What is Cognitive Behavioural Coaching?


Cognitive Behavioural Coaching (CBC) has developed from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), and uses the same basic tools for a non-clinical group.

The cognitive behavioural approach was first formulated by Albert Ellis in the mid-1950s as Rational Emotive Therapy (RET) then later renamed Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT). RET was Ellis’s response to psychoanalysis, which he considered to be inefficient and ineffective. RET is predicated upon the fundamental concept that the way we behave is a direct result of the way we interpret things, rather than as a result of the things themselves.

In the 1960s, Aaron Beck built on this work with his model of cognitive therapy.

The merging of the two forms of therapy with some behaviourist approaches led to what is now known as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

Until recently, this approach had been focused on clinical groups to manage depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and many other mental disorders.

More recently, CBT has been adopted by the coaching community, taking its powerful approaches into a non-clinical setting.

Basic assumptions of cognitive behavioural coaching

So what makes CBC different from other coaching approaches?

The underlying principle of CBC is that behaviour is a function of environment, thoughts, feelings and physiology. When working with CBC, a coach will usually be exploring the connections between these modalities.

Another way to think about this is that we often think that an event causes a reaction. Cognitive behavioural theory says that it isn’t the event that causes a reaction, but our interpretation of the event.

Imagine you are told you have been made redundant, and you have a mortgage and bills to pay and no other way to support yourself. In this instance you might feel justified in being worried. But what if you were told at the same moment that you had won the lottery jackpot? Your feelings would be completely different! As an extreme example, this demonstrates that it is not the event itself that causes the feelings, but the interpretation.

Taking that a step further, if a client is intent on seeking a new career, but consistently avoids taking action, then it is not enough to simply focus on what else they can do. Instead, the coach needs to find out what thinking (cognition) or emotions are behind the lack of action and the interpretation they are making of the various elements involved in the process.

If a client is progressing well with their actions, a continued focus on the actions makes sense. In this instance, the coach focuses on what is working well and there is little need to interfere by exploring the emotional or cognitive aspects.

So, CBC is primarily used where the client is being held back in some way by their own thoughts and feelings.

Approaches and Models

There are a number of core tools and approaches that allow the coach to use a cognitive behavioural approach in a simple, structured manner.

Learning CBC, you’ll typically explore such concepts and models as:

SPACE – the key framework for CBC

NATs and PETs

STAR – for use with problematic situations

A–F to tackle limiting beliefs and ways of thinking

Cognitive Behavioural Coaching is a core modality within our Accredited Diploma in Transformational Coaching which can be found here.