The 4th International Congress of Coaching Psychology – Review

The 4th International Congress of Coaching Psychology

London 11-12 December 2014 – A short review of this event

There were plenty of events and presentations to attend, for me, my interests were two that of Coaching and mental health and secondly what is emerging in International coaching and coaching psychology.


Coaching Psychology and Mental Health, Promoting Well-Being Through Coaching Psychology Interventions

Donna Willis and Prof Sarah Corrie

This session covered a variety of thought provoking ideas; below I attempted to capture the ones that seemed most important

Mental health being central to society and organisations, a number of coaches feels de-skilled in this. For example, what shall we do with trauma, this is avoided for most.? In Coaching Psychology it is recognised that 25% of the adult population experience some kind of problems in any year, depression effects one in five and 450 million people have a mental health problem across the world. This is therefore widespread in the working world. Absenteeism is also an issue, as turning up for work when people are ill is also an issue at managerial levels and above. There seems to be a call for something to be done about work life balance and the expectations of workload and expectation of what means an acceptable level of hard work on the individual in the workplace.

There is still a significant issue with the stigma of mental health. In turn the idea of Coaching seems more acceptable than therapy. So, with respect to this coaches will encounter mental health issues along the way. So, how do we meet these challenges in coaching? Also, Psychopathology lies on a spectrum between distress and well being. What are the warning signs, what are we in tune with and what are we missing, and how do coaches deal with this without stepping out of our competence and where do we refer on and draw the line?

What about the coaches mental health needs? To date, self-care has received little attention, in my opinion this ought to be developed further.


Boundaries between coaching and counselling. Are we aware of when we encounter boundaries and what do we rely on?

Sarah Baker

Coaching can be like a magpie, but where are coaching boundaries? It gets muddy when trying to define these latitudes and differences; this is based on belief and difference in practise. Many say that boundaries are instinctive, identified from experience, but still there is a strong feeling that the boundaries we assume are still hard to identify.

Intuition and instinct are odd concepts to provide boundaries, as in coaching, the measure is not so regular as in Counselling. Negotiation with the client about where they want to go can be important here. In this there is a question about a coaching knowledge base, training may allow for this a coach to be an affective practitioner. Skills based training and psychological theoretical knowledge of models and strategies can be a sound base however it seems there is variation in coaching competence against the confidence that is seen within counselling. An example could be, the difference between stress and distress, most practitioners would refer on when doubts occur. This area I find most stimulating as my training in Hypnotherapy covered many aspects with what is appropriate in dealing with stress and anxieties, while my coaching training did not meet this subject explicitly.


David Carew offered futher questions and insights into this – it is important as there are significant problems that the UK government recognise in order to support people, so that they have the opportunity to stay in work longer. There are several components that are of focus

  • Problems in work
  • Problems outside work
  • What the interaction causes what?
  • What frameworks might aid the coach to make good decisions?
  • Can coaching interventions support other interventions with boundary management?

Common issues :

  • Anxiety and mild depression 1 in 4
  • Mental health conditions
  • The recognition that being in work can aid recovery
  • Without being in work can impeded erosion of self belief
  • Work environments are possibilities for intervention which can intervene, restore and support an employee
  • Coaches may be the first impact and notice something at that point in time
  • Employee illness perceptions and the relationship with staying in work
  • The distinction between mental health conditions and mental health issues
  • More coaching for wellbeing and performance
  • The avoidance of attribution
  • Coach’s thoughts about client sensitivity
  • Being able to justify approach and evidence based intervention

Conditions that enable good performance and wellbeing….?

  1. When and how we do things that are demanding
  2. Do we exceed coping resources
  3. Life demands
  4. Role pressure
  5. Lack of self awareness
  6. Do we understand the individuals’ current situation
  7. Unmet wellbeing needs, do these need intervention now? Are coaches in orgnisations being vigilant and alert?
  8. Consent, disclosure and closure


Trauma in different contexts - David Lane

Examples of the way work is structured this doesn’t always include whether the worker is traumatised in any way. Therapy and coaching are based on the client’s need but there is a question around what level of skills and knowledge that they need?

What are the factors for resilience?

What is it that provide post trauma growth, coaching has a place here?

Trauma can provide learning about the world after the event 58% reported beneficial incidents after 9/11…creating transformation from ones core construct.

Refer to and look up: “The Road to Resilience” – APA

This relates to facilitating growth

David posed a question for us to think about – How can people use their trauma for best effect for the future orientation

Facilitating PT Growth – THRIVE

Joseph 2010 What Doesn’t Kill Us – A book to read.

  • This is about taking stock of where one is in life
  • Harvesting hope
  • Moving from victim to survivor to thriving
  • Identifying change and becoming more be reflective
  • Valuing change, noticing and nurturing this
  • Expressing change in action

David also offered us to talk about

  • Goal Setting
  • Reframing
  • Observing
  • Active listening
  • Empathy
  • Immediacy
  • Respect
  • Supporting change, as a stepped process

N.B.…. Secondary experience of trauma can and does cause trauma later on. Take responsibility for trauma

The SCARF model – David Rock

SCARF: a brain-based model for collaborating with and influencing others ..see PDF to download in other POST



Coaching culture, what is it and how can organisations develop one?

Barriers to coaching…

Dr Zara Whysall

Zara indicated several considerations that could aid the embedding of coaching in the organisation:

  • Senior leaders, linked in strategically
  • Communication via role modeling which could be formal.unformal.structured.unstructed
  • From Policy to consistent practice
  • Built into management competencies
  • By supporting a mindset not an activity
  • Continuing coach development, reinforce the skills and behaviours
  • Supervision with internal coaches?
  • Evaluation
  • Hoping to achieve across teams and levels
  • Knowing that we have achieved

When the word coaching is no longer used…becoming a standard approach


Leadership Coaching in Law Firms

Dr Nigel Spencer and Prof Jon Stokes

This was an interesting session which through the presentation demonstrated some gender issues in the profession.  What are lawyers and law firm like?

Most professionals in this area suffer from being, under confident over achieving. They present themselves as modest and do understand that things like mindfulness is valid etc…however, fail to present this outwardly.

Needs of the person are largely to be able to:



Gain Power

No one thinks they have the power, therefore law firms are badly managed.

There is a tendency to be pessimistic…therefore a need for need positive psychology

Enabling them to see how there insecurities play out, they don’t like to share, an example of which could be behaviours around seeing no point in attending meetings.

When do they learn?…in transition points, change….needing help is hard to admit for them. So, experiential learning = creating and environment to enhance




…and trust

Building peer groups through this could be useful

Some gender issues worth exploring here.


Complexity, enabling leaders to navigate through this

Dr Louise Kovacs

Results of complexity are , volatility, ambiguity, uncertainty

Through her research she advocated the following considerations and tools that may support this:

Case formulation as a model

Individualised account for client

Dynamic factors interacting

Prepose. Participate or monitor

Enable support

Shared framework

Identify multiple pathways to change

The creation of a Reflective Space…this could be to being about greater purpose

P.A.I.R Model

  • Purpose
  • Account
  • Intervene
  • Reflect

Prepare for, recover from and adapt in the face of stress, challenge or adversity – “bouncing forward”

Justin Haroun – Excellently delivered, Justin covered the following ideas and methods

Seligman, M work on Positive Psychology

PERMA – peak moments

What gets in the way for people

Evolutionary biology – brain development and undeerstanding

  • Prefrontal
  • Mammalian
  • Reptilian

We experience the effect of watching a video twice with a different soundtrack each having a different feel, tempo and pitch in the respective soundtrack. After this he posed the following questions, of which I felt I could add to my coaching approach when it deems necessary.

What’s the soundtrack of your client’s life?

  • Stress causes threat circuits, what do we feel threatened by right now?….
  • Fast track and slow track reactions?
  • James Lange theory – The James-Lange Theory of Emotion was one of the first theories to attempt to describe the process of emotional reactions. Up until the creation of this theory, relatively few studies and theories existed that related to the science of emotion. The theory states that when a person is presented with an emotional stimulus, he or she feels some sort of physiological arousal, which causes a psychological emotion to be experienced. James stated that emotion was “the feeling of bodily changes which follow the perception of an exciting event,” (Fehr, Stern 415). In other words, an event will trigger some sort of physiological change in a person’s body, and then the person’s brain will interpret these physical changes into the appropriate emotion. For example, when confronted with a frightening situation such as a loud crash, one’s body responds to the sudden noise by triggering the “fight or flight” response. Adrenaline is pumped into the body, the heart rate rises, and muscles tense up. According to the James-Lange theory, the brain will recognize these physiological changes as ones that happen in response to a frightening event, and it will then activate the “frightened” emotion in the person (Fehr, Stern 417).
  • Resilience = bouncing back, levels of resiliency…so, how to return to baseline, which will allow us to behave and live more rhythmically
  • Stress can make you stupid; it is also bad for your heart.
  • Hormonal system Shea and coronal balance
  • Sympathetic NS OR parasympathetic NS
  • Emotional landscape grid
  • Active still
  • Threat safety

A great line: “You can have lunch many times, but you can only be lunch only once!

Justin then went on to talk about HVT – Vagal tone

Vagal tone is an internal biological process referring to the activity of the vagus nerve, the tenth cranial nerve located in the medulla oblongata of the brainstem. The vagus nerve serves as the key component of the parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system, regulating the homeostasis (or “resting state”) of the majority of the body’s internal organ systems that operate on a largely subconscious level, such as the heart, lungs, eyes, glands and digestive tract

Heart focus is a point of reflection here is, the calmer and more positive we are the greater the benefits on our organs

  • Stephen purges – polyvagal theory
  • Richard Davidson
  • Barbara fredrickson

So, what does the love and kindness meditation do? Plug the holes you can plug, but replenish yourself.

Self Care and well-being for coaching is a primary focus for coaching



Day 2

In general the focus of the day was centered around the potential for well-being and performance enhancement for the individual as well as he state of International Coaching psychology

The first session was an overview about the creation and postion of coaching psychology to date. The presentation covered, the path from sports psychology Griffiths 1926, then Gorby, 1937…to the birth of humanistic Psychology, Maslow et al and positive psychology…then to the Human Potential Movement 1960/70s, “anything goes eclecticism”….then to the forming of positive psychology as it is today.

Coaching Psychologists offer the strengths of

  • Ingrained ethics
  • Rigour in practice
  • Core micro skills
  • Fundamental Professional-ism in dealing with clients

There was then a conversation about Using Skype and confidentiality, Skype isn’t secure and there are other systems that are not monitored.

VSED…preferable to Skype as Skype monitor what your information is about!

Stephen Palmer then presented a map demonstrating where coaching psychology exist. I my opinion this omitted large gaps in Asia and African countries apart from SA. This is potential for the Development Alchemists and their partners.


Coaching Psychology in Japan

Dr Etsuyo Nishigaki

Used the GROW model to explain what was happening in japan at the moment.

There is an increasing recognition of coaching in japan but she said that they would welcome greater contact with Coaching Psychologist to further this model. She then gave a brief history of how Coaching Psychology had emerged from the 1980s then to:

In 1997. – Coach21 body moved the face of coaching further

Today there are more than 1000 coaches in Japan

In 2011 – there was the first workshop of coaching psychology.

Today there is an annual conference of Japanese Association of Personality Psychology..CP, which is an interest group added to JPA. Most of this is from translated western translations.


The Development of Psychometrics

Prof John Rust

This was a rich and entertaining romp through the history of Psychometrics

Things to look up:

  • Flynn seems interesting
  • IQ test in Ellis Island, an example of how this creates racism

Possible futures in this

John then led the audience through some observations about social networking and the digital footprint that is crated about us from our behaviour on sites such as Facebook

  • Neuropsychology to computational social psychology….online behaviours can reflect such things as our will, for example. What human beings re-doing on social networks. What is out online digital footprint?
  • Theories about what our desires and expectations are and what we may be inclined to do and not do too.
  • A like on face book defines what we like which is analysable psychometrically
  • We have an image of ourselves in cyberspace…how accurate is this and what is your duty to this, it’s part of our persona…others relate to this? We want this representation to do something for us
  • My Personality App – Goldberg and Stilwell 2007. This went viral, 6 million in two years…so it became popular with university research
  • Personality data, could this be used to predict a persons personality?
  • Like’s on FB delivers some strong information about you! Spreading to the outside world. However, the patterns in data may not capture who you may be or want to be, stereotypes emerge here of course.

Looking at collecting words that are commonly used on Facebook by types of people,  extrovert words vs introvert words, low and high on neuroticism, men vs women – this was from reviewing Facebook. He also considered an explored words sued by Paranoia, Narcissism, Machiavellianism behaviours

  • Average age of a FB user 28 at the moment
  • So, what to do with this?
  • Crime, sex offenders, social evidences and deviances  could be bing mapped out.

He then presented the Yin yang and things….Sums up the problem, all great things carry a potential of their own disruption and vice versa….all destructive things carry the potential for restoration

However, online information “Nudging” would be useful to create better social habits, smoking, being green, refusing vaccination

He then referred to personality disorders (DSM4,) sometimes these things can be useful and the people that we need in particular points in time and environments to do things that would defend or be useful to others would come into play that would normally be considered  as an “extra” behaviour…hero behaviours for example spring to mind.

The Dark Side Hogan was referred to also Testing for Integrity (Giotto)

Computer based personality judgments are more accurate than those made by humans….yin yang comes into play again here, somewhat disturbing I thought. Big Brother is a global avatar from the secret services to Tesco, there are social consequences to what we do and how we are tracked there fore what do we do?…..We have to become better and more aware about managing what you we do.

The future: Question – So, how do we want all this to work?


The Coach as a Fellow-Human Companion- Building a trustful relationship in coaching dialogues

Prof. Dr Reinhardt Stelter – Copenhagen University

“In true dialogue, both sides are willing to change” – thick naht hanh

Reinhardt considers the role of fellow human as coach, here are the main points:

  • Turning the individual to the most essential in their life
  • Focus on values, meaning and identity
  • Moving towards a fellow-human position in the coaching relationship
  • Moving from a goal directive to a reflective perspective, a central perspective..existential reflection
  • The value is ..I can…and the knowledge of what has been done, guided by ethical imagination by deliberate and intuitive judgement
  • Lived knowledge and practical wisdom
  • Dialogical perspective
  • Witness thinking/dialogic talk…Shotter
  • Coming into living
  • Touching…..moving into meaning with another human being
  • Reflecting with the other’s words in mind – Coaching
  • Relational attunement…they are tuned to each other
  • Kierkegaard – double reflective message
  • Buber….through the Thou a person becomes I…I require a You to become
  • A form of resonating of what is said by the other
  • Hearing the words of another is an respond….and reflect on our own experiences
  • Hear the others’ stories and resonate from what we hear

We reflect the sense making and stories of the otherOutsider witness procedure = re-gifting

Aspen and Fonsgy 2011…..seeing ourselves from the outside and seeing others from the inside..define mentalisation. This was an important aspect.

  • Openness and wondering
  • Perspective shift or circular questioning
  • Construction of personal and social realities
  • Impact awareness – how feelings, thoughts and actions influence others
  • Humbleness
  • Humour

The collaborative dimension Coach and the coachees relationship is far more important than the technique – Move away from the belief we are an intervention, the client isn’t an object…it’s an interaction



The Roshomon Experience

Dr Adrian Myers

Adrian took us through his doctorate methodology. Do we have different perspectives on what happened or is there something there that is real?

There is something about measuring quality, what would be the benchmarks?


  • Six coaches
  • Six clients
  • Six coach observers
  • Six different sessions

Career or leadership coaching themes, Stats may have provided alignment but the client and coach identify more going on than the observers

What we brings to the coaching session?

In conclusion: It was a well spent two days, I learned some valuable insight into well-being, mindfulness and the impact of neurology on coaching approaches. On International Coaching, it’s in its infancy with huge gaps in what is happening, what is developing and for whom and how its being recorded.


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