Coaching Report

2015 June Coaching Report

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2015 June Coaching Report

This month’s Coaching Report centers on potential applications of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) to coaching. ACT is grounded in deep theory and science and is complemented by pragmatic tools. Key foci of ACT are the willingness to help clients embrace their full selves (including their more difficult emotions and experiences) and to take valued actions toward cherished goals.

This nexus of science and practice in ACT echoes the mission of Institute. We were founded in 2009 through a two million dollar gift from the Harnisch Foundation with the mandate to cultivate the scientific foundation and use of best practices within the coaching profession. The IOC now has a vibrant membership of thousands of coaches from all over the globe who join us for webinars, classes, research and leadership forums and our signature coaching conference. Many have also received funding for their coaching research.

We are excited at our continued evolution and growth, including our new website which is due to launch later this year.

We look forward to finding ways to continue to support you in making a positive impact.


Susan David, Ph.D.

Co-founder and Co-director

From Science to Practice

Relational Frame Theory, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, and a Functional Analytic Definition of Mindfulness by Lindsay Fletcher and Steven C. Hayes  Journal of Rational Emotive and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Special thanks to Deb Elbaum, MD, CPCC, ACC for this contribution.

Mindfulness is the latest buzzword in stress reduction and mental health. Scientists are increasingly studying this practice, what it involves, and its benefits. Increasingly coaches, physicians, psychologists, and other health professionals are encouraging their clients to practice mindfulness as a way to improve mental health, reduce stress, and increase happiness and productivity.

In this article, Hayes and Fletcher discuss the connections between mindfulness and Relational Frame Theory (RFT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). Their main point is that ACT, a modern behavioral psychological therapy developed by Hayes and colleagues, incorporates mindfulness.

RFT is a way to understand healthy and unhealthy thinking. Defined by the authors as "a modern behavioral account of human language and cognition," they state, "The core claim of RFT is that humans learn to relate [to] events mutually and in combination." Psychopathology happens, they explain, when language and cognitive networks become entangled.

ACT was developed in the 1980s by Hayes. Considered a "third wave" behavioral and cognitive therapy, ACT employs proscribed techniques and strategies. These help change a person's relationship with his or her thoughts and feelings. As people use the array of exercises and techniques, they become better able to recognize that they are not "fused" with their thoughts and sensations. This results in the goal of ACT: increased psychological flexibility.

Successful ACT allows individuals to fully recognize what's happening in the present and distinguish that from their thoughts as well as the sensations their thoughts produce. The main components of ACT that contribute to this outcome are acceptance, defusion, contact with the present moment, self-as-context, values, and committed action. The authors argue that mindfulness underlies most of these components.

As this article doesn't refer specifically to coaching, readers might wonder about the connection between ACT, mindfulness, and coaching. Certainly, many coaches currently recommend that their clients incorporate mindfulness as part of their practice. After reading this article, coaches might be persuaded to read about and learn ACT so that they can use these techniques with their clients, as well.


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