What is coaching psychology intervention in practice when young people are the target group?

Youth coaching in practice

We will now present how a coaching psycholog}' intervention looks like or emerging adults. First, we highlight a number of practical elements associated with a coaching line-up, then we present the case of Sophie. [To protect anonymity the name and any identifiable information has been changed.]

In a coaching psychology practice (e.g., Aalborg University Coaching Centre (AUCC)), a coaching schedule typically extends over 5-6 sessions of 50 minutes duration. The sessions are usually held one or two weeks apart. In a coaching line-up, the coach and coachee collaborate on an issue or a focus area chosen by the coachee.

Throughout the sessions, the coach and coachee work towards a clear goal that is set during the first session and works as a framework. To ensure that the work is kept within the focus area, the coach and coachee constantly work in a collaborative practice, which means that they cooperate in gaining a complete understanding of the issue chosen. Both parties bear an equal burden of work, but the coachee must be motivated to work on his or her problem and be willing to do the homework. It is vital for the coach to undertake a thorough assessment of the coachee beforehand to determine the coachee’s mental health (usually done by the DASS-42 assessment tool). The case of Sophie and her sessions at AUCC will now be examined.

Sophie: An extended case study

20-year-old university student Sophie approaches a coaching psychologist through email, explaining some obstacles regarding her studies. In addition, she mentions that she is nervous and often struggles to sleep at night.

Initial assessment of the coachee

The coach must assess the coachee to consider if coaching will be relevant for Sophie. In the initial assessment, Sophie reports being nervous and having trouble sleeping, which can be associated with anxiety, depression, and stress. As a preparation at AUCC, the coach uses the Depression Anxiety Stress Scale (DASS-42), a screening tool covering depression, anxiety, and stress (Lovibond & Lovibond, 1995). The questionnaire is sent to Sophie beforehand. Note that a screening instrument must never be used in isolation, but the results must be examined together with the coachee. All the elements above form the assessment of Sophie’s present state.

Session I

Based on the screening tool and interview, Sophie does not show severe clinical symptoms so she should be referred to a more suitable offer. The coach, therefore, finds it justifiable to conduct coaching sessions. Initially, a contract of the settings should be negotiated, and the terms of confidentiality should be mentioned. The working alliance is one of the most important factors determining whether coaching sessions are constructive and should be borne in mind especially in the first session (Gregory & Levy, 2012; O'Broin & Palmer, 2010; Spaten, O’Broin, & Olesen Lokken 2016).

First Sophie and the coach explore Sophie’s issues regarding her lack of concentration at home. Having to manage her own time may be one of the new challenges Sophie has encountered as an emerging adult leaving home for the first time.

S: It's hard for me to concentrate on what I need to do. Especially when it comes to reading what I have to.

Once the coach has gained some insight into her problem, the coach will steer the conversation to possible action plans that may help Sophie reach her goals. Together, they agree on a homework assignment for Sophie: she must try to study at either the university or the library. Furthermore, they both agree upon the following goals: increase motivation for studying and make Sophie feel more at ease in her everyday life.

Session 2

Initially, the coach asks Sophie how the homework assignment went to create a feeling of continuity from the first session:

S: When I get to the library, I set my alarm and read for 45 minutes, then I have a ten-minute break and do it again. It worked really well.

It is also important to examine what has not been successful about the assignment. Sophie mentions that one day she did not succeed with the assignment due to lack of sleep.

5. Yes, or sometimes. Sometimes I think that I don't find it much fun having to go to sleep when I’m alone in my fiat.

Based on Sophie’s initial assessment, the coach has a hypothesis that Sophie’s problem with sleep may be due to mild symptoms of stress, depression, and anxiety but in this case, it does not look as though there is a medical cause. Instead, the lack of sleep is caused by Sophie’s discomfort of being alone.

Together, the coach and Sophie explored Sophie’s feelings about her home, since it is the first time she lives alone, and uncover that—among other things—there is a lack of colour in her home compared to her parent’s. They then agreed that Sophie will paint some of her walls in colours before their next session.

Session 3

They initiate session 3 by discussing Sophie’s homework assignment, which she completed by painting her flat and she now feels much safer and at home. In later discussions, Sophie’s relationship with her parents is brought up:

5. It makes me angry that they don't think I can figure it out. I've got it under control, so it’s irritating that they treat me like a child. I can manage my own finances very well.

Sophie and the coach discuss the possibility of Sophie speaking to her parents about their interest in her financial position. Recalling that emerging adults strive towards becoming adults by changing the relationship with their parents, the coach asks Sophie what part she wants her parents to play in her life. Sophie explains that she wants to manage some aspects on her own, including her finances. They agree that before the next session she will have a dialogue with her parents about her need for independence and responsibility. To help Sophie feel prepared for the conversation, they practise what Sophie could say to them.

Session 4

In the fourth session, Sophie speaks of the dialogue with her parents.

5. But yes, the conversation went really well. I said everything I wanted to and everything ire practised. It turned out that my parents were actually tired of worrying about my finances, too.

This further underlines a development in the emerging adult that is characterised by a transition in the parental relationships from child-parent to more equal roles. Later, Sophie explains that she is no longer angry with her parents but instead feels more “grown-up”.

In the remaining part of the session, Sophie and the coach talk about study and leisure time. The coach forms a hypothesis that Sophie’s motivation has dropped due to an absence of spare time (Passmore et al., 2008). The task of having to structure one’s own time can be one of the emerging adult’s first notable experiences of the transition from pupil to student, and this might be affecting Sophie. The coach discusses daily routines with Sophie and learns that she would like the evenings off.

Furthermore, it becomes clear that Sophie often feels guilty about not seeing her friends; they, therefore, agree that she will start to be available for them in the evenings. The coach and Sophie agree that the next coaching session will be the last, which is important to talk about to make sure that the coachee is prepared for closure.

Session 5

In the last session, it is important to make a status of the coaching process, a talk about the effort put into the sessions, as well as an examination of the coachee’s goals and progress. By making the coachee aware of his or her progress as well as achieved goals, it will help the coachee to believe they can work further towards solving their not-yet-achieved goals on their own.

S: I feel very definitely that I have got more motivation for studying. I'm not tired of it all the time anymore. It has quite definitely helped that I've gained some free time, so I’m doing other things apart from university.

In the end, Sophie and the coach give each other feedback to learn and develop. In this situation, it is important that the coach provide Sophie with positive feedback to help Sophie feel encouraged, empowered, and optimistic. Sophie and the coach bid each other thank you and present a proper farewell—this is the closure of the coaching sessions.

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