What is Coaching Psychology or Psychological Coaching*? Can it help you or someone you know as a friend or colleague?

The Special Group in Coaching Psychology of the BPS defines coaching psychology as a discipline "for enhancing well-being and performance in personal life and work domains underpinned by models of coaching grounded in .... psychological principles" (Palmer & Whybrow, 2006).

This places emphasis on the role of psychology in informing the process of coaching, where "Coaching is unlocking a person's potential to maximise their own performance". (Whitmore 2002)

Of course, hypnosis can also be used to tap into your unconsious potentials. A paper by Andrew Armatas (2009) explains how hypnosis can go beyond the normal talk, and how it can be used as self-hypnosis by clients outside the consultation room to develop and rehearse their performance in virtual reality.

The famous concert pianist Claudio Arrau (1903 - 1991) was once asked how he managed to keep his technique so brilliantly sharp while he was physically unable to practise during his long hours of travel touring the world. He replied that he did practise - in his head - every minute while travelling, and that he could feel his fingers touching the piano keyboard and hear and feel the music as though the whole experience were real. We know now that this was a form of self-hypnosis, and this anecdote resonates well with Armatas's paper. 

A lovely account of how hypnosis helps a client from psychological therapy through to coaching comes (again) from classical music. The Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninov sank into a deep depression after the premiere of his First Symphony turned into a fiasco in 1897. The First Symphony was really a love story about Anna, the wife of his friend Piotr Lodichensky. Rachmaninov regarded the demise of his First Symphony and his forbidden love for Anna as a divine judgement. He ripped up the conductor's score of the music and vowed that he never wanted that work performed again. He also had a creative block. In 1900 he entered a long treatment of what we would now call hypnotherapy and psychotherapy with elements of coaching under Dr Nikolai Dahl, a physician who had studied hypnosis under the French neurologist, Dr Jean-Martin Charcot.  Dahl hypnotised Rachmaninov in daily sessions, where he helped the composer overcome his depression and remove his creative block.  The doctor also made hypnotic suggestions to the effect that Rachmaninov would compose two works which would come from the core of his creative being, and these would become famous and greatly loved. Rachmaninov did go on to compose two great and beautiful works - his Second Symphony and his Second Piano Concerto. (Noel Coward, the English writer, was later to use Rachmaninov's Second Piano Concerto, which he described as "the most beautiful piece of music I have ever heard", to background the 1945 art film, "Brief Encounter", of his 1936 play.) Apart from his depression, Rachmaninov also put behind him his infatuation about Anna, and went on to marry Natalya Satin.

In essence, psychological coaching is an approach that helps you to become better at what you can presently do and to feel better for it - the two go hand in hand. In a sense psychological coaching goes beyond psychological therapy, and is a manifest example of positive psychology (ie, to do with achievement, happiness etc).  It looks towards releasing your potential into real terms of enhanced achievement, which should also bring about greater contentment.  So, if psychological therapy is like doing repairs to a car engine, then psychological coaching would be like fitting a turbo-charger to it.  This is not to say of course that you need one before the other, although there may be instances when there would be overlaps, or where the one can lead on to the other.

Psychological coaching can be done on a one to one basis, or it could with your agreement also involve the views of other key people interested in the enhancement of your well-being in personal life and/or work.  One simple way of involving them would be to take views before and after the coaching programme, which would be analysed by the psychologist and reviewed between interested parties, where appropriate, and you could be either the client or the client's "interested party". So, this very much takes isolation out of the programme of personal development. However, any proposed programme of work will have to sit comfortably with the client, and will not proceed unless the client is perfectly happy with it. The coaching programme would usually be on a one-to-one basis. Of course it goes without saying that client confidentiality will, as always, be strigently observed. For most people however, the one-to-one basis is the preferred model.

If interested, contact me for an informal discussion of your needs. You will then be invited to an introductory face-to-face meeting which is free of charge and lasts about half an hour.

*The terms "Psychological Coaching" and "Coaching Psychology" are sometimes used interchangeably, but it would perhaps be useful to think of "Psychological Coaching" as the practice, and "Coaching Psychology" as the overall discipline, which of course includes theory, practice, research and development.


Armatas, A (2009) Coaching Hypnosis: Integrating hypnotic strategies and principles in coaching, International Coaching Psychology Review 4(2), 174-183

Palmer, S & Whybrow, A (2006) The Coaching psychology movement and its development within the British Psychological Society. International Coaching Psychology Review 1(1), 5-11.

Whitmore, J (2002) Coaching for performance. London, Nicholas Brealey