Abstract: Neuroscience can shed light on the underlying mechanisms of coaching and provide important insights to facilitate development. These insights provide guideposts for a more effective, interactive coaching process that is most successful when it remains fluid, responsive, and centered on the client. In this article we introduce our general model, intentional change theory (ICT), and review findings from an initial brain-imaging study that examines neural differences between 2 approaches to coaching: 1 called coaching with compassion (i.e., coaching to the positive emotional attractor—PEA); and the more typical approach to coaching, called coaching for compliance (i.e., coaching to the negative emotional attractor—NEA). This study showed that PEA coaching activates networks and regions of the brain that are associated with big-picture thinking, engagement, motivation, stress regulation, and parasympathetic modulation. Next we discuss research on the opposing domains hypothesis, showing that brain regions responsible for analytic thinking exist in tension with brain regions essential for socially and emotionally connecting with others and understanding ethical issues and being open to new ideas and learning. We extend these findings to explore how neuroscience explains different forms of empathy. In the next section we discuss neuroscience findings relevant to creating a culture of coaching in organizations. Finally, we discuss a further neuroscientific study of coaching that solidifies our understanding of the mechanisms by which coaching can help personal development. At the conclusion of each of the sections we discuss how these insights from neuroscience help inform effective approaches to coaching. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)
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