McLean’s coaching program offers new opportunity for psychologists

By Jennifer E Chase
January 1st, 2010

Institute of Coaching at McLean Hospital in Massachusetts opened in early 2009 and is quickly becoming a reliable resource for psychologists wanting to add the skills of life coaching to their professional toolbox. Its 1,200 plus member listserv was largely created by Internet information seekers looking for more data.

Thanks to a $2 million gift from Ruth Ann Harnisch, a certified professional coach and founder of the Harnisch Foundation, McLean launched the IoC – a first-of-its-kind center for coaching-related research, practice and education – to advance excellence in research and practice within the growing field of coaching, a practice that optimizes human potential and performance in arenas like leadership, healthcare and public service.

“Coaching is a $2 billion-per-year industry and only 20 percent of all coaches have degrees in psychology,” says Carol Kauffman, Ph.D., director of the IoC, an assistant clinical professor at Harvard Medical School’s Department of Psychiatry, and a 30-year McLean Hospital psychologist. “One of the things I’m thinking about is how we can invigorate the numbers so psychologists can participate in this new area,” she says. “Psychologists don’t know the entry point. We are informing people about coaching. We want to be able to inform about what types of programs people want to enter.”

Kauffman is an International Coach Federation (ICF) certified coach, and says coaching requires a different skill set from therapy, which the center addresses through five centers of excellence: research, education, applied positive psychology, health coaching and executive and leadership coaching.

“In therapy,” says Kauffman, “you follow the trail of tears, with the goal of healing. Clearly, life satisfaction and career performance often go up.” But coaching, Kauffman says, is oriented around clearly identifying what people want to be, their values and how to affect their career and life according to their values.

“[Coaches] really follow the trail of dreams toward optimal career, life and performance,” she says.

The IoC grew from a partnership between the Coaching and Positive Psychology Initiative at McLean Hospital and the Foundation of Coaching, a project of the Harnisch Foundation. Kauffman founded the Coaching and Positive Psychology Initiative at McLean in 2007 with Margaret Moore, MBA, now one of the institute’s co-directors. Today, Co-Director Susan David heads the institute’s research, an integral part of the program, says Kauffman, if the center’s goal is to make coaching as evidence-based as possible.

“McLean is often at the intersection of new ideas,” she says. “When no one had heard of cognitive behavior therapy in the 70s, McLean had a program run by Phil Levundusky. I sort of see this in the tradition of McLean being in the forefront of ideas. I see positive psychology and coaching on the forefront of the future.”

The institute will also host an annual conference in conjunction with Harvard Medical School that introduces people to coaching and research.

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