improved bottom- line performance. As such, this area of applied psychology has a unique contribution to make, and considerable potential as an exciting and rewarding career. We hope our articles encourage and illuminate.From a historical viewpoint, coaching has been practised for centuries: Socrates could be considered one of the early pioneers! But when did psychologists formally get involved in the field of coaching and coaching research?As early as 1918 Coleman R. Griffith was undertaking psychological research into basketball and football. Establishing the Laboratory for Research in Athletics
at the University of Illinois, he explored three research areas:
- pure psychological fact and theory;
- facts about human behaviour that have a bearing upon athletic skill and athletic mindedness; and
- the effectiveness of coaching methods.
In his groundbreaking 1926 book Psychology of Coaching Griffith covered many different aspects, such as the principles of learning and the problems
of over-coaching. In attempting the discovery of pure psychological fact, as a psychologist he questioned accepted notions such as ‘practice makes perfect’. Griffith published many papers and can be seen as an early pioneer of putting the psychology into coaching, yet his contribution is often overlooked.
Workplace coaching, compared to sports coaching, was underrepresented in the early literature. Anthony Grant, an international figure in the field of coaching psychology, suggests that one of the earliest published research papers on workplace coaching was by Gorby in 1937. The trend for workplace coaching has increased as it has been linked with improved performance and profits – important business drivers.
Coaching is also popular because the alternatives, such as training, are historically seen to deliver poor value
for money as stand-alone development activities. This is where coaching fits in. It offers intensive development, tailored to the individual. Executive, business, performance, leadership or personal coaching can all be viewed as bespoke coaching.
Some see coaching’s popularity as resulting from the link business leaders and management see with the field of sports. Both areas aim at high performance and excellence. Attending lectures or being coached by leading sports athletes is seen as a positive experience. But what is modern-day coaching? In Effective Coaching Myles Downey described coaching as ‘the art of facilitating the performance, learning and development of another’. There are many other definitions and still no consensus for an agreed definition of coaching, but
a facilitative process is considered important. It is easy to see how personal or life coaching, with its focus on facilitation to achieve goals, has sometimes inappropriately become a substitute for counselling or psychotherapy as some clients find coaching more attractive.
Commentators in the field believe that the foundations of modern-day coaching psychology developed in the 1960s from the humanistic traditions of psychology and the Human Potential Movement. As more psychologists became interested in coaching, in particular the theory and research underpinning coaching practice, members of the respective national psychological bodies in Australia and the UK got together and set up the Australian Psychological Society Interest Group in Coaching Psychology (IGCP) and the British Psychological Society Special Group in Coaching Psychology (SGCP).
With its successful events, conferences, publications and low membership fees, the popularity of the SGCP grew from its inaugural meeting in 2004 to quickly become the third largest subsystem of the Society with over 2000 members. About 50 per cent of these members are chartered psychologists. To support its members with their interest in evidence-based practice, the SGCP now has two publications: The Coaching Psychologist and the International Coaching Psychology Review (ICPR).
Both are peer-reviewed and the ICPR is published in collaboration with the IGCP.
Where coaching psychology differs from coaching is that coaching psychology explicitly includes the application of appropriate psychological theory. Coaching psychologists would be expected to have a good understanding of developmental issues in a variety of contexts and therefore be well placed to facilitate change and enhanced performance in their coaching clients. This is particularly useful if a client is experiencing a number of psychological blocks. In a nutshell, coaching psychology is about enhancing well-being and performance in personal life and work domains, through techniques underpinned by models of coaching grounded in established learning theories and psychological approaches.
Ongoing research has highlighted the approaches SGCP members use in their practice. One of the most popular approaches or models is the facilitation approach, which may reflect the humanistic and person-centred roots of modern coaching practice. Other popular approaches include solution-focused, cognitive-behavioural, and purely cognitive or behavioural. In all, 28 approaches, the majority adapted from the field of therapy, have been reported in surveys as being used by SGCP members.
The SGCP promotes a high standard of practice, and recommends supervision and relevant continuing professional development (CPD) of its members. It now has developed supervision guidelines and will be working on further documents to support coaching psychologists in their practice.
In December 2006 the SGCP held and sponsored the first International Coaching Psychology Conference. Building on that success, in 2008 it
will hold the first European Coaching Psychology Conference. The SGCP is building links with other European psychological bodies who are interested in being involved in the ICPR and future European conferences.
Coleman R. Griffith was the catalyst for the mission statement of the Annual SGCP National Conference in December 2007: Putting The Psychology into Coaching. This event has international speakers and leaders in their field, including Anthony Grant, who has often been considered as a key figure in helping psychologists to take coaching psychology seriously.
The growth of coaching psychology – as an area of research and evidence-based practice, and in the form of a BPS Special Group – probably reflects the interest of psychologists in going beyond the constraints of traditional psychology. By focusing on performance and well-being, psychologists can support and practise
a postmodern world-view, similar to positive psychology. Could coaching psychology be a psychological zeitgeist for the 21st century, and a rewarding job to boot? Read on for more on what it’s like to be a coaching psychologist.
Stephen Palmer and Alison Whybrow are UK Coordinating Editor of the International Coaching Psychology Review and Chair of
the Special Group in Coaching Psychology.
[email protected] [email protected].
Job Title: Neuropsychologist: Neuropsychiatry and Acquired Brain Injury Services
Employer: The Huntercombe Hospital, Roehampton (www.huntercombe.com)
Dr Art Anderson, Head of Psychological Services at the Huntercombe Hospital,
is very specific about the sort of person he wants.
’This is a new role and we need a senior psychologist who wants to become a consultant: it could be a chartered psychologist or someone working towards chartership in neuropsychology. But they must have three years’ post-qualifying experience. They will enjoy working among acquired brain injury patients: not in
a ‘Polyanna’ way, but through passionate commitment to seeking improvement. By the time the candidate is appointed, a full patient population and a basic treatment approach will be in place, together with a multidisciplinary team.’
Why is the hospital setting up this new programme? ‘The Huntercombe Group
is small and flexible enough to react quickly to new issues that appear. A lot of our patients were presenting with acquired brain injury, so we are able to focus on that.
‘Medical advances enable certain groups to live longer. Many of the patients will be alcohol and substance abusers who may, at one time, have dropped through the net and ended up on the street where life expectancy is low; or older people with a mood disorder exacerbated by a stroke, fall or car accident.’
The treatment approach also reflects developments in the profession. ‘The successful candidate will lead a multidisciplinary team including occupational therapy, social work, psychiatry and nursing. Psychology in health environments is no longer an isolated job. The role involves training other members of the team, using oversight techniques and treatment planning. The team will develop full biosocial treatments plans, the aims of which are not long-term maintenance but rehabilitation, a move back into the community and, where possible, work. This approach very much reflects social, political and treatment trends: we don’t want people to stay in long-term care when their quality of life could be improved. But to achieve this you must break out of the institutional mind-set. We are interested in improving individuals’ functional abilities to the highest level and use a number of techniques and models, including assertive community treatment.’
CPD is crucial in an organisation which is constantly looking for new areas of treatment. ‘A number of staff members have been sponsored to take MScs. We have recently concentrated on our dual-diagnosis model, with invited speakers and a weekly programme for training staff. I‘ve never known an organisation so committed to making CPD a central part of what they do.’
To sum up, ‘you need energy and a real commitment to improvement and learning – not only through formal CPD activities but through listening to other members of the team. I want the person to grow into the role of consultant for this ward. And as our group of hospitals develop, there will be possibilities for expanding experience.’
You can find this job on p.167, and with many others on www.psychapp.co.uk.
How to become a coaching psychologist
Services offered by coaching psychologists include: facilitating client self-understanding and behavioural change; assessment of individuals, groups and organisations; research; supervision; training; and referrals to specialist services. Psychologists who provide coaching psychology services can already be found within the listings of the British Psychological Society’s Directory of Chartered Psychologists (www.bps.org.uk/directory). Many of them can be identified through their membership of the Society’s Special Group in Coaching Psychology (SGCP).
So how do you become a coaching psychologist? The SGCP currently provides the following guidance to its members: as well as a psychology degree recognised by the Society to confer graduate basis for registration, relevant training and supervised experience, a coaching psychologist will be expected to have knowledge and relevant competencies.
For those wishing to enter this field, selecting an appropriate course seems rather daunting. Some psychologists go down the research route with a PhD or take a practitioner DPsych post-chartered top-up course focusing on coaching psychology. There is also a proliferation of coaching psychology, psychology of coaching and coaching training courses to choose from. The SGCP does not currently recognise any specific training courses or make recommendations regarding individual training requirements. However, if you are considering enrolling on a course, some of the questions you might ask are:
- Is the course university accredited?
- Are chartered psychologists actively involved in running and teaching on the course?
The SGCP view is that all Society members who provide coaching psychology or psychological coaching services should receive regular supervision. So, if you are working as a coaching psychologist or in training, it is recommended that you make arrangements for supervision from a chartered psychologist who, in turn, possesses the relevant experience and training. The SGCP have recently published Guidelines for Supervision of Coaching Psychology to provide clear guidance for supervision of integrative coaching psychology services, which can be downloaded from their website.
The journey towards becoming a coaching psychologist is not as clearly defined a route as the one to work in other areas of applied psychology such as occupational, counselling or health. Psychologist qualification routes are available through Divisional membership of the Society, and there is currently no clearly defined accreditation route for coaching psychologists – that may soon change.
The impending statutory regulation of psychologists via the Health Professionals Council has provided a clear timeframe for the strategic future of the SGCP. In light of this and a number of other factors, the question of accreditation is being firmly pursued. To further progress in this area the SGCP has sought advice, support and clarification of the accreditation frameworks or options that are available now, or likely to be available in the near future, for coaching psychologists within the Society. At the time of writing they are undertaking the required work to build further upon the development of specific coaching psychology competencies to move towards an accreditation route. As part of the drive to create an accreditation route for all coaching psychologists, the SGCP have recently launched a new online list for SGCP members who have chartered psychologist status at www.sgcp.org.uk/
member-list.cfm. This enables chartered members to give the public and organisations more detail of the coaching psychology services they offer. This new facility is based and linked to the Society’s Directory of Chartered Psychologists, so at the current time only those who currently appear in the Directory will be eligible to appear on this new SGCP online list.
When selecting or recruiting coaching psychologists and coaches, clients and employers increasingly assess candidates’ knowledge, training and experience and check their awareness or membership of the SGCP. However, the Society prevents members who do not have chartered status from referring to their membership of the Society and, in this case, of the SGCP, as this may be misleading to the public.
There are a number of benefits of being a member of the SGCP. With over 2000 members this enables you to be part of a dynamic, multidisciplinary network focused around a common interest. Other member benefits include the regular publications of The Coaching Psychologist and International Coaching Psychology Review, membership delegate rates at SGCP events/conferences and also being part of an online community.
In addition the SGCP continues to work hard to meet the accreditation needs of their members and answer their questions in support of their professional coaching psychology practice. The current subscription rate is just £3.50.
A week in the life of a coaching psychologistSiobhain O’Riordan gives an insider’s view of her role as
a coaching psychologist, linked to her role in the SGCP
When it was first suggested that I write an article about a week in my working life I wondered how I might best reflect a coaching psychologist’s typical workload. I undertake a very wide range of different types of work: no two weeks are quite the same. I find this a positive aspect of my job: it offers variety and helps me remain enthusiastic and energetic in my approach.
My present role incorporates a number of areas that focus on both coaching psychology and coaching.
One part of what I do relates more specifically to clients in the form of one-to-one personal and professional coaching. Another consists of being a trainer, examiner and academic supervisor on graduate or postgraduate coaching and coaching psychology programmes. I also design and deliver bespoke coaching workshops and presentations on many coaching and personal improvement topics. During 2006/7, I also have the privilege of being Chair of the British Psychological Society’s Special Group in Coaching Psychology (SGCP).
My other work as a psychologist includes being
an associate lecturer in higher education, a psychology tutor in further education, as well as participating in a number of professional and voluntary endeavours.
Because you could say I ‘wear a number of different hats’ I attempt to plan in advance where possible so that I can schedule the week ahead and allocate appropriate time based on priorities and deadlines. This doesn’t always go to plan because I need to work both proactively and reactively. I often need to make adjustments.
During the particular week I’m considering here, my work was as eclectic as usual. It included tutoring and teaching, training, student supervision, reviewing a doctoral proposal and undertaking coaching client work. My work as SGCP Chair also requires quite a high level
of personal commitment and currently tends to take up a reasonable percentage of my time. I am also Co-chair of both the Conference Sub-committee and Accreditation Working Party of the SGCP.
My professional activities are mainly focused within the arenas of executive, personal and retirement coaching. Client commitments for the week I’m writing about could be described as executive coaching with an emphasis on personal improvement. This type of coaching often involves focusing on issues such as: enhancing confidence, work/life integration, increasing personal impact and performance, managing career change and challenges. An important first step is to contract with the client to clarify and define the goals they wish to achieve. I think there may be a slight misconception that being a coach entails seeing clients back-to-back, five days a week. In my experience this is not the case, although the majority of my professional activities remain focused around the arenas of coaching psychology and coaching. Due to current commitments the number of one-to-one clients I work with on a weekly basis is variable. I tend to undertake coaching client work face-to-face rather than
via the telephone or other media. This does perhaps limit my opportunities to work with a higher number of clients.
I spent a day during the course of this week contributing as a trainer on a psychological coaching certificate course, which included delivering a presentation on the topic of retirement coaching as well
as supporting students’ psychological coaching supervision sessions and skills-based activities. One evening was also dedicated to teaching psychology within an adult education environment.
I allocated a proportion of my time to planning and preparing teaching and course materials.
I usually do this ‘background’ work at home. My teaching work requires me to adopt a flexible approach so that I can respond effectively to students’ requests and questions to support their learning and studies. This normally takes place via telephone or e-mail. Perhaps unusually I undertook no academic marking; however, I’m keen to support and encourage research in the area of coaching psychology, so I was pleased to review a doctoral proposal. I view research in the area of coaching psychology and coaching as fundamental to the promotion of good practice.
Most SGCP work is conducted online so there tends to be a reasonable volume of e-mails to work through each day. Routine activities undertaken as SGCP Chair include chairing and attending relevant meetings, representing coaching psychology and the SGCP, responding to enquiries and communicating with the BPS subsystems office. In this particular week I had to focus on aspects of the forthcoming 3rd National Coaching Psychology Conference. A key current, ongoing project deals with the exploration of accreditation options and frameworks available for coaching psychologists within the BPS.
This week gives a sample of a career which is very flexible, enabling me to participate in areas of both personal and professional interest. It is also an exciting time for coaching psychology and I am pleased to be able to contribute to and be part of its progressive development.
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