Coaching in Context

Recent/Latest Developments in Coaching

Coaching Corner: Positive Psychology Tools for Coaching

The Coaching Corner intends to bring positive psychology tools to your coaching practice. The Coaching Corner is comprised of one-page tip sheets in which positive psychology tools that are useful within coaching are described. 

The "3 Good Things" gratitude practice is intended to create awareness in the good things in one's life to change their emotional tone and energize them with positive feelings (Huffman & Lyubomirsky, n.d.). This practice has been shown to have an immediate and sustained effect (Seligman et al., 2005). In fact, it has been found to increase happiness levels up to 6 months after its completion. 

Advances in Coaching Research

Critical to understanding the value of coaching within rehabilitation, is grasping the perceptions of those practitioners who use coaching in their practice. Recent studies have examined the perceptions of coaching among occupational therapists, physical therapists, physiotherapists, and occupational therapy students (Graham et al., 2017; Kim et al., 2018; King et al., 2018; Potvin et al., 2022; & Schwellnus et al., 2019). These practitioners had a vast range of experiences, from pre-professional, in the case of OT students, to seasoned healthcare professionals (Graham et al., 2017 & Potvin et al. 2022). The perceptions of practitioners (n=40) across all these studies were sought through interviews and focus groups, either after individual coaching sessions, or after more extended periods of coaching (Graham et al., 2017; Kim et al., 2018; King et al., 2018; Potvin et al., 2022; & Schwellnus et al., 2019).

Graham et al. (2017), Potvin et al. (2022), and Schwellnus et al. (2019) utilized qualitative, inductive analyses to gather information from practitioners. Meanwhile, Kim et al. (2018) and King et al. (2018) used a combination of inductive and deductive analyses. Across all studies, practitioners noted that coaching helped them increase their therapeutic listening, empathy, flexibility, and insight capacities while working with clients (Graham et al., 2017; Kim et al., 2018; King et al., 2018; Potvin et al., 2022; & Schwellnus et al., 2019). They also reported that it improved the individualization and effectiveness of their services. This helped them build stronger rapport with clients more quickly and allowed them to gain more specific information from clients to facilitate positive outcomes (Graham et al., 2017; King et al., 2018; & Potvin et al., 2022). Another important theme that emerged from the interviews included noting the positive effects of the role shift involved in coaching, particularly among occupational therapists. Practitioners moved from an “advice-giving” role to a “facilitator” role, in which they acknowledged that clients are the experts on their lives and have a right to autonomy and an equal sharing of power with the practitioner throughout the therapeutic process. As a result of this role shift, practitioners noted that clients appeared more empowered and confident in their capabilities, as setting goals and devising solutions to problems on their own seemed to increase clients’ senses of accountability, self-efficacy, and self-motivation (Graham et al., 2017; King et al., 2018; Kim et al., 2018; Potvin et al., 2022; & Schwellnus et al., 2019). This role shift also benefited practitioners in that it felt liberating and efficient to guide clients to create their own solutions (Graham et al., 2017; Potvin et al., 2022; & Schwellnus et al., 2019). Similarly, coaching helped improve clients’ levels of engagement during sessions. This resulted in improved capacity and self-advocacy skills among clients (Graham et al., 2017; King et al., 2018; Kim et al., 2018; Potvin et al., 2022; & Schwellnus et al., 2019).

Overall, practitioners across these studies identified the numerous benefits they observed and experienced from implementing coaching approaches into sessions with clients. These studies demonstrated that practitioners may see the benefits of implementing coaching principles no matter where they are in their career, whether they are still students or practitioners with decades of experience. Studying and sharing practitioners’ perceptions of the positive effects of coaching may encourage other practitioners to implement it into their own practices for improved client outcomes across settings and populations.


Many students with disabilities receive individualized education that include occupational therapy (OT) services in public schools. Such individualized education is rarely provided in colleges and universities where it is not mandated by law like in public schools. However, the needs of students with disabilities for supports do not stop upon entering postsecondary education. In fact, postsecondary education students with disabilities often have poorer degree progression, retention, and graduation rates in comparison to their peers. With the rise in the number of students with disabilities attending postsecondary education, colleges and universities are devising creative ways to foster these students’ success. Coaching is a support now offered at some postsecondary institutions across the country. One such university created a program that is offering coaching provided by occupational therapists and OT students to its students with disabilities. A multi-prong study was conducted to understand the impact of this program.

In a recently published study, 18 college students with disabilities were interviewed on their perceptions of OT-led coaching after a semester of coaching sessions (Harrington et al., 2021). Four main themes emerged from the analysis of these interviews, including academic and personal growth, coaching being an open and supportive environment, perceptions of success, and the importance of accountability and engagement. Through these themes, the students expressed that coaching helped them improve their grades as well as their processing, professional communication, time management, and study habits. They also noted that coaching provided an open environment that made them feel comfortable sharing their goals, successes, struggles, and concerns. The students elaborated that their improved skills as well as the open and supportive environment positively impacted their ability to reach self-identified goals.

Overall, the students in the study perceived coaching as a valuable resource that helped them meet their goals and gain self-improvement. OT-led coaching complemented the services and supports more traditionally offered by institutions of postsecondary education. The support provided by OT coaches can help these students increase their academic success and self-determination, leading to greater lifetime success overall. 

Reference: Harrington, E. E., Santos, G. O., & Potvin, M. (2021). Postsecondary Education Students with Disabilities’ Perceptions of Occupational Therapy-Led Coaching. The Open Journal of Occupational Therapy, 9(2), 1-13. 

The use of coaching within occupational therapy (OT) emerged a little more than a decade ago. Since then, a number of studies have reported on the efficacy of OT-led coaching empirically in terms of, for example, goal attainment. It is just as important to understand the experience of clients who have received OT-led coaching as it is to tabulate their progress with numbers.

Five studies conducted have explored the perception about coaching of mothers of children with disabilities (Foster et al., 2012; Graham et al., 2014; Kahjoogh et al., 2017; Kim et al., 2021; Suja Angelin et al., 2020). In these studies, mothers (n=112) of children presenting with various conditions, including spinal cord injury, autism, and cerebral palsy, were interviewed or surveyed on their perceptions of coaching after receiving coaching approximately once per week for 5-10 weeks. Some mothers in these studies had limited previous exposure to coaching and had been subjected to varying cultural beliefs about disabilities in their communities. Across these studies, mothers noted increases in their perceptions of self-efficacy as caregivers, their ability to more calmly handle interactions with their children, and their ability to independently problem solve and achieve goals for themselves and their children.

Mothers expressed appreciation for the goal-oriented approach as well as the aspects of accountability, convenience, and support offered by coaching (Kim et al., 2021). The value of accountability in coaching was also identified by young adults with disabilities who engaged in OT-led coaching (Harrington et al., 2021). The mothers found value in working with the therapist to brainstorm strategies and decide on plans of action rather than simply being told what to do, as doing so helped improve their understanding of why they should implement certain strategies and thus their willingness to try and adhere to such strategies (Kim et al., 2021). Additionally, mothers expressed that the components of coaching involving analyzing their children's engagement in occupations as well as reflecting on their attempts implementing strategies between coaching sessions was helpful in bringing them closer to goal attainment (Foster et al., 2012). When asked to reflect on the impact coaching had on their children, selves, and families, mothers noted that coaching helped their children be more confident and persistent, helped themselves gain better insight into their children's behaviors, and helped their families become more calm and organized (Graham et al., 2014). Overall, the mothers in these studies overwhelmingly valued the OT-led coaching that they received. 

It is vital that caregivers of children with chronic conditions maintain their well-being, as these caregivers often experience poor mental health and barriers to personal pursuits due to their strained roles (Kim et al., 2021). As evidenced by the above studies, mothers who have received coaching have confirmed its impact on improving their self-efficacy, confidence, and ability to calmly work through problems that arise within their families, leading to greater well-being for mothers and their families.


A recent study conducted by Jefferson's College of Rehabilitation Sciences faculty and students explored the benefits of coaching mothers who were caregivers for their children with spinal cord injuries. Seven mothers received coaching and then were interviewed about their perceptions of coaching. Common themes emerged from the qualitative analysis of these interviews, including learning new perspectives and skills, having a supportive coach-mother relationship, and gaining insights into their own capabilities. Specifically, these mothers expressed that the goal-oriented approach of coaching helped them better understand strengths and barriers to achieving goals, and, ultimately, helped them achieve these goals. Additionally, learning task organization strategies, having a coach to be accountable to while also developing self-accountability skills, and developing problem-solving skills helped these mothers build self-efficacy and confidence in successfully carrying out their roles as caregivers in a fulfilling manner. As conveyed by the study, coaching provided various beneficial, lasting effects for these mothers that will continue to help them fulfill their roles as caregivers long after coaching has concluded.

Reference: Rachel Y. Kim, Madelyn Johnson & M. J. Mulcahey (2021) Coaching in context: parent perspectives, Coaching: An International Journal of Theory, Research and Practice, DOI: 10.1080/17521882.2021.2007968

“I could really use that!” These simple words capture the thoughts of Jefferson OT students who participated in a 3-month intensive coaching training and practicum as part of the fieldwork. OT fieldwork students explain that coaching required a mind shift compared to traditional OT practice, but that the skills they learn through coaching will be useful in any future practice setting. To learn more about the results of this study, view the presentation of Dr. Santos and West via the link below (stay tuned for the soon to be published study).

Two recent studies explored the value of occupational-based coaching with families of children with autism from a qualitative and quantitative paradigm (Little et al., 2018; Wallisch et al., 2019). Eighteen families living in rural and underserved communities received occupation-based coaching over Zoom for a period of twelve weeks. Occupational therapists guided the parents in creating their own goals and solutions for increasing their children's participation in daily routines. Common goals chosen by parents included getting children more involved in mealtime, toilet training, and social interactions. Two major benefits of teletherapy that emerged from interviews with parents included improved accessibility and convenience for families lacking the time and resources to attend in-person therapy. Additionally, the authors noted that since school-based therapy must focus primarily on education-based goals, teletherapy allowed families to work on home-based goals. After the twelve weeks of coaching teletherapy concluded, parents of seven of the eighteen families were interviewed about their impressions of their teletherapy experience. Parents shared that they perceived teletherapy coaching was compatible with their daily life, helpful due to the collaborative relationship between therapist and parent, and empowering due to the coaching style of therapy which helped build their self-confidence in problem-solving through situations involving their children. Further, one of these studies found that teletherapy coaching increased the children's participation in home-based activities as well as parent-efficacy, highlighting this method of delivery as a helpful solution for families, especially those who have difficulties attending in-person therapy sessions.