Posts Tagged Coaching

[BLOG POST] 7 principles of neuroscience every coach and therapist should know – Your Brain Health

What does neuroscience have to do with coaching and therapy?

Short answer: EVERYTHING!

If you’re a coach or therapist, your job is to facilitate change in your client’s

  • thinking (beliefs and attitudes)
  • emotions (more mindfulness and resilience)
  • behaviour (new healthy habits).

Coaching builds the mental skills needed to support lasting change. Skills such as:

  • mindfulness
  • self-awareness
  • motivation
  • resilience
  • optimism
  • critical thinking
  • stress management

Health and wellness coaching, in particular, are emerging as powerful interventions to help people initiate and maintain sustainable change.

And we have academic research to support this claim: check out a list of RCTs in table 2 of this paper).

How can neuroscience more deeply inform coaching and therapy?

Back in the mid-1990s when I was an undergrad, the core text of my neuroscience curriculum was ‘Principles of Neural Science’ by Eric Kandel, James Schwartz and Thomas Jessell. Kandel won the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his research on memory storage in neurons.

A few years before his Nobel, Kandel wrote a paper A new intellectual framework for psychiatry’. The paper explained how neuroscience can provide a new view of mental health and wellbeing.

Based on Kandel’s paper, researchers at the Yale School of Medicine proposed seven principles of brain-based therapy for psychiatrists, psychologists and therapists. The principles have been translated intopractical applications for health & wellness, business, and life coaches. 

One fundamental principle is,

“All mental processes, even the most complex psychological processes, derive from the operation of the brain.”

And another is:

“Insofar as psychotherapy or counseling is effective . . . it presumably does so through learning, by producing changes in gene expression that alter the strength of synaptic connections.”

That is, human interactions and experience influence how the brain works.

This concept of brain change is now well established in neuroscience and is often referred to as neuroplasticity. Ample neuroscience research supports the idea that our brains remain adaptable (or plastic) throughout our lifespan.

Here is a summary of Kandel, Cappas and colleagues thoughts on how neuroscience can be applied to therapy and coaching…

Seven principles of neuroscience every coach should know.

1. Both nature and nurture win.

Both genetics and the environment interact in the brain to shape our brains and influence behaviour.

Therapy or coaching can be thought of as a strategic and purposeful ‘environmental tool’ to facilitate change and may be an effective means of shaping neural pathways.

2.  Experiences transform the brain.

The areas of our brain associated with emotions and memories such as the pre-frontal cortex, the amygdala, and the hippocampus are not hard-wired (they are ‘plastic’).

Research suggests each of us constructs emotions from a diversity of sources: our physiological state, by our reactions to the ‘outside’ environment, experiences and learning, and our culture and upbringing.

3.  Memories are imperfect.

Our memories are never a perfect account of what happened. Memories are re-written each time when we recall them depending on how, when and where we retrieve the memory.

For example, a question, photograph or a particular scent can interact with a memory resulting in it being modified as it is recalled.

With increasing life experience we weave narratives into their memories.  Autobiographical memories that tell the story of our lives are always undergoing revision precisely because our sense of self is too.

Consciously or not, we use imagination to reinvent our past, and with it, our present and future.

4. Emotion underlies memory formation.

Memories and emotions are interconnected neural processes.

The amygdala, which plays a role in emotional arousal, mediate neurotransmitters essential for memory consolidation. Emotional arousal has the capacity to activate the amygdala, which in turn modulates the storage of memory.


5. Relationships are the foundation for change 

Relationships in childhood AND adulthood have the power to elicit positive change.

Sometimes it takes the love, care or attention of just one person to help another change for the better.

The therapeutic relationship has the capacity to help clients modify neural systems and enhance emotional regulation.

6. Imagining and doing are the same to the brain.

Mental imagery or visualisation not only activates the same brain regions as the actual behaviour but also can speed up the learning of a new skill.

Envisioning a different life may as successfully invoke change as the actual experience.

7. We don’t always know what our brain is ‘thinking’.

Unconscious processes exert great influence on our thoughts, feelings, and actions.

The brain can process nonverbal and unconscious information, and information processed unconsciously can still influence therapeutic and other relationships. It’s possible to react to unconscious perceptions without consciously understanding the reaction.


via 7 principles of neuroscience every coach and therapist should know – Your Brain Health

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[ARTICLE] Coaching or gaming? Implications of strategy choice for home based stroke rehabilitation – Full Text HTML/PDF



The enduring aging of the world population and prospective increase of age-related chronic diseases urge the implementation of new models for healthcare delivery. One strategy relies on ICT (Information and Communications Technology) home-based solutions allowing clients to pursue their treatments without institutionalization. Stroke survivors are a particular population that could strongly benefit from such solutions, but is not yet clear what the best approach is for bringing forth an adequate and sustainable usage of home-based rehabilitation systems. Here we explore two possible approaches: coaching and gaming.


We performed trials with 20 healthy participants and 5 chronic stroke survivors to study and compare execution of an elbow flexion and extension task when performed within a coaching mode that provides encouragement or within a gaming mode. For each mode we analyzed compliance, arm movement kinematics and task scores. In addition, we assessed the usability and acceptance of the proposed modes through a customized self-report questionnaire.


In the healthy participants sample, 13/20 preferred the gaming mode and rated it as being significantly more fun (p < .05), but the feedback delivered by the coaching mode was subjectively perceived as being more useful (p < .01). In addition, the activity level (number of repetitions and total movement of the end effector) was significantly higher (p < .001) during coaching. However, the quality of movements was superior in gaming with a trend towards shorter movement duration (p = .074), significantly shorter travel distance (p < .001), higher movement efficiency (p < .001) and higher performance scores (p < .001). Stroke survivors also showed a trend towards higher activity levels in coaching, but with more movement quality during gaming. Finally, both training modes showed overall high acceptance.


Gaming led to higher enjoyment and increased quality in movement execution in healthy participants. However, we observed that game mechanics strongly determined user behavior and limited activity levels. In contrast, coaching generated higher activity levels. Hence, the purpose of treatment and profile of end-users has to be considered when deciding on the most adequate approach for home based stroke rehabilitation.


Dealing with the social and economical burden resulting from the high number of stroke survivors with permanent disability represents a major challenge for modern societies. The challenge becomes yet higher taking into account the enduring aging of the population worldwide [1] that will consequently result in the increase of the number of individuals with age related diseases such as stroke. For the particular case of the USA, estimates indicate that by 2030, ~4 % of the population will have experienced a stroke, with related costs expected to rise from $71.55 billion to $183.13 billion between 2012 and 2030 [2]. New strategies have to be found to face this upcoming scenario, otherwise it will represent a large burden on healthcare systems and caregivers.

One approach relies on home-based rehabilitation, so that stroke survivors can continue their rehabilitation program after hospital discharge with minimal supervision. Home-based stroke rehabilitation has been increasingly addressed during the last years, and while showing promising results in terms of feasibility and impact on recovery [3, 4] it also poses a number of technical and human challenges. In the concrete case of computer-based rehabilitation, current technology allows offering training scenarios adjusted to the characteristics of users, with detailed progress reports and remote monitorization. Moreover, one of the main advantages relies on the fact that most of these applications have protocols that promote hundreds of task-specific movement repetitions. There is evidence that the conjunction of these two factors, increased number of repetitions and task-specificity, is an important ingredient to achieve reorganization of cortical maps after stroke [5, 6]. Here, technology based solutions can play an important role to increase functional movement practice and impact recovery. There are however challenges when deploying such technologies in the home. One challenge relates to the definition of rehabilitation approaches that are adequate for a home environment. What is the most effective strategy to support users when they have to use these systems on their own or with minimum supervision? Self-managed computerized rehabilitation should be straightforward to use, tailor exercises to the profile of users, address function, set goals, improve self-efficacy, provide instantaneous feedback on performance and be engaging [79]. A second challenge in home-based approaches in general is long-term treatment adherence. It has been observed that compliance tends to decrease over time below recommended levels for reasons such as insufficient familiarity with technology, competing commitments, or simply lack of motivation [1012]. Hence, it is important to investigate what characteristics should be included in such systems so that stroke survivors feel more engaged and motivated to use these tools in a systematic way over long periods of time.

Continue HTML —>  Coaching or gaming? Implications of strategy choice for home based stroke rehabilitation | Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation | Full Text

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