Does the concept of self-acceptance help coaches to develop their clients?
Psychological coaching is a field which is not dissimilar to teaching, with both occurring in an educational context of some sort: teaching is perhaps a more formalised field of education, whereas coaching is more informal. In both contexts, the desired change could be seen to be equitable to development: in teaching, the student increases their intelligence and presumably their educational attainment. Conversely, in psychological coaching, the change tends to be on a more psychological level, where the client alters some aspect of their thinking or cognition in order to cope better with events which are happening in their life (whether it be at work or possibly in their private lives) which can potentially result in the client experiencing a greater quality of life.
Coaching as a mechanism for change and self-acceptance
The stereotypical view of psychological coaching (or any sort of psychological work, including counselling) may be that it entails a one-sided dialogue from the client to the coach/psychologist informing them of their problems in great depth whilst the psychologist takes notes and probes the client further about their thoughts and responses. However, this perception of coaching implies that the problem is simply being examined and analysed, without any actions being taken to change matters which is arguably anathema to the core essentials of coaching. Cavanagh and Grant (2014) note that all types of coaching (whichever domain they may fall into) are solution-based to some extent, of which perhaps the most notable (and relevant to this assignment) is Cognitive Behavioural coaching (CBC).
A close relative of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, its core principles are aligned with self-acceptance- getting clients to be less harsh and critical of themselves (‘coachees’ can be notoriously self-critical and have overt perfectionist tendencies) and set more realistic goals which they can strive towards and have a more realistic chance of achieving (Williams et al., 2014). Theoretically, CBC (and the self-acceptance principles it espouses) could be extremely effective, although it could be deemed to be overly pluralistic and homogenous in nature, as in its theoretical carnation at least, it seems to show blatant disregard for some of the potential obstacles to CBC actually resulting in positive change.
Firstly, it is apt to consider the barriers and negative schema which the client has already accumulated prior to being referred for CBC. Beck (1979) eloquently describes this as the negative ‘internal dialogue’ which individuals (normally those who are prone to depression or whom may be prime candidates for CBC) suffer from. He later coined this as the ‘cognitive’ triad, a general pessimistic outlook on life which involves negative thoughts about the self, the world/environment and the future. These ‘cognitive distortions’ can lead to perpetual, cyclical negative thoughts (also known as ‘intrusive thoughts’ in psychological parlance which can be a major inhibitor for individuals and stop them from achieving their true potential in life (Palmer and Szymanska, 2007).
This backlog of negative thoughts may be hard to tackle: although the principle of CBC is indeed addressing these negative thoughts and allowing for them to be replaced by more positive, realistic thoughts (Williams et al., 2014). In fairness, CBC is viewed not as a ‘quick fix’, but more of a long-term therapy which can contribute to the sustainable well-being of a client, although the adage ‘it will get worse before it gets better’, could be assumed to apply here. This is given because of the general consensus (Williams et al., 2014) that therapy of any kind can have initial negative impacts on a (presumably already) vulnerable individual, thus emphasising the importance of a skilled practitioner to deliver it.