Course Guide

The Traditional Psychological Evidence for Coaching

Coaching is based on decades of traditional psychological research.  

Behavioural theories of psychology demonstrate how conditioning can be used to change behaviour as a result of learning new information, ‘trying out’ new behaviours, and reinforcing successful behaviours. Behavioural psychologists are concerned with observing and recording visible behaviours to look for behavioural change. From a coaching perspective, coaches work with coachees to help them change their behaviour to solve their problems and achieve their goals. Actions that the coachee decides to take as a result of coaching are indicators of their willingness to change.  

Cognitive psychologists study a person’s internal states such as attention, perception, memory, motivation, problem solving, decision-making, thinking and learning – as well as how people acquire, process and store information. Cognitive therapies address the different perspectives and mindsets that support, encourage or hold-back, the acquisition of desired goals. Coaches work with coachees to change their mindsets, identify limiting beliefs, assumptions, judgments and biases, and reframe negative thoughts into positive, goal-oriented ways to behave and resolve their situation.  

Developmental psychologists are concerned with how people learn, grow and develop. Their research is focused on educational institutions and organisations which promote individual growth and development. Research has shown that people who believe their ability to be fixed will behave in ways different from those who believe that they have some control over their ability to learn, change, and improve. 

Humanistic psychology extends the developmental approach by focusing on an individual's potential, stressing the importance of seeking self-actualisation. The fundamental belief of humanistic psychologists is that people are innately good, and that mental and social problems are simply the result of deviations from this natural tendency. Whilst Carl Rogers is the acknowledged founder of humanistic psychology, his work was based on the earlier research of Carl Jung and Abraham Maslow. 

Personality psychologists seek to uncover the characteristic patterns of thoughts, feelings and behaviours that make a person unique. Personality research has led to a number of theories that help to explain how and why personality develops, based on an understanding of individual traits and how these may be aggregated into types of personalities. An example of types of personalities is those identified in the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. 

 Research by social psychologists is focused on the impact that the social environment and group interactions have on individual attitudes and behaviours. It tries to understand and explain how individual thoughts, feelings and behaviours are influenced by group and social events either real, imagined or implied by other human beings. It investigates phenomenon such as group behaviour, social perception, conformity, aggression and prejudice. Social psychology is important in coaching because, for the coaching to be successful, change actions the coachee takes need to be supported back in their real-life and-work situations.  

If you are interested in exploring how psychology informs coaching practice by combining cognitive and behavioural approaches to change within humanistic and social frameworks, and discover more about yourself at the same time,  visit to download information on the Diploma qualifications we offer. Then contact us to learn more.