Positive Psychology Coaching is an evidence-based coaching practice informed by theories and research from positive psychology to enhance resilience, achievement, and well-being
This is a new and promising practice which enables us to work more effectively with clients by combining the best of positive psychology’s focus on resilience and well-being with coaching’s focus on maximising potential.
Positive psychology was introduced in a special issue of the American Psychologist on optimal functioning in 2000, edited by Seligman and Scikszentmihalyi. Positive psychology has since developed exponentially in research and practice, and it is today generally acknowledged as an umbrella term that covers many different topics from well-being, to achievement and optimism within a range of disciplines.
The science of traditional psychology has been to understand what ails the human mind, and how to alleviate any such suffering by helping afflicted individuals to go from being unwell to being well again. For some this may have meant to go from being ‘abnormally unhappy to normally unhappy’ to paraphrase Freud.
Positive psychology has been revolutionary to the thinking of traditional psychology, because it opened up an interest in focusing on what it would mean for individuals to go beyond being just well. What could possibly make someone rise even further towards a state of happiness? In other words, it opened the opportunity to shift the attention away from what causes and drives pain to what energises and pulls people forward and upwards.
This has led to extensive research resulting in understanding key relationships between different interventions and have led to evidence-based opportunities for helping individuals to improve their well-being and other associated aspects such as resilience and achievement.
The International Coach Federation defines coaching as ‘partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential’.
Coaching is also a fairly new concept in terms of the ICF understanding, with early developments in the 1980s, and later in the 1990s described as a tool to unlock people’s potential to maximise their own performance.
Professional Coaching is typically carried out with individuals in a professional capacity and aimed at improving elements within that individual’s life or work through a transformative process.
Combining Coaching with Positive Psychology
For some psychologists, positive psychology was a revelation, because they had experienced how difficult it was to enhance strength and human potential professionally when all the focus and research was on what was wrong, missing or poor mental health.
Positive psychology opened up a new framework with a theoretical and practical application to allow focus on the positive aspects of human potential. “Positive psychology is the study of the conditions and processes that contribute to the flourishing or optimal functioning of people, groups and institutions.” (Kauffman), which is very akin to what coaching is all about. We now have empirical studies that proves the effectiveness of coaching and positive interventions. In other words, “the science, in addition to the art, can now be at the heart of coaching.” (Kauffman).
In the recent book by Green and Palmer: ‘Positive Psychology Coaching in Practice’ (2019), they argue that the emergence of positive psychology, and the natural affinity within coaching towards growth and potential, has led to a new practice: Positive Psychology Coaching, which they define as “evidence-based coaching practice informed by the theories and research of positive psychology for the enhancement of resilience, achievement and well-being.”
Biswas-Diener has also argued that positive psychology is a welcome framework to provide coaches with an applied science that offer theories, interventions, and assessments to support a profession that is already focused on transformation and optimisation of human lives.
There is little doubt in our minds that Positive Psychology Coaching provides a strong platform from which to enhance human functioning. It emphasizes and strengthens coaching’s natural and inbuilt focus on maximising human potential, by further leveraging positive psychology’s empirical framework built on science and evidence-based practices. We can now apply interventions we know will work.
At Kemp & Associates we are trained in Positive Psychology Coaching and apply the associated tools and insights for the benefits of our clients in our coaching as well as in our change practice.
Niels Kemp Rasmussen, Founder of Kemp & Associates
Biswas-Diener, Robert and Dean, Ben. Positive Psychology Coaching. 2007.
Green, Suzy and Palmer, Stephen (Eds). Positive Psychology Coaching in Practice. 2019.
O’connor, Joseph; Kauffman, Carol; et al. How Coaching Works. 2007.
Seligman, Martin. Flourish. 2011.