Featured Research


Grant Recipients: Brenden Hursh

Research in progress: Coaching for Parents of Children with Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes (T1D) diagnosed in childhood is a lifelong condition that requires constant self-management, family support and supervision, ongoing learning, and medical support. It is critical to promote positive health outcomes in this population. The best approach to deliver care to patients and families affected by T1D remains largely unknown, and difficulty changing health related behaviours is a key stumbling block. Coaching offers a novel approach for the support and care of children with diabetes and their families. Current international practice guidelines for pediatric diabetes care do not include a coach in the multidisciplinary team. This study will highlight the potential impact of including coaching in the multidisciplinary team approach to childhood diabetes care, and this ultimately will have significant implications for the model of childhood diabetes care.

Grant Recipients: Venkata Nanduri

Research in progress: How Behavioral Changes are Sustained over time after the Coaching Intervention Has Ended: “How do participants perceive the effects of coaching one year later?”

This research using qualitative methodology with IPA (Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis) approach aims to explore the sustained behavioural changes a year later after a coaching intervention was conducted for seven managers in Botswana, and it addresses research questions: How do participants perceive change and sustaining change in coaching one year after it was conducted?”, What challenges or difficulties were experienced by the coachees and what factors enabled the coachees in sustaining their changes? This is considered an important topic for research as there is very little relevant research literature available. Data for this study will be collected through semi-structured qualitative interviews of coachees and their superior for triangulation, and analysed using thematic analysis.

Read more about Venkata Nanduri.

Grant Recipients: Les Schwab, PhD

Research in progress: Coaching for Primary Care Physicians: A Positive Psychology Approach for Improving Well-being and Reducing Burnout and Intentions to Leave Medical Practice

Primary Care Physicians (PCPs) are increasingly recognized as vulnerable to burnout and wanting to leave medical practice. The consequences to PCP well-being, patients under their care and ultimately their support of our healthcare system may be highly adverse. There is limited but encouraging available evidence about the utility of mindfulness/stress reduction/coaching interventions with physicians. We now propose a randomized control trial of a specifically positive psychology-based coaching intervention to help improve PCP’s well-being and intentions to remain in medical practice and decrease their levels of stress and burnout.

Read more about Les Schwab.

Grant Recipients: Steven Wendell, PhD and Janice Sabatine

Research in progress: The Impact of Developmental Coaching on Career Adaptability Capacity and Moderators of Sustained Career Development among Graduate Students

Graduate students and post-doctoral fellows in higher education are facing ever increasing challenges regarding career planning. The current research funding climate is bleak and numerous national reports have revealed that the vast majority of current PhD trainees will not obtain tenure track research faculty positions. As a result, graduate students have both a high degree of uncertainty regarding career choice and low confidence in obtaining a job in their preferred career. The specific aims of the proposed research are to determine whether a coaching-based career planning course supplemented with individual developmental coaching grounded in the Intentional Change Theory (ICT) will 1) increase career adaptability capacity, 2) increase self-authoring adult development, and 3) reduce stress and increase self-efficacy. Graduate students and post-doctoral fellows enrolled in the career course at the University of Pittsburgh will be randomly assigned to a control group (career course only) or coaching group (career course supplemented with coaching). Students in the coaching group will receive 4 individual coaching sessions from ICF credentialed coaches who will follow a coaching protocol based on the Intentional Change Theory. Both groups will have outcomes measures assessed at baseline (pre-course) post-course (immediate), and post-course (6 months). Outcome variables include Career Adapt-abilities Scale (CAAS), Career Decision Making Survey (a measure of self-authorship), and stress and self-efficacy. We hypothesize that changes in these measures will provide evidence of the value and importance of incorporating an ICT approach in academic career development and planning. The experiences may also shed light on the challenges that may accompany these changes that may inform further refinement of the theory or nuances related to its use with specific populations, particularly those at different stages of adult development.

Read more about Steven Wendell, PhD and Janice Sabatine


Grant Recipients: Gordon Spence, PhD

Research in progress: Coaching for employee engagement: Using self-determination theory to predict engagement, turnover intention, and well-being among employees

The proposed research project will seek to build on recent developments in coaching outcome research by assessing the impact of needsupportive coaching on employee engagement (using a sample of middle and senior managers). The hypotheses to be tested in this studyare informed by Self-Determination Theory (Deci & Ryan, 1985) and a controlled, quasi-experimental design will be employed to assessthe degree to which employee engagement can be influenced by theoretically-informed workplace coaching (that is focused on thesupport of basic psychological needs). The coaching intervention will involve 50 managers (2 cohorts) and consist of 5 x 75 minutecoaching sessions over a period of 10 weeks. The study may contribute to knowledge in two ways. First, it will examine a widely claimedoutcome of coaching (i.e. employee engagement) that has rarely been tested. Second, the study will explore possible “common factors”(i.e. basic psychological need support/need satisfaction) that could prove to be highly influential active ingredients in coaching.

Read more about Gordon Spence.


Grant Recipients: Julie Hicks Patrick, PhD

Research in progress: Age and Behavoiral Coaching Across Domains

We propose a behavior change study to examine 1) the effectiveness of coaching for supporting physical activity goals, 2)whether or not the effects of coaching in a target domain generalize to behavior changes in non- coached domains, and 3)whether the re are age differences in the effectiveness and generalizability of coaching benefits. To accomplish these goals, 96 adults with physical activity goals will complete a12-week coaching program. Participants would meet with their health coach four times, complete a daily diary and wear a multi-sensor accelerometer for three weeks, and complete follow-up surveys at Weeks 4, 8, and 12.

Read more about Julie Hicks Patrick.

Grant Recipients: Heidi Schwellnus, PhD

Research in progress

Coaching is gaining interest across a number of fields including business, education, and healthcare. While the use of coaching specifically within the field of pediatric rehabilitation is also gaining interest, there is very little research literature on the utility and impacts of coaching for pediatric rehabilitation. Therapists, clients, and families want effective approaches used in rehabilitation. Coaching is a goal-oriented means of facilitating client engagement and empowerment (An & Palisano, 2013; Baldwin, King, Evans, McDougall, Tucker, & Servais, 2013; Dunn, Cox, Foster, Miche-Lawson, & Tanguary, 2012; Graham, Roger, & Ziviani, 2010; Hanft, Rush, & Sheldon, 2004), which is distinct from more traditional impairment-focused methods of working within pediatric rehabilitation (Baldwin et al., 2013). Solution-focused coaching (SFC) is a form of brief coaching that emphasizes clients’ strengths and their generation of unique solutions for their situation (Berg & Szabo, 2005; Iveson, George, & Ratner, 2012; O’Connell, Palmer, & Williams, 2012; Szabo & Meier, 2008). SFC-peds is a conceptual model developed by the authors that outlines the nature of SFC within a pediatric setting. Research to investigate the clinical impact of the SFC-peds is lacking. The current qualitative research proposal fills that gap. This study will enhance our understanding of how SFC-peds affects both service providers and the families who have traditionally experienced a problem-focused, therapist-led intervention. It will involve open-ended interviews with 15 families in order to examine their perceptions of the impacts of a SFC-peds approach and determine whether there are transformative experiences for these families. The findings from this study will help to identify the benefits of a SFC-peds approach, and possibly provide support for this innovative intervention approach in pediatric rehabilitation.

Read more about Heidi Schwellnus.

Grant Recipients: Dima Louis, DBA

Summary of Findings: Executive Coaching Beyond the Obvious: Toward a Theoretical Framework to Analyze the Nature and Management of Multiple Stakeholders and Agendas

While executive coaching has been mostly portrayed as a straightforward practice, relying on a relatively non-problematic set of relationships, our research highlights the multi-faceted nature of this intervention in organizations. To do so, we conducted 20 semi-structured interviews, using a critical incident technique to explore situations where coaches faced different or conflicting agendas and interests between the coachee and the organization, within a triangular coaching contract. We adopted a qualitative research method, and a grounded theory research design, using an abductive reasoning. This study highlights the multiple stakeholders involved in a three party coaching relationship, as well as the different roles they play and interactions that exist among them. It also offers a careful analysis of some of the agendas in executive coaching, and their different characteristics. Additionally, by studying the challenges faced by the coach, our research offers an in-depth look at the identity issues and contractual complexities related to power dynamics and office politics in coaching.

Read more about Dima Louis.


Grant Recipient: Angela Passarelli, PhD

Summary of Findings: The Heart of Helping: Psychological and Physiological Effects of Contrasting Coaching Interaction

This study tested distinctions in the physiological, cognitive, emotional and relational mechanisms at play during different types of coaching interactions. An experimental, within subject design was used to compare individuals' responses to coaching conversations characterized by (1) the Positive Emotional Attractor (PEA), in which the coach assisted the client in formulating a future vision, and (2) the Negative Emotional Attract (NEA), in which the coach assisted the client in addressing current problems and challenges. Forty-eight graduate students participated as coaching clients in the research, which entailed completing two coaching sessions with professional coaches and a series of surveys over the course of one month. Results revealed that compared to NEA-based coaching, individuals reported greater positive affect and a higher quality perception of the coaching relationship in the PEA-based sessions. Additionally, PEA- and NEA-based coaching fostered different motivational orientations to subsequent goal setting, with PEA goals being more promotion-focused and NEA goals more prevention-focused. Participants reported greater willingness to strive toward goals set following the PEA-based coaching session, a pattern that held over time. Despite these psychological differences, physiological differences were not detected between the two sessions. Taken together, the results support the proposition stemming from Intentional Change Theory that coaching relationships characterized by an overall positive emotional tone foster psychological states that optimally support behavior change.

Read more about Angela Passarelli, PhD


Grant Recipient: Marta Shinn, PhD and Patricia Riba, M.D.

Summary of Findings: Coaching to Decrease Childhood Obesity

Family Mealtime Coaching is a live parent coaching intervention grounded in empirically-based positive psychology techniques. The coaching intervention emphasizes the decrease of maladaptive parental strategies centered on children's food consumption and on increasing beneficial child eating behaviors, family interactions, and mealtime communication. The purpose of the study was to evaluate the efficacy of parental coaching in reducing unhealthy feeding practices and pediatric obesity. Findings revealed that parents who received coaching displayed significant improvements in meal presentation and communication and a decline in maladaptive feeding. The children of coached parents experienced a slowing of their weight-gain trajectory - suggesting that coaching can serve as a catalyst for change in reducing pediatric obesity.

Read more about Marta Shinn, PhD and Patricia Riba, MD. 

Grant Recipient: Alyssa McGonagle, PhD

Summary of Findings: Coaching to Preserve Work Ability and Prevent Burnout in Workers with Chronic Illness

We tested a 12-week, 6-session, phone-based coaching intervention designed to help individuals working with chronic illness manage challenges related to working with illness. We proposed that coaching would lead to improved work ability perceptions, exhaustion and disengagement burnout, job self-efficacy, core self-evaluations, resilience, mental resources, and job satisfaction, and that these beneficial effects would be stable 12 weeks after coaching ended. Analysis of variance procedures were used to examine group differences in outcomes over time, and paired samples t-tests were used to test for differences in outcomes between post-coaching and 12 weeks later. Fifty-nine full-time workers with chronic illnesses were randomly assigned to either a coaching group or a waitlisted control group. Participants completed online surveys at enrollment, at the start of coaching, after coaching ended, and 12 weeks post-coaching. Compared with the control group, the coaching group showed significantly improved work ability perceptions, exhaustion burnout, core self-evaluations, and resilience - yet no significant improvements were found for job self-efficacy, disengagement burnout, or job satisfaction. No significant differences were found between post-coaching outcomes and those 12 weeks later, which provided evidence for the stability of effects. Results suggest that coaching was helpful in improving the personal well-being of individuals navigating challenges associated with working and managing chronic illness.

Read more about Alyssa McGonagle

Grant Recipients: Gary A. Sforzo, PhD and Miranda Kaye, PhD

Summary of Findings: The Effects of Health and Wellness Coaching on Health Status When Added to an Employee Wellness Program

Lifestyle-related disorders are the number one cause of mortality and morbidity in modern society. Most people recognize that making healthy choices is a priority because culturally available means (e.g., television, websites, magazines, newspapers) as well as scientific publications, deliver the message daily. Yet, many are not willing or able to manage a meaningful behavior change to positively impact their health and wellness. The emergence of health and wellness coaching (HWC), as a discipline and profession, offers a new strategic prospect for promoting healthy behavior change. The primary purpose of this research was to conduct a randomized and controlled study of the potential for HWC to positively impact the effects of a comprehensive employer-sponsored wellness initiative. The study was conducted with over 300 participants followed for six months with HWC telephonically delivered using 30-35 min calls in three doses: 1) weekly sessions; 2) weekly sessions for three months followed by a session every other week; 3) weekly sessions for only three months. Participants (25%) were also assigned to a control and all four groups had outcome measures completed at baseline, 3 and 6 mo. Some key outcome variables included health-risk appraisal with fitness and nutrition subscales, blood pressure, cholesterol, and body weight. A positive impact of HWC was evident for reducing blood pressure though no other variables demonstrated a statistically significant HWC effect. The excellent wellness program offered to the employees and/or the fact that it was largely a healthy cohort may have otherwise limited the impact of HWC. The favorable HWC effect on blood pressure is highly valuable given that, in their lifetime, most people develop hypertension which contributes to circulatory disease.

Read more about Gary A. Sforzo, PhD and Miranda Kaye, PhD


Grant Recipient: Suzy Green, PhD;  J.M. Norrish, D.A. Vella-Brodrick and A.M. Grant, PhD

Summary of Findings: Enhancing Well-being and Goal Striving in Senior High School Students: Comparing Evidence Based Coaching and Positive Psychology Interventions

This study compared a cognitive-behavioural, solution focused (CB-SF) coaching intervention and a positive psychology intervention (PPI) utilising a randomised control trial design. PPIs are described as volitional activities focused on enhancing well-being and promoting flourishing through helping people to change their feelings, behaviours, and/or cognitions drawn from the science of positive psychology, whereas CB-SF coaching is construed as the application of specified psychological knowledge within a goal-focused coaching process. To date, there has been no research that compares the impact of coaching and positive psychology programs in the same study. The purpose of this research was to compare the relative effectiveness of CB-SF coaching and PPIs with adolescents in a school context. Seventy-three (73) Senior High School (Year 11) students (male and female) were recruited from two selective high schools in Sydney, NSW, Australia. Participants were randomly assigned to one of three conditions for ten weeks. The first group received CB-SF coaching, the second group received a PPI, while the third group was a “Well-being as Usual” control group. Compared with CB-SF coaching, participation in the PPI led to increases in mental well-being, although these findings were less pronounced at a nine-month follow-up time point. The CB-SF coaching was associated with increased academic goal striving compared to the PPI and Controls post intervention however gains were not maintained at the nine-month follow-up time point. Trends for the variables of depression, stress, and cognitive hardiness were in the expected directions, although effects were not statistically significant. Overall findings suggest that both types of proactive mental health interventions have great potential to contribute to the well-being and academic goal-striving of an adolescent population, although more research is warranted.

Read more about Suzy Green, PhD and D.A. Vella-Brodrick

Grant Recipient: Suzette Skinner, MS

Summary of Findings: Coaching Women in Leadership or Coaching Women Leaders?

This study considers the factors involved in executive coaching that helped senior women to thrive. In analysis that applied the principles of constructivist grounded theory, the study explored the unique experiences of individual senior women in their executive coaching engagements and supports recent discourse and evidence suggesting a need for a gender perspective in coaching senior women (Leimon, Moscovici and Goodier 2011, Peltier 2010, Vinnecombe and Singh 2003). Participant experiences of executive coaching highlighted the construction of a professional identity as a leader as a central theme. As a result, the study builds on the recent discourse and research linking professional identity construction to leader development (DeRue, Ashford, Cotton 2009, Ibarra, Snook and Ramo 2008, Gardner and Avolio 2005, Lord and Brown 2005). The findings suggest the opportunity to explicitly tailor aspects of executive coaching of senior women to the construction of their professional leadership identity. Based on these observations the study suggests a conceptual framework that positions professional identity construction as a developmental continuum and outlines the contributing factors and derailers for female managers in this process. This developmental framework applies a gender perspective to professional identity formation (Sealy and Singh 2010) and captures the core themes identified by participants. The suggested framework may serve as a potential guide for executive coach practitioners and organisations to assist them in addressing and optimising the development needs of their senior women.

Read more about Suzette Skinner, MS

Grant Recipient: Florence Anne "Kori" Diehl, PhD

Summary of Findings: Eutopiagraphies: Narratives of Preferred-Future Selves with Implications for Developmental Coaching 2010  

This research provides evidence that coaches, with training in adult development theory, can extend the value of a common practice - talking with clients about their preferred selves - to uncover clues regarding clients' constructive-developmental stages (Kegan 1892, 1994). Practitioners attracted to Kegan's theory may find the researcher's presentation of stage-related structure to be a succinct and ready reference regarding the key aspect of constructive development.

Read more about Florence Diehl, PhD


Grant Recipients: Tatiana Bachkirova, PhD; Jonathan Sibley, MBA, MSW;  Adrian Meyers

Summary of Findings: Development of an Instrument for Microanalysis of Coaching Sessions  

The aim of this study was to develop an instrument that could be used to describe the most generic and diverse elements of a coaching session including actual coaching sessions and ideal, prototype sessions. The second part of the report describes a separate study that was designed to test the instrument by asking a broad cross-section of coaches to use this instrument to describe one of their mid-engagement sessions.

Read more about Tatiana Bachkirova, PhD and Jonathan Sibley

Grant Recipient: Sean O'Connor,  PhD; Michael Cavanagh, PhD

Summary of Findings: The Coaching Ripple Effect: The Individual and Systemic Level Influence of Leadership Development

How the quality of the complex web of daily interactions effect the wellbeing of individuals and the broader wellbeing of an organisation is largely unknown. Often organisations embark on leadership development programs in an attempt to influence systemic level change of organisational culture or wellbeing. Most approaches assume a linear model that does not take the complexity of organisations seriously. Leadership development through Coaching has shown positive results for individual level measures of wellbeing and relationships exist between leadership style, employee stress and wellbeing (Skakon, Nielsen, Borg and Guzman, 2010). What is largely unknown is how change in leaders can impact these variables through influencing the experience of others in an organisation. Can this influence ripple through the broader complex dynamics of an organisation? Complex Adaptive Systems theory (CAS; Eidleson, 1997) provides a useful approach to thinking about organisational change and the wellbeing of individuals embedded in these systems (Cavanagh, 2006). The relatively new methodology of Social Network Analysis (SNA; Scott, 2000) provides researchers with processes that better account for relational components of systems, highlighted in CAS.

Read more about Sean O'Connor, PhD

Graduate Student Fellowships


Grant Recipient: Chad Murphy, PhD

Summary of Findings: Identity And Legitimacy In The Emerging Profession Of Health Coaching

This two-essay research report develops theory around two key questions: 1) given the challenges associated with being part of an emerging profession, how can individual health coaches construct clear and confident occupational identities? And 2) how can individual health coaches legitimate both themselves and their profession? The first essay develops a conceptual model of identity work in the context of such an identity resource “void.” The model suggests relationships between three individual-level stages of identity development, identity challenges, identity work tactics, and a key identity-related outcome (i.e., identity clarity). The second essay develops a theoretical model that speaks to how individuals can gain internal and external legitimacy when they lack demonstrable evidence of their effectiveness and other markers of legitimacy. In each essay there is a discussion of implications for both research and practice.

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Grant Recipient: Hyung Jung Kim

Summary of Findings: Executive Coaching: Study of the Evolution of the Program at a Top European Business School 2011

The integration of psychology and organizational studies is thought to be a great success among study participants, and, after a decade, the structured business school recently approved their executive master's degree in clinical organizational psychology, a new discipline incorporating clinical psychology and organizational studies, for the program. Tensions are found only in the past and outside of the program in: 1) a past failure with psychologists and a continuing success with business people; 2) personal careers of multidisciplinary faculty members; 3) practical and disciplinary conflicts with other parts of the school. The tensions are mostly overcome, and the tribal conflict was not found since faculty members and most coaches possess both identities. The successful management of tension is attributed to leadership and the organizational culture of the program.

Grant Recipient: Sinead Ruane, PhD

Summary of Findings: Coaching the Self: Identity Working and the Self Employed Professional

This project explores the micro-processes of identity construction within the emerging profession of coaching, whose members are predominately self-employed. While efforts have been made to survey the coaching industry in order to paint the “big picture” (see AMA, 2008; ICF 2008, 2012a, 2012b; Sherpa Coaching, 2008), the intent of this research is to examine the diverse experiences of the individuals who perform this work, using qualitative/ethnographic methods and analyzing data from fieldwork carried out between 2007-2011. This study speaks directly to practical issues expressed by the ICF (2008), particularly regarding the preparation of and resources available to new coaches, and the long-term sustainability of the profession. The findings suggest that the institutional support for individual coaches is uneven, depending on a number of factors—one being the chosen coaching specialization. As well, several of the profession's resources, tools, and practices for identity construction can actually be the source of new conflicts, contradictions, and challenges, which in turn produce anxiety and demand more intense identity working efforts from the individual coach. Consequently, some coaches are struggling more than others and would benefit from added assistance from the professional community to develop their coaching practices. This project's ultimate aim is for its findings to be instrumental in creating new and shaping existing policy and regulation, and to alert key players within the coaching community to possible opportunities, concerns, and areas for future investigation.

Read more about Sinead Ruane, PhD


Grant Recipient: Ana Sara Carneiro Aires Ferreira

Summary of Findings: Peer Tutoring and Coaching Program with College Students: Implications for a Positive and Healthy Integration in University

As all transition, initiate college is challenging and demanding (Seco, Casimiro, Dias & Custódio, 2005).Studies demonstrated that these changes and demands can cause considerable distress, which have a significant impact in adjustment to college as well as in physical and psychological health (Aspinwall & Taylor, 1992 cit in Baker, 2003). This indicates the importance of intervening in this context. Considering this, the program “Peer Tutoring and Coaching” (Freire, 2009) was developed aiming to assist in freshmen integration and the promotion of several interpersonal and academic competences. The project considers that first year students can be assisted by older students since the latter have more knowledge about the college's functioning.

Travel Awards


Grant Recipient: Jane Brodie Gregory, PhD

Summary of Findings: Employee Coaching Relationships: Enhancing Construct Clarity and Measurement 2010

While managers' coaching of their subordinates continues to grow in organisations, little empirical research exists to inform the practice. The current paper seeks to further our understanding of this type of coaching - which we refer to as employee coaching - by exploring the coaching relationship formed between the supervisor and subordinate. Past research has noted that the process and effectiveness of coaching are contingent on this relationship. The purpose of the current paper is twofold: to better define the constructs of employee coaching and the employee coaching relationship and to develop a measure of the perceived quality of the employee coaching relationship

Read more about Brodie Gregory, PhD