“There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.”–W. Shakespeare



Cognitive Behavioral Coaching (CBC)  is a non-therapeutic method dealing with non-clinical problems and challenges of everyday life.

CBC is based on the adaptation of cognitive-behavioral techniques to a coaching environment. It focuses on the following targets:

  • acknowledging barriers that prevent change;

  • clarifying your goals;

  • working on potential (psychological) obstacles;

  • equipping you with the tools to fulfil your aims.

Numerous researches reveal that the approach enhances: 

  • goal-striving;

  • well-being;

  • resilience; 

  • emotional management; 

  • sales performance;

  • personal and professional value;

  • core self evaluation.

The founders of CBC Michael Neenan and Stephen Palmer posited in their Cognitive Behavioural Coaching (2001):

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Coaching can focus on any aspect of a person’s life in assisting personal growth.
A number of different approaches to coaching exist (e.g. Fournies, 2000; Whitmore, 1996). Our favoured form of coaching is derived from the principles and practice ofcognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) (Beck, 1976; Ellis, 1994). Cognitive behavioural approaches emphasize that how we react to events is largely determined by our views of them, not by the events themselves. Through examining and re- evaluating some of our less helpful views we can develop and try out alternative viewpoints and behaviours that may be more effective in aiding problem-solving (some individuals may object to the word ‘problem’ and, instead, see events in terms of challenges, issues, fine-tuning, etc.).
We call CBT when used with non-clinical groups cognitive behavioural coaching (CBC). CBC ‘does not offer any quick fixes to achieve personal change or ”magic away” personal difficulties; it does emphasize that sustained effort and commitment are required for a successful outcome to your life challenges’ (Neenan and Dryden, in press.)
CBC does not seek to give people the answers to their problems or difficulties, but through a collaborative process called guided discovery helps them to reach their own conclusions and solutions (in other words, whenever possible, we let people’s brains take the strain of problem-solving). Guided discovery is based on Socratic questioning whereby the coach asks the person a series of questions in order to bring information into her awareness: ‘therefore, Socratic questions are designed to promote insight and better rational decision making. Questions should be phrased in such a way that they stimulate thought and increase awareness, rather than requiring a correct answer’ (Beck et al., 1993:103). Previously, what may have been a closed or constricted system of thinking in relation to tackling a particular difficulty is now transformed into an open or flexible system of identifying a number of problem-solving strategies.
CBC is time-limited, goal-directed and focused on the here and now (historical material, if used, is examined to provide valuable lessons to help guide current behaviour and decision-making). Though the primary aim of coaching is to help individuals develop action plans for change, it also encourages them ‘to increase self-awareness of thinking, moods and emotions’ (Becket, 2000). For example, if an individual is procrastinating over making a career change, it is likely that anxiety is fuelling her procrastination (e.g. ‘I must be absolutely sure that I’ve made the right move. If my decision backfires, my life will be in ruins’). In this case, an action plan would also include tackling the person’s anxious thinking.
The ultimate goal of CBC is for individuals to become their own coaches, though intermittent booster sessions can be arranged once the coaching programme has ended. (In industry, we have found that a few key personnel who have undergone coaching programmes can then deliver cascade coaching to others within the organization; teaching others is an excellent way of maintaining one’s own coaching skills.) The number and length of sessions depends on the person’s requirements: for example, one hour weekly sessions to tackle an ongoing problem or a marathon three hour session to deal with performance anxiety regarding an imminent public speaking engagement. With regard to performance anxiety, we help people to distinguish between performance interfering thoughts (PITS) and performance enhancing thoughts (PETS) – we have a variety of rhyming acronyms for specific problem areas! Coaching can be conducted face-to-face, by telephone or e-mail (particularly if clients are in other parts of the world).
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