Why Psychology matters to Coaching Conversations

We believe that as coaches it is important for us to have an understanding of coaching principles that impact these type of conversations. This article explores why we feel this is important bringing in aspects such as ethical practice.


Why is having an understanding of psychology important for coaching sessions? In a nutshell? Because humans are wonderfully complex and psychology helps us navigate that.

Coaching is not about learning a model or a technique and then applying that tool in your practice. That process actually can be harmful to your client. A quote by Jonathan Passmore, a coaching psychologist, that we love says ‘when the only tool that you have is a hammer, everything starts looking like a nail’.

The philosophy behind any coaching support is that the client knows best, that there could be many ways for a client to support their behaviours and actions. Perhaps they don’t have the tools to get there but ultimately they have control.

And if we, as coaches, go in and push forward a model or technique that we have learnt then we lose the value of coaching – that is, truly being with our client.

So how does psychology help us as coaches to be more open, flexible and ethical? Here are some ideas:

1. Understanding psychological factors that affect humans will help you and your client understand their behaviours – why they do what they do.

2. Using psychological principles allows you to coach in a more holistic and transformational way – you can support your client explore not only what they want to do (goal) but also their thoughts, feelings, beliefs, patterns of working and thus help them sustain change.

3. Psychological principles help us work in an ethical way with our clients. We have a deeper understanding of when to signpost, our boundaries (and the client’s) and how to support someone take the next step… without actually telling them what to do!

4. That said, as coaching psychologists at times we need to, on one hand, hold on to that idea of ‘we know what could be happening here, let’s explore this more…’ vs the idea of ‘I know what is going on. It fits this model. Let me tell you all about it’ and then influence someone’s thinking (which to clarify we don’t do!)

If you want a robust coaching programme, accredited by the ICF that is based on using psychology in coaching then our Diploma in Integrative Coaching is it!

Want to understand how to become an Accredited Coach? 

We have number of ICF Coach Training Certificates including our Diploma in Integrative Coaching

Become also offers bespoke mentoring programmes to help you develop your coaching skills. Our mentoring is available on a 1-1 basis or as a group. Get in touch if you’d like to find out more.

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