Coaching Psychology: What is it and why is it important?

Life University (Life U) offers a Master of Science (M.S.) degree program in Positive Psychology with two tracks: General Positive Psychology and Coaching Psychology. This online degree program is fully accredited and one-of-a-kind. In fact, it is one of only a handful of such highly sought-after programs in the entire world. The M.S. in Positive Psychology at Life University investigates strengths-based research that enables individuals and communities to thrive. It is focused on the study of flourishing and positive human functioning, in particular key areas such as meaning in life and cultivating what is best within themselves.

In particular, the Coaching Psychology track has gained a fair amount of traction and interest in recent years. Coaching in this context refers to training in executive and life coaching through a positive psychology lens and a focus on mindfulness. Prior to the introduction of the M.S in Positive Psychology at Life U in 2014, there was a bachelor ‘s program available. But instructors noted interest in Positive Psychology and the coaching track proved greater with students further in their careers or often looking for a career change. Thus, the program was converted to a graduate degree.

“With the commitment and ongoing support of this admirable team of instructors at Life University, my eyes were opened to the world of positive psychology coaching, and I have confidently launched the personal development business of my dreams. I am quite proud, honored and grateful to say that I earned my graduate degree from this fine institution and will continue to live in abundance with Lasting Purpose,” said Jonathan Powell in a student testimonial. Powell is a M.S in Positive Psychology- Coaching Track alumnus and CEO of Monumental Paths, working as a Positive Psychology Coach and Educator.

In the creation of the curriculum and teaching methods for this cutting-edge field of study at Life U, a fair amount of thought went into implementing best practices at that time for teaching coaching psychology, backed up by research largely provided by Anthony Grant, Professor of Coaching Psychology at the University of Sydney.

“One of the key components we were looking at was theoretical basis, evidence-based psychology versus just a model. [We didn’t want to just say] ‘Here’s a model; go use it for your coaching.’ We wanted our students to truly understand learning theory—psychological theory—so it makes them more agile and more confident practitioners of coaching and positive psychology in general,” said Assistant Professor of M.S. Positive and Coaching Psychology Dr. Mickey Parsons.

In a recent class lecture, Dr. Parsons presented helpful background information that illuminates the growth potential of this burgeoning field.

“In 1995, Thomas Leonard started the International Coach Federation (ICF) as a nonprofit organization for the coaching community, and today, there are more than 50,000 members of ICF across 140 countries certified coaches,” noted Dr. Parsons in his recent lecture. “The profession of coaching continues to grow, and with that growth, new distinctions continue to surface. The term evidence-based coaching was introduced in 2003 to demonstrate how professional coaching is anchored in empirical and theoretical knowledge (such as positive psychology, cognitive behavioral theory and the like) versus what others may describe as loosely constructed trends in pop psychology.”

“At Life U, we take a positive psychology approach to coaching,” explained Dr. Parsons. “In fact, coaching psychology is a subset of the positive psychology umbrella, providing a theoretical framework and science for coaching practice. This theoretical cornerstone combined with the ICF core coaching competencies equips our students with knowledge and skills to be agile, evidence-based coaches capable of helping clients manage change, grow and thrive. Positive Psychology, in short, is the scientific study of what makes life most worth living. By cultivating positive emotion, experiences, meaning and relationships in our lives, we naturally enhance our wellbeing and that of our clients, client companies and beyond.”

At the completion of an M.S in Positive Psychology- Coaching Track, a student will be prepared to sit for either an Associate Certified Coaching Certification or a Professional Certified Coaching Certification through ICF, based on student goals as well as accumulated training and coaching hours.

“Through the years, coaching has become much more popular and now recognized by a lot of major institutions. But most institutions when they reach out to coaches, they do want them to be certified by ICF,” said Dr. Richard Shook, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Life U.

By their second quarter, students in this program are encouraged to begin building a clientele of sorts and practice peer coaching with one another to build upon skills and techniques. Professors connected to this program also offer mentorship and supervision as appropriate and encourage students to utilize external resources as much as possible.

It’s a profession in constant flux, so students are lucky to have professors with practical, current knowledge of the industry, as many of the professors of the program also have successful practices outside of Life U. Dr. Parsons, for example, is the Founder of The Workplace Coach, an executive coaching company that has been in business for more than 23 years and that “provides strategy, structure and solutions that equip leaders and their organizations for innovative results.”

“I think that the practitioner model gives students great insights into what’s going on inside the profession,” said Dr. Parsons. “We are not just talking theory; we are talking first-hand experience. We discuss how to do contracting, what are issues that come up with clients and with corporate clients. What are the ethics of day-to-day coaching practice?”

It’s exciting to see Life U students eagerly enter this emergent field and create success for themselves and their clients. For more information on the M.S in Positive Psychology- Coaching track, please visit life.edu/academic-pages/college-of-graduate-and-undergraduate-studies/positive-psychology-ms/.