Positive psychology coaching: optimising your potential - Happy + Well : Happy + Well

Positive psychology coaching: optimising your potential

Written by on March 1, 2016 in Happiness, Wellness with 0 Comments

imagesYou may be familiar with the term ‘life coaching.’ Although I’ve never seen a life coach myself, there have been times when I’ve found the idea quite appealing. Usually when I’ve felt stuck in some way, invariably during a period of transition, and could’ve really benefited from some impartial advice and encouragement.

I use the term ‘life coaching’ because until I heard Dr Suzy Green’s presentation at Mind & Its Potential 2011, I didn’t know it was called anything else. In fact, I knew very little about coaching psychology as a discipline in general, or that many clinical psychologists like Green whose therapeutic work is informed in large part by the principles of positive psychology regard the two fields as “perfect partners.”

That’s because both positive psychology and coaching psychology promote optimal functioning, enhanced performance, enhanced psychological wellbeing and focus on strengths and solutions.

Green defines positive psychology by explaining what it isn’t, namely “a happiology” that denies our so-called negative feelings and emotions. On the contrary, there’s no question these will continue to arise but the goal is to understand and better manage them through the cultivation of positive emotions such as wisdom, creativity, meaning and forgiveness. She adds that the merits of this psychological approach, long practised by many of the world’s great religions, have only in the past decade or so been validated by the science.

According to research Green cites, the three factors identified to have a large effect on chronic happiness are genetic (50 percent), intentional activity (40 percent) and outside circumstances (10 percent).

Bearing this is mind, it’s interesting to learn that research has found that only a small percentage of the population can be considered ‘flourishers’, a term used a lot in the field of positive psychology. Green says, “These are people who report low levels of mental illness on measures of mental illness, and high levels of mental health. The majority sit in the moderately mentally healthy. The languishers are people who don’t fit DSM criteria for diagnosis but they’re certainly not functioning as well as they could be.”

Which is where coaching psychology comes in. As Green points out, her clients don’t come to see her because they’re extremely satisfied with their lives. But they’re not reporting significantly high levels of psychological distress either (in which case they’d probably be better off seeing a clinical psychologist). Indeed, this is an important distinction to make and why Green says the coaching industry needs to be regulated in order to stop just anyone without the appropriate qualifications and experience from calling themselves a coach.

This is especially so given how critical the relationship between client and coach is in predicting therapeutic outcomes. Green says, “Some of the research now in coaching is that it’s the actual coaching relationship that leads to outcomes, not so much the different strategies we use.”

Such strategies pertain less to goal setting and more to goal striving, a process many people struggle with. Having someone i.e. a coach “checking in with you, reminding you why you’re going through this process of change, encouraging you, drawing on your strengths. It’s like having a cheerleader with you through that process of change,” says Green.


Dr Suzy Green is a leader in the complementary fields of Coaching Psychology and Positive Psychology, and Founder and CEO of the Positivity Institute. She is presenting a session at Happiness & Its Causes 2016. To register, click here.

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