Choosing a Coach

Choosing a coach, many more doctors are seeking coaching which is wonderful. Evidence-based coaching has much to offer the coachee doctor in terms of development, growth and learning. In 2020, Liselotte, Dyrbye, Shanafelt, Gill et al published their randomised trial in JAMA asking the key question:

Does professional coaching result in a measurable reduction in burnout and measurable improvements in quality of life, resilience, job satisfaction, engagement, and fulfillment in physicians?

Their conclusion from this pilot? “[physicians] who received professional coaching had a significant reduction in emotional exhaustion and overall symptoms of burnout, as well as improvements in overall quality of life and resilience.”[i]

How to decide who to work with

Coaching is an unregulated profession, so I am often asked by doctors how they should decide who to work with.

To get the most out of coaching you want a relationship of high trust and accountability where vulnerability, challenge and exploration of ideas and beliefs can occur safely. The right fit for you requires some due diligence on your part.

One way to measure the coaches’ competency is to ask them if they are a member of one of the three main professional bodies who guide the ethics, skill and practice of Coaches. They are:

To be accepted as a member of these professional associations requires attendance at accredited coach training and required hours of experience delivering coaching.

Professional coaches come from many backgrounds including psychology, industry and sporting domains. There is a growing group of doctors around the world who have retrained and now work as professional coaches.

Questions you should ask your prospective coach:

  • Have they been accepted for membership of one of the professional bodies above?
  • What specific training have they undertaken in order to be a coach?
  • How many doctors have they coached?

You might also ask them if they have their own coach and if they undertake supervision to help them continue to develop their coaching skills.

Choosing a Coach

You will be best served by engaging a coach who has:

  1. developed their skills in a recognised training program for coaches
  2. experience coaching in your industry ie. Healthcare
  3. holds accreditation with one of the professional bodies listed above or is a registered Psychologist with other accredited coaching.

I have a professional bias when it comes to coaching as a psychologist myself. Psychologists are specialists in human behaviour and mental health. As non-doctors, we bring a different perspective, we notice different things having not be inculcated by medicine. Even though training in psychology is not compulsory for coaches, research undertaken in Australia and Israel suggests that coaches who have an academic background in psychology are more effective (Ritchie 2001)[i].

Coaching is about thinking differently, psychologist coaches who understand medicine are my first choice for referral. 

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Liselotte N. Dyrbye, MD, MHPE1; Tait D. Shanafelt, MD2; Priscilla R. Gill, EdD3; et al Effect of a Professional Coaching Intervention on the Well-being and Distress of Physicians. A Pilot Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Intern Med. 2019;179(10):1406-1414

[i] Bozer, G, Sarros, J.C. and Santora, J.C. Academic background and credibility executive coaching effectiveness.  Personnel Review Vol. 43 No. 6, 2014 p.881-897