The Active Ingredients in Coaching

To understand the psychological variables at play in the coaching process, we turn to psychotherapy research. Although coaching is not therapy, and vice versa, there are lessons to be learned from what that research tells us. Early on, researchers (Bergin & Lambert, 1978) demonstrated overwhelmingly that psychotherapy works and then turned their attention to a more sophisticated question: If therapy works, what are its active ingredients? For executive coaches and for those who oversee coaching matches, that’s where the treasure lies hidden.

Four factors account for almost all the systematic variance in psychotherapy outcomes (Asay & Lambert, 1999). These are the “active ingredients” that make therapy effective. ...

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