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How Effective is 
Brief Coaching?

RESEARCH LAB

One of the myths of coaching is that a long duration is needed before positive effects are noticeable. Research on brief psychotherapy shows promising outcomes in only four to eight sessions. What do our students believe the impact is on their clients after a similar number of sessions?

tileasset_1.png

The following points represent the most notable interpretations of the results.


1.   No respondent indicated that they had observed a negative, no, or insignificant change in the top two outcome areas that their client targeted.

2. More than three-quarters of students (76%) reported a satisfactory or substantial change in their clients’ outcome areas (see Figure 1). Of these, almost half (42%) were deemed to have exceeded their and their clients’ expectations.

3. Of all data sets, almost one-quarter (24%) believed their client had only achieved a small, to modest positive change in the areas they targeted. Nevertheless, the change was noticeable.

4. The outcomes that were mostly sought were to increase the client’s clarity of values and purpose (26%), develop productive habits (12%), cultivate a positive outlook (12%), improve life satisfaction (12%), and build confidence (11%) (see Figure 2).

5. The spread in outcome effects was leaning mostly toward a higher positive in the outcome areas of clarity of values and purpose, life satisfaction, acceptance of reality, and positive outlook, while the opposite was true for the areas of productive habits, performance and productivity, and energy.

Results

CHART1

The large research pool focuses on the effects and outcomes of brief psychotherapy on treating patients with emotional disorders. Almost universally, studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of brief therapy to provide clarification of the patient’s situation and improve their problem-solving capacity (Schuyler, 2000; Cameron, 2006). The primary determinant of these positive outcomes is a trusting therapist-client relationship that is robust and empowering (Sonesh et al., 2015).


Similarly, Nieuwsma et al. (2012) found that clinical depression can be effectively treated with six to eight sessions of cognitive-behavioral therapy with a problem-solving orientation. Compared to a one-year program of psychodynamic psychotherapy, evidence produced at the Sourasky Medical Center in Israel showed a 12-session intervention produces equally good results in treating adjustment disorder (Ben-Itzhak et al., 2012).


As a result of this “avalanche of research,” the value of focus and brevity in relationships that spur human change is that brief therapy interventions are now widely accepted and practiced with a benefit to clients in terms of time and cost, without a significant compromise in effectiveness in most cases (Greenberg & Dewan, 2009)


Although the literature mostly covers brief psychotherapy approaches which engage a significantly different approach compared to coaching, the important similarity of interpersonal and open-ended conversation to affect change is shared. This means that although therapy attempts to reduce dysfunctionality and return the patient to their previous baseline, and coaching aims to move the client forward from the usual performance to a superior functioning, both modalities depend on trust, rapport, and accepted best practices to achieve a positive outcome.


Although not stringent, the latter is an important consideration in the reliability and effectiveness of both therapy and coaching across different clients and practitioners. This is yet another reason why standardized quality training and accreditation is important to ensure consistent delivery to clients.

What Does the Literature Say?

References

Ben-Itzhak, S., Bluvstein, I., Schreiber, S., Aharonov-Zaig, I., Maor, M., Lipnik, R., & Bloch, M. (2012). The effectiveness of brief versus intermediate duration psychodynamic psychotherapy in the treatment of adjustment disorder. Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy, 42, 249-256. DOI: 10.1007/s10879-012-9208-6

Cameron, C. L. (2006). Brief psychotherapy: A brief review. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 60(2), 147-152

Greenberg, R. P. & Dewan, M. J. (2009, March 13). Brief psychotherapies: Potent approaches to treatment. Psychiatric Times. Retrieved from https://www.psychiatrictimes.com/view/brief-psychotherapies-potent-approaches-treatment

Nieuwsma, J. A., Trivedi, R. B., McDuffie, J., Kronish, I., Benjamin, D., & Williams, J. W. (2012). Brief psychotherapy for depression: A systematic review and meta-analysis. International Journal of Psychiatric Medicine, 43(2), 129-151. DOI: 10.2190/PM.43.2.c

Schuyler, D. (2000). Prescribing brief psychotherapy. The Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 2(1), 13-15. DOI: 10.4088/pcc.v02n0104

Sonesh, S. C., Coultas, C. W., Lacerenza, C. N., Marlow, S. L., Benishek, L. E., & Salas, E. (2015). The power of coaching: a meta-analytic investigation. Coaching, 8(2), 73-95. DOI: 10.1080/17521882.2015.1071418

Dr. Joan Swart is the Head of Curriculum and a Supervisor at the Jay Shetty Certification School and is the corresponding author. joan.swart@jayshettycoaching.com

joan_copy.png

The Jay Shetty Certification School conducted a small trial study to determine the outcomes our students typically achieve in their coaching practice sessions and the qualitative level of change they believed was evident.


Objective

The objective of the trial study was to analyze the results students reported of the outcomes and change effects they observed in their coaching clients after a limited number of sessions. This data gives an indication of whether notable change in one or more outcome targets is observed after coaching a client for a few sessions. If sufficiently positive, the study provides evidence, on a trial basis, that coaching clients already experience noticeable benefits relatively soon into the coaching relationship. It also attempts to qualify which outcome areas were consistently affected more than others.


Method

Students at the Jay Shetty Certification School who had already completed three or more sessions with a specific client were asked to complete a short questionnaire. The answers provided identifying information, including the student and client name – primarily for quality control purposes – and their relationship with the practice client, including an acquaintance, family member, fellow student, or paid client, and the number of sessions they had completed with this client.

In the next two questions, the respondent selected the closest match of their primary and secondary target outcome of the coaching process from a list of 10 typical coaching outcome areas, namely:

Then, for each of the two outcomes that they had selected, they indicated the level of change that they had observed in the client or based on the client’s feedback to them from a list of 10 qualitative levels ranging from no/negative change to a high broad-based change. For the purpose of estimating trends and patterns, the levels of change were grouped into three levels, namely a small-modest, expected/satisfactorily, and substantial/exceptional change.

The data, which comprised of an overall total 20 sets of unique student-client combinations, ranging from a minimum of three sessions to a maximum of 10, with a median of four sessions, was analyzed by the use of simple counts and averages.

What Do Our Students Say?

1.  Confidence

2.  Clarity of values and purpose

3.  Life satisfaction

4.  Acceptance of reality

5.  Energy

6.  Positive outlook

7.  Healthy relationships

8.  Productive habits

9.  Performance and productivity

10.  Balance and harmony

These results may look impressive at a glance but what do they mean for coaches in practice? 

Most importantly, the findings confirm that coaching often produces positive results for a client after only a few sessions!

Although the trial data set was small and the outcome change effects were spread over a broad range, respondents reported positive changes with all their clients in the study.

Attitude changes (e.g., clarity of values and purpose, positive outlook, and acceptance of reality) appear to precede behavioral changes (e.g., habit changes, performance, and productivity). This conclusion is supported by research done at John Hopkins University that found that relationship outcomes are stronger than goal-attainment outcomes, which are stronger in terms of behavior than attitude changes (Sonesh, Coultas, Lacerenza, Marlowm Benishek, & Salas, 2015). 

This finding is aligned with the design of the Jay Shetty Certification School program’s ABC’S of Coaching framework that targets awareness first as the foundation of the goal-setting process, creating habit changes, and establishing consistent action. Although small action steps can bring quick wins to clients, without a mindset or belief shift at the same time or before, the behavioral gains would be more difficult to sustain. Therefore, an approach that targets identifying and changing limiting beliefs and a fixed mindset that may block goal-directed action is the most powerful to achieve long-term change.

As an exploratory study, limitations exist, especially in the small sample size, the inclusion of student coaches without extensive coaching experience, a range of pro-bono clients with varying affiliations to the students (e.g., friends, fellow students, colleagues, and acquaintances), and the variation in the number of sessions per client. The study design can easily be extended in future research to narrow the parameters, introduce better defined controls, and produce more robust quantitative results.

However, despite the limitations of the current study, the findings that show the power of short-term coaching are promising to support the tremendous potential that coaching offers over a broad spectrum of clients and situations. 

Conclusions

2.png

RESEARCH LAB

How Effective is 
Brief Coaching?

One of the myths of coaching is that a long duration is needed before positive effects are noticeable. Research on brief psychotherapy shows promising outcomes in only four to eight sessions. What do our students believe the impact is on their clients after a similar number of sessions?

tileasset_1.png

Dr. Joan Swart is the Head of Curriculum and a Supervisor at the Jay Shetty Certification School and is the corresponding author. joan.swart@jayshettycoaching.com

joan_copy.png

References

Ben-Itzhak, S., Bluvstein, I., Schreiber, S., Aharonov-Zaig, I., Maor, M., Lipnik, R., & Bloch, M. (2012). The effectiveness of brief versus intermediate duration psychodynamic psychotherapy in the treatment of adjustment disorder. Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy, 42, 249-256. DOI: 10.1007/s10879-012-9208-6

Cameron, C. L. (2006). Brief psychotherapy: A brief review. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 60(2), 147-152

Greenberg, R. P. & Dewan, M. J. (2009, March 13). Brief psychotherapies: Potent approaches to treatment. Psychiatric Times. Retrieved from https://www.psychiatrictimes.com/view/brief-psychotherapies-potent-approaches-treatment

Nieuwsma, J. A., Trivedi, R. B., McDuffie, J., Kronish, I., Benjamin, D., & Williams, J. W. (2012). Brief psychotherapy for depression: A systematic review and meta-analysis. International Journal of Psychiatric Medicine, 43(2), 129-151. DOI: 10.2190/PM.43.2.c

Schuyler, D. (2000). Prescribing brief psychotherapy. The Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 2(1), 13-15. DOI: 10.4088/pcc.v02n0104

Sonesh, S. C., Coultas, C. W., Lacerenza, C. N., Marlow, S. L., Benishek, L. E., & Salas, E. (2015). The power of coaching: a meta-analytic investigation. Coaching, 8(2), 73-95. DOI: 10.1080/17521882.2015.1071418

CHART1

These results may look impressive at a glance but what do they mean for coaches in practice? 

Most importantly, the findings confirm that coaching often produces positive results for a client after only a few sessions!

Although the trial data set was small and the outcome change effects were spread over a broad range, respondents reported positive changes with all their clients in the study.

Attitude changes (e.g., clarity of values and purpose, positive outlook, and acceptance of reality) appear to precede behavioral changes (e.g., habit changes, performance, and productivity). This conclusion is supported by research done at John Hopkins University that found that relationship outcomes are stronger than goal-attainment outcomes, which are stronger in terms of behavior than attitude changes (Sonesh, Coultas, Lacerenza, Marlowm Benishek, & Salas, 2015). 

This finding is aligned with the design of the Jay Shetty Certification School program’s ABC’S of Coaching framework that targets awareness first as the foundation of the goal-setting process, creating habit changes, and establishing consistent action. Although small action steps can bring quick wins to clients, without a mindset or belief shift at the same time or before, the behavioral gains would be more difficult to sustain. Therefore, an approach that targets identifying and changing limiting beliefs and a fixed mindset that may block goal-directed action is the most powerful to achieve long-term change.

As an exploratory study, limitations exist, especially in the small sample size, the inclusion of student coaches without extensive coaching experience, a range of pro-bono clients with varying affiliations to the students (e.g., friends, fellow students, colleagues, and acquaintances), and the variation in the number of sessions per client. The study design can easily be extended in future research to narrow the parameters, introduce better defined controls, and produce more robust quantitative results.

However, despite the limitations of the current study, the findings that show the power of short-term coaching are promising to support the tremendous potential that coaching offers over a broad spectrum of clients and situations. 

Conclusions

The large research pool focuses on the effects and outcomes of brief psychotherapy on treating patients with emotional disorders. Almost universally, studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of brief therapy to provide clarification of the patient’s situation and improve their problem-solving capacity (Schuyler, 2000; Cameron, 2006). The primary determinant of these positive outcomes is a trusting therapist-client relationship that is robust and empowering (Sonesh et al., 2015).


Similarly, Nieuwsma et al. (2012) found that clinical depression can be effectively treated with six to eight sessions of cognitive-behavioral therapy with a problem-solving orientation. Compared to a one-year program of psychodynamic psychotherapy, evidence produced at the Sourasky Medical Center in Israel showed a 12-session intervention produces equally good results in treating adjustment disorder (Ben-Itzhak et al., 2012).


As a result of this “avalanche of research,” the value of focus and brevity in relationships that spur human change is that brief therapy interventions are now widely accepted and practiced with a benefit to clients in terms of time and cost, without a significant compromise in effectiveness in most cases (Greenberg & Dewan, 2009)


Although the literature mostly covers brief psychotherapy approaches which engage a significantly different approach compared to coaching, the important similarity of interpersonal and open-ended conversation to affect change is shared. This means that although therapy attempts to reduce dysfunctionality and return the patient to their previous baseline, and coaching aims to move the client forward from the usual performance to a superior functioning, both modalities depend on trust, rapport, and accepted best practices to achieve a positive outcome.


Although not stringent, the latter is an important consideration in the reliability and effectiveness of both therapy and coaching across different clients and practitioners. This is yet another reason why standardized quality training and accreditation is important to ensure consistent delivery to clients.

What Does the Literature Say?

2.png

The Jay Shetty Certification School conducted a small trial study to determine the outcomes our students typically achieve in their coaching practice sessions and the qualitative level of change they believed was evident.


Objective

The objective of the trial study was to analyze the results students reported of the outcomes and change effects they observed in their coaching clients after a limited number of sessions. This data gives an indication of whether notable change in one or more outcome targets is observed after coaching a client for a few sessions. If sufficiently positive, the study provides evidence, on a trial basis, that coaching clients already experience noticeable benefits relatively soon into the coaching relationship. It also attempts to qualify which outcome areas were consistently affected more than others.


Method

Students at the Jay Shetty Certification School who had already completed three or more sessions with a specific client were asked to complete a short questionnaire. The answers provided identifying information, including the student and client name – primarily for quality control purposes – and their relationship with the practice client, including an acquaintance, family member, fellow student, or paid client, and the number of sessions they had completed with this client.

In the next two questions, the respondent selected the closest match of their primary and secondary target outcome of the coaching process from a list of 10 typical coaching outcome areas, namely:

Then, for each of the two outcomes that they had selected, they indicated the level of change that they had observed in the client or based on the client’s feedback to them from a list of 10 qualitative levels ranging from no/negative change to a high broad-based change. For the purpose of estimating trends and patterns, the levels of change were grouped into three levels, namely a small-modest, expected/satisfactorily, and substantial/exceptional change.

The data, which comprised of an overall total 20 sets of unique student-client combinations, ranging from a minimum of three sessions to a maximum of 10, with a median of four sessions, was analyzed by the use of simple counts and averages.

What Do Our Students Say?

1.  Confidence

2.  Clarity of values and purpose

3.  Life satisfaction

4.  Acceptance of reality

5.  Energy

6.  Positive outlook

7.  Healthy relationships

8.  Productive habits

9.  Performance and productivity

10.  Balance and harmony

The following points represent the most notable interpretations of the results.


1.   No respondent indicated that they had observed a negative, no, or insignificant change in the top two outcome areas that their client targeted.

2. More than three-quarters of students (76%) reported a satisfactory or substantial change in their clients’ outcome areas (see Figure 1). Of these, almost half (42%) were deemed to have exceeded their and their clients’ expectations.

3. Of all data sets, almost one-quarter (24%) believed their client had only achieved a small, to modest positive change in the areas they targeted. Nevertheless, the change was noticeable.

4. The outcomes that were mostly sought were to increase the client’s clarity of values and purpose (26%), develop productive habits (12%), cultivate a positive outlook (12%), improve life satisfaction (12%), and build confidence (11%) (see Figure 2).

5. The spread in outcome effects was leaning mostly toward a higher positive in the outcome areas of clarity of values and purpose, life satisfaction, acceptance of reality, and positive outlook, while the opposite was true for the areas of productive habits, performance and productivity, and energy.

Results

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