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Individual and Group Life Coaching Findings from a Randomised, Controlled Trial


1st Australian Evidenced-Based Coaching Conference. 7th 8th July, 2003 ... group forms of psychotherapy in reducing symptomatology (including CBT); (8) (9) ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Individual and Group Life Coaching Findings from a Randomised, Controlled Trial

Individual and Group Life Coaching Findings
from a Randomised, Controlled Trial
Gordon Spence Dr. Anthony Grant Coaching
Psychology Unit University of Sydney 1st
Australian Evidenced-Based Coaching
Conference 7th 8th July, 2003
  • Justin Court, Anna Reader, Kate Lloyd, Kirsten
    Enerson, Rebecca Pearce, Nickolas Yu and Peter
    Webb - for giving freely of their time, energy
    and enthusiasm
  • Michael Cavanagh
  • Suzy Green and Dr. Lindsay Oades (University of
  • Philip Goldstein - Director, Future Prospects

The Life-Coaching Evaluation Objectives
  • To assess the effectiveness of individual and
    group-based life coaching interventions
  • To observe effects of coaching on measures of
    psychological well-being, personality,
    metacognition and goal striving
  • To understand more about the practicalities and
    challenges associated with conducting rigorous
    scientific research into coaching.

Randomised, Controlled Trials (RCTs) - Gold
standard research?
  • Good experimental designs will improve the
    credibility of coaching
  • When we coach, we are all conducting trials. If
    successful, it may be that coaching made the
    difference, however this difference may have
    little or nothing to do with the coaching
  • For many researchers, RCT represents the best
    means for determining whether an experiment has
    worked. (1)

RCT What are they? Why use them?
  • In RCTs participants are randomly allocated to
    two or more experimental groups
  • Importantly, one group does not receive the
    treatment (i.e. coaching) and acts as a base-line
    for comparisons. This group is the control group
  • Random allocation seeks to create the best
    possible comparison group with which to assess
    the effectiveness of a treatment ? greater
    confidence in accepting results.

6 Goals, Well-Being Coaching
  • Empirically, there is considerable evidence that
    personal goals play a central role in determining
    the quality and intensity of affective
    experience (2)
  • However, goal attainment isnt everything
  • As Emmons (1996) observed
  • "goal attainment per se will not lead to
    subjectively satisfying long-term states unless
    these goals are intrinsically meaningful and
    integrated within an overall structure of the
    individual" (p. 333, italics added).

Goals, Well-Being Coaching (contd)
  • Thus, some researchers have focused on the
    quality of personal goals (3)
  • If life coaching aims to assist clients in
    clarifying, adopting, striving towards and
    attaining self-integrated goals, then we might
    expect coaching to have an impact on well-being
    on more than one level
  • For example, short-term happiness and
    longer-term meaning. (4)

Two perspectives on well-being Hedonic
  • Coaching towards a change for the better,
    raises questions about what represents better.
    For example, is it happiness or meaning? (4) (5)
    (6) (7)
  • Hedonic pleasure attainment, pain avoidance
  • Eudaimonic self-realisation, fully functioning
  • These different conceptualisations have led to
    different approaches to measuring well-being. (7)

Life Coaching A (very short)
  • Grant (2003) reported that group-based coachees
    reported improved mental health, well-being and
    goal attainment
  • Green, Oades and Grant (2003) reported similar
    findings (using a RCT), along with increased
  • Individual life coaching? No studies reported to
  • Is individual life coaching associated with
    greater improvements in self-reported well-being
    and goal striving?

10 Individual vs. Group treatments
  • Numerous comparison studies have been conducted
    in clinical settings
  • Several studies and meta-analyses have reported
    little difference between individual and group
    forms of psychotherapy in reducing symptomatology
    (including CBT) (8) (9)
  • No studies published assessing differences
    between individual and group-based life coaching.

11 Metacognition Coaching
  • Self-reflection The ability to reflect upon and
    evaluate thoughts, feelings and behaviour (10)
  • Insight The clarity of understanding derived
    from those same thoughts, feelings and
    behaviours (10)
  • These metacognitive factors appear central to
    the process of human behaviour change
  • Grant (2003) found that coaching resulted in an
    increase in insight but a decrease in

H1 Individual coaching will lead to greater goal
attainment than both group coaching and
control H2 Individual coachees will report
higher levels of eudaimonic well-being, whereas
group-based coachees will report higher levels of
hedonic well-being H3 Both forms of coaching
will result in increases in self-reflection and
Sampling Procedure
  • Advertisements placed in the local media and on
    the CPU internet homepage
  • 131 expressions of interest received, with 89
    participants completing pre-program screening
    questionnaires (incl. Brief Symptoms Inventory
  • Exclusion criteria set at 2 SDs above mean on
    BSI and 13 participants (15) were excluded on
    this basis
  • n 64, randomly assigned to one of three
    groups individual coaching (Group 1, n21),
    group-coaching (Group 2, n22) or control (Group
    3, n21).

The design
  • Phase I was conducted between February-April
  • Phase II commenced in May and concludes at
    approx. 7.30pm this evening (with wine

Experimental conditionsIndividual coaching
  • 10 weekly x 45min. coaching sessions, with coach
    and coachee meeting at same time/same place each
  • All coaches were trained within CPU and used
    combined CBT/SF approach
  • Regular supervision meetings were held to
    discuss specific concerns or issues related to
    the coaching. Meetings were facilitated by a CPU
    graduate with 750 hrs coaching experience.

Experimental conditionsGroup co-coaching
  • Commenced with a facilitated 1-day workshop
    where participants worked through a self-coaching
    manual (11) (12)
  • Participants attended 10 weekly x 75min. group
    coaching sessions, consisting of a 15min.
    mini-lecture / discussion and 2 x 30min.
    co-coaching sessions (in dyads)
  • Co-coaching was structured using a Guide to
    RE-GROW, which included a series of suggested
    coaching questions and note-taking sheets.

Dependent measures
  • Goal striving
  • Attainment Commitment
  • Meta-cognition
  • Self-Reflection Insight Scale (SRIS) 35
  • Well-Being
  • Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS) 5 items
  • Positive Negative Affect Scale (PNAS) 10
  • Scales of Psychological Well-Being (PWB) 54
  • Depression, Anxiety Stress Scale (DAS-21) 21
  • Personality
  • NEO-FFI 60 items

Data Analysis
  • One-way analyses of variance (ANOVA) on Time 1
    scores confirmed effective randomisation
  • Reliability analysis revealed good-to-satisfactor
    y reliability coefficients for all measures
  • Within-subjects differences assessed using
    paired-samples t-tests between-subjects
    differences assessed using GLM univariate
    analyses (using Time 1 scores and sex as

ResultsCoaching Attendance
  • Individual coaching 189 of 200 sessions 94.5
  • Group coaching 142 of 210 sessions 72.4

Results Goal commitment
Results Goal attainment
Results Well-Being
  • No significant differences noted for depression,
    stress, anxiety, positive affect or negative
  • Satisfaction with Life Significant increases
    for individual coachees (plt.05), approached
    significance for group coachees (p.052)
  • PWB no significant differences noted on 5/6 PWB
    sub-scales, however
  • Environmental Mastery significantly increased
    for individual coachees (plt.001, d0.29) but not
    the other groups.

Results Environmental Mastery (PWB)
Results Openness to Experience (Personality)
  • No significant differences noted for Neuroticism
    or Agreeableness
  • Extroversion Significant increases for group
    coachees only (plt.05)
  • Conscientiousness Significant increases for
    both individual and group coachees (plt.05) but
    not control group (p.835)
  • Openness to Experience Increased for group
    coachees (plt.001), decreased for control group
    (plt.05). Large effects noted for all coachees vs.
    control group (G11.38 G20.97).

Results Openness to Experience (Personality)
  • Coaching positively impacted on the Goal
    Attainment ratings of both groups, although Goal
    Commitment decreased for group coachees
  • Limited impact on well-being
  • Coaching appears to have bolstered the
    self-efficacy of coachees, whilst enhancing
    imagination, creativity and curiosity
  • Though self-reflection and insight did increase
    for coachees, these differences were not

An important question for coaching research
  • Given that
  • coaching appears best directed towards
    non-clinical populations and
  • it seems ethical to screen for advanced levels
    of psychological distress,
  • are existing measures of well-being sufficiently
    sensitive to pick up coaching-related changes in
    coachee well-being?
  • Mental health screening reduces MH variability
    in the data set, leaving a relatively happy
    group ? ceiling effect.

Individual vs. Group
  • Perhaps clinical groups are relatively more
    homogeneous than life coaching groups, and thus,
    derive greater benefits from shared experience?
  • If so, life coaching in groups might require
    greater structure and facilitation than offered
    by a co-coaching program
  • Qualitative analysis is likely to suggest an
    answer (still to be completed).

Shifting attention?
  • The results suggest that Group 1 coachees began
    to think more imaginatively, show greater
    receptivity to novel alternatives and/or greater
    resourcefulness in service of their goals
  • Can it be claimed that these participants became
    better at controlling their attention becoming
    more solution-focused?
  • No, not really!

Directions for Future Research
  • Studying attentional control offers the
    potential of explaining how coaching works
  • Attentional training programs have had some
    success in clinical settings, as a treatment for
    affective disorders and health anxiety (14) (15)
  • Exploration of the relationship between the
    control of attentional and coaching outcomes
  • Reliable measures of SF thinking needed to test
    whether attentional training techniques can be
    effectively coached
  • Another RCT is planned for 2004.

General comment
  • Life coaching research is full of challenges,
    particularly when conducting a RCT involving
    individual coaching
  • Adequate sample sizes and coaching timeframes
    lots of coaching hours
  • The logistics are very important. Essentials
  • a set location and fixed session times
  • peer supervision
  • enthusiastic others!
  • Studies of this sort appear better suited to
    life coaching rather than executive coaching.

  • In light of these results
  • Coaching does appear to be better than no
  • Individual coaching appears to deliver larger
    benefits than group-based coaching (contrary to
    findings from clinical psychology)
  • Pre-program screening appears to render some
    measures of well-being unsuitable for coaching
  • Measures of attentional control may prove
    fruitful for measuring change in non-clinical

  • Bulpitt, C.J. (1996). Randomised controlled
    clinical trials. Boston Kluwer Academic
  • Emmons, R.A. (1996). Striving and feeling
    Personal goals and subjective well-being. In P.M.
    Gollwitzer J.A. Bargh (Eds.), The psychology of
    action Linking cognition and motivation to
    behavior (pp. 313-337). New York Guildford.
  • Sheldon, K.M. Elliot, A.J. (1998). Not all
    personal goals are personal Comparing autonomous
    and controlled reasons for goals as predictors of
    effort and attainment. Personality and Social
    Psychology Bulletin, 24 (5), 546-557.
  • McGregor, I. Little, B.R. (1998). Personal
    projects, happiness, and meaning on doing well
    and being yourself. Journal of Personality
    Social Psychology, 74, 494-512.
  • Ryff, C.D. Singer, B. (1998b). The contours of
    positive human health. Psychological Inquiry, 9,
  • Diener, E., Sapyta, J.J. Suh, E. (1998).
    Subjective well-being is essential to well-being.
    Psychological Inquiry, 9, 33-37.
  • Ryan, R.M. Deci, E.L. (2001). On happiness and
    human potentials A review of research on hedonic
    and eudaimonic well-being. Annual Review of
    Psychology, 52, 141-166.
  • McRoberts, C., Burlingame, G.M. Hoag, M.J.
    (1998). Comparative efficacy of individual and
    group psychotherapy a meta-analytic perspective.
    Group Dynamics Theory, Research and Practice, 2,
  • Manassis, K., Mendlowitz, S.L., Scapillato, D.,
    Avery, D., Fiksenbaum, L., Freire, M., Monga, S.
    Owens, M. (2002). Group and individual
    cognitive-behavioral therapy for childhood
    anxiety disorders a randomised trial. Journal of
    American Academy of Child and Adolescent
    Psychiatry, 41, 1423-1430.
  • Grant, A.M. (2003). The impact of life coaching
    on goal attainment, metacognition and mental
    health. Social Behavior and Personality, 31,
  • Grant, A.M., Greene, J. (2001). Coach yourself
    Make real change in your life. London Momentum
  • Grant, A.M., Cavanagh, M. (2002). Become your
    own life coachThe key to successful change.
    Centre for Continuing Education, University of
  • Green, S., Oades, L. Grant, A.M. (2003). An
    evaluation of a life coaching group program
    Initial findings from a wait-list control study.
    Paper presented at The First Australian
    Conference on Evidence-Based Coaching, July 2003.
  • Matthews, G. Wells, A. (2000). Attention,
    automaticity, and affective disorder. Behavior
    Modification, 24, 69-93.
  • Cavanagh, M. (PhD thesis submitted, 2003).

Individual and Group Life Coaching Findings
from a Randomised, Controlled Trial Gordon
Spence Dr. Anthony Grant Coaching Psychology
Unit, University of Sydney
Thank you for listening. Questions?
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