An integrative literature review on the impact of life coaching on courage, fear and anxiety

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An integrative literature review on the impact of life coaching on courage, fear and anxiety
An integrative literature review on the impact of life coaching on courage, fear and anxiety

Abstract:  The demand on techniques, approaches and processes that have a positive impact on courage, fear and anxiety is very high in general population. The evidence-based and theoretical literature supporting life coaching as a successful approach building individual courage and helping with fear and anxiety is scarce. This integrative literature review synthesizes data from previous research studies about the impact of life coaching as an intervention to enhance courage and decrease fear and anxiety. Findings obtained in this study suggest that life coaching is a reliable approach that may enhance individual courage and decrease fear and anxiety. 

Joanna’s abstract truly does not do justice to the richness in the article. If you want to take yourself on a deep dive, read the article and start exploring some of the theorists and researchers she cites – they are THE classics in the field. She unpacks aspects of coaching and takes you through the literature on courage, fear and anxiety.  But then she addresses the big questions most research articles don’t, in her words: "What are the mechanisms of what happens in coaching that explains the potential improvement (or lack thereof)?"

Here is some of the information she covers, in outline form, pulled directly from what she writes in her article. These can help your coaching!
The mechanism explaining the potential improvement (or lack thereof):

  1. Accessing courage itself hinders the development of fear and anxiety – eg focus on building courage vs. reducing anxiety. (You can think of them as antagonistic, building one can reduce the other.) 
  2. Exploring existential issues, and having someone to help the client face them alone is a courage-building exercise.  Exploring core fears in a safe environment (which requires the coach to support, but also give space to the client).
  3. Trust and Truth: first create trust (safety), then challenge with the truth. Both are key and can result in increasing the client’s awareness of a larger set of choices that are available. 
  4. Self determination theory is a key theory toward helping the client explore their core psychological needs. Autonomy, relatedness and competence builds up the internal reservoir of strength that can help the client access and build courage. 
  5. Over time courage can be internalized as they access their psychological resources and develop a positive cycle where increased self-awareness and emotional regulation build self-responsibility and commitment. This cycle then strengthens courage and results in higher self determination
  6. Applied positive psychology: building positive experiences and skills, looking for what is right and cognitive hardiness and resilience 


  1. Building hope and self -regulation, with a focus on positive outcomes can reduce fear
  2. Broaden and build theory 
  3. Downey, his focus is increasing openness to learning and focus, seeing the available choice points between growth and fear as a core aspect of coaching
  4. The relationship creating "a place to play" where courage can be developed. 
International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring, August 2017, Vol. 15, No. 2

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