Executive Coaching & Depression

I had an interesting conversation with a Coaching colleague at the recent International Coach Federation event. Despite the significant increase in Executive Coaching (for which I focus my Coaching Practice on) the acceptance that it can play a part in supporting Executives with depression is still challenged by many Coaches.

For those of you who read my Masters dissertation, Executive Coaching in supporting stress was statistically proven with the outcome of my study.

Anthony Grant et al explored the impacts of executive coaching in their article, "Executive coaching enhances goal attainment, resilience and workplace well-being: a randomised controlled study" (2009)

Research Review

Forty two executives participated in a Leadership Development program aimed at developing leaders and their management capabilities of executives and senior managers. The program was based on individual 360-Degree Feedback, and one half-day leadership training workshop followed by individual executive coaching.

They hypothesised that participation in the program would be associated with increased goal attainment, increased resilience, and decreased level of depression, anxiety/stress, and increased workplace well-being.  They also hypothesised that the training workshop on its own without coaching would not result in any of these effects. Four coaching sessions were completed within a specified 8-10 week time frame, using a cognitive behavioural approach.

The study used a randomised controlled study measuring three effects during a current (Time 1), 10 week (Time 2) and 20 week (Time 3) time period. Compared to controls, those who participated in coaching enhanced goal attainment, increased resilience & workplace well-being and reduced depression and stress.

In fact, those that received coaching revealed that it: increased self-confidence, helped build applied management skills, were better able to deal with organisational change and stress, helped find ways to develop their career. 

Coach’s Research Implications

From the Grant et al. study, and my own research on the matter, we can support that coaching is indeed an effective  intervention for leaders in organisations. It demonstrated how coaching is effective on multiple levels.

First of all, coaching helped those that needed to reach their goals. As a coach, I personally found those who solely participated in a 360 or self-awareness program but failed to pursue coaching support for their behavioural change attempts ended up approaching me in the future for help, as they did not commit to a behavioural change program. In fact, I believe that changing behaviours are difficult enough even with coaching, let alone for change to happen without the appropriate support.

The study also found that those that were coached were able to build more resilience. In my experience, I found that mid-way through some of my client’s development process, negative self talk, feelings of quitting, and resistance arose. Grant’s study also showed that participant’s depression levels decreased, while the depression levels of the control group increased.

A coach plays a pivotal role in helping the Executive overcome beliefs about barriers. So, once again this study seems to be aligned with my experience as an Executive Coach. These positive impacts occurred in as little as four coaching sessions.

What the studies, and the challenges from some Coaches show, is that Executive Coaching and Interventions can absolutely support Executives in dealing with depression and stress, but, relevant, training and experience is critical to ensure the right approach and interventions are used.

As a qualified coach with a Masters degree on Coaching and Psychology, Rosia Bay is well positioned to support Executives in their leadership development and life journey.