History and Development of Coaching (Coaching Series: Part 3)

Michael Kogutek, nonprofit management coach

Michael Kogutek


The roots of coaching can be traced to the field of psychology. In the 1960’s, a sector of psychology emerged called “The Third Force”. It was a rebellion against the Freudian (medical) model and behaviorism. It’s main thesis is the belief in the positive nature of humans along with their potential. The main architects include Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, Rollo May,Fritz Perls and others. This movement is currently advocated by the field of Positive Psychology. Its main leader is Martin Seligman, Ph.D.

Subsequently the work of Milton Erickson (father of American hypnosis) is a key precursor to the memos of coaching used today. Erickson believed in the inherent ability of individuals to achieve wellness.This developed into more solution bases therapies and coaching methods. The main focus is not pathology but behavior change through increased awareness and choices. One of the early coaches Bill O’Hanlon has emphasized possibilities and preferences. Clearly these are the fundamentals of coaching.

Coaching has really developed from three streams: 1. helping professions such as psychotherapy and counseling and related perspectives as noted above, 2. consulting and organizational development and industrial psychology, and 3. personal development training such as EST( Werner Erhard), Lifespring, Landmark Forum and Tony Robbins.

Thomas Leonard became a central figure in coaching here in the US. He was influenced by Werner Erhard and EST in the early 80’s. He was an employee of EST back then. Later he started a financial advisory firm but noticed that people wanted more in terms of life planning. He started coaching. In 1995 he founded the International Coaching Federation (ICF) as a non-profit organization for fellow coaches to support each other and grow the profession. There are 60 chapters worldwide. In 2014, ICF had 25,000 members of which 15,00 are credentialed. The ICF is the main credentialing body for coaches worldwide. Currently there are no federal or state laws regulating the coaching profession.

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Author:  Michael Kogutek, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org