What is coaching psychology?

We all want to live exciting lives, full of energy and passion. We are yet to hear anyone say seriously that they’d rather live a boring, meaningless life. That such a desire is universal is why there’s a billion-dollar industry called ‘self help’, involving more books, websites, podcasts and apps than you can shake several very bendy sticks at. But here’s the kicker: a lot of self-help material is well-intentioned rubbish. Visualisation exercises? They often make you less likely to achieve your goals. Self-affirmations? They only work if you have high self-efficacy for the new habit you’re trying to change to, otherwise they backfire badly. A hell of a lot of self-help sounds like it should work, and is presented by charismatic authors and speakers, but, at the same time, cold hard science has shown that a lot of common self-help techniques either don’t work, or they only work under certain circumstances.

That next diet book you’re going to read? How do you know you’re not making yourself less likely to lose weight? That book on being creative and artistic? How do you know whether it can it be trusted? And that YouTube ‘expert’ who was just telling you about reducing your stress levels? How do you know he’s right?

To put it bluntly, how do you know you’re not wasting your time? (And remember, time is money.)

Psychology, as the scientific study of human behaviour, predates modern fields like life coaching and management consultancy by nearly a hundred years. For much of that history, some psychologists have focussed not on what happens to make people mentally unwell, but on how to highly successful people function. Only over the last decade have this huge body of scientific research coalesced into coaching psychology. Coaching psychologists don’t work with mental health problems, or severe distress. Rather, we work with people who simply want to live life to the full; people who feel life ought to be more than it is right now. Coaching psychologists help clients to use the most up-to-date findings from psychological science to realise their dreams.

Like most coaching psychologists, we don’t offer therapy. If you’re struggling with significant mental health problems (not just the bad moods and nasty thoughts that affect us all), there are better places to seek help. If you want to start getting a handle on the difference between coaching psychology and therapy, you might like to read Lee’s blog post on the topic.