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  • Writer's pictureHelen Burt Iain McCormick

Preliminary data on Self Practice Self Reflection for Coaches

Iain McCormick PhD, Executive Coaching Centre, Auckland

Self-practice/Self-reflection (SP/SR) involves understanding coaching ‘from the inside out’ by having coaches experience the coaching process for themselves, and then reflecting on the experience and applying their learning to their own coaching practice. By being in the client’s shoes, coaches report that they feel more in tune and have a greater understanding of the coaching approach. SP/SR aims to move from personal experience to new professional learning via a structured process of practice and reflection. There is growing evidence that this approach is effective in developing empathy and client understanding (Thwaites et al, 2017).

The Coaching Psychology Special Interest Group of the NZ Psychological Society asked Iain McCormick of the Executive Coaching Centre to run a series of intensive SP/SR sessions for interested coaches during 2020 and 2021. These one-day professional development sessions typically involved only four participants so that each person could have time for an in-depth experience of being coached and time for reflection on this in a safe and confidential environment.

The SP/SR process had four steps:

1. A week or so before the session, participants were asked to complete a simple assessment questionnaire to identify several challenges or problems that they wanted to work on in the SP/SR session. Each problem was rated on how much it bothered the person at the moment using the scale: 1 = Not At All to 7 = Maximum Possible.

2. During the SP/SR session, individuals had the opportunity to be coached on their own problems.

3. They then reflected on this coaching and identified how it felt, what they learned and what they could apply in their own coaching practice.

4. After the SP/SR session, the participants were asked to repeat the assessment questionnaire to assess progress.

The assessment questionnaire asked participants to identify several important but not extreme problems that they were comfortable talking about in front of the group. At the beginning of the SP/SR session the confidential nature of the coaching issues was reinforced for participants.

A total of 13 coaches participated in the SP/SR sessions. Ratings were made on problems that were coached in the session, as well as other problems which were not considered in the session as there was not time to cover them. The findings are presented below with average ratings for problems that were coached dropping from 5.1 to 3.0, and for those problems not coached rising slightly from 5.3 to 6.0.

The participants also filled out a modified version of the well-established Session Rating Scale (Duncan et al. 2003). This scale consists of four items: I felt heard, understood, and respected, we worked on and talked about what I wanted to work on and talk about, the approach is a good fit for me and overall, today’s session was right for me. One item was added to the original four: The session assisted me to improve my coaching practice. A five point rating scale was used by participants to score the value of the SP/SR session. The results are presented below and indicate a very high level of overall value of the SP/SR process.

Further data will be gathered over the next two years but at this point the very preliminary data suggests that SP/SR for coaches may be useful as a training strategy.


Duncan, B. L., Miller, S. D., Sparks, J. A., Claud, D. A., Reynolds, L. R., Brown, J., et al. (2003). The session rating scale: Preliminary psychometric properties of a “Working” alliance measure. Journal of Brief Therapy, 3(1), 3–12.

Thwaites, R., Bennett-Levy, J., Cairns, L., Lowrie, R., Robinson, A., Haarhoff, B., & Perry, H.

(2017). Self-practice/self-reflection (SP/SR) as a training strategy to enhance therapeutic

empathy in low intensity CBT practitioner

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