Neurocoaching: The truth and myths – exposed

In this blog we will explore what Neurocoaching is, and what it isn’t.

Back in 2014, Sherpa Consulting ran their annual Executive Survey, and the specialist field of neuroscience topped the field of desirable backgrounds for a coach. 76% of coaches surveyed back then said neuroscience should play a strong role in coaching in the future, and their predictions have certainly come through. 

However, the application of neuroscience to coaching can mean many things to many people. It is a complex spectrum of delivery alternatives, which we can explore.

But first, a few definitions:

Coaching is: a collaborative conversation that helps people produce the results they are looking for, by bridging the gap between where they are now and where they want to be.

Neuroscience is:

The application of research medicine, applied psychology, the study of human behaviour and imaging of the structures of the brain(s) we have.

Therefore, Neurocoaching is: the application of neuroscience into coaching practice by applying it in a way clients can practically use it.

Let’s then be clear about what Neurocoaching is not

  1. Knowing which parts of the brain fire up when we look at a psychological test inside a brain scanner. Describing neurology and affecting actual performance are a long distance apart. 
  2. Scattering an occasional brain structure into your power point slides or quick-sell book. It is not icing to be put on the cake. There is a trend right now to show a picture of the amygdalae and talk about managing emotions.
  3. Being able to quote the latest neuroscience research. Reading that sleep reduces stress hormone levels in the blood or that playing Lumosity assists in memory development also does not lead to actual changes in performance. 
  4. The application of the poorly named neurolinquistic programming (NLP) which is much more about pattern recognition and either breaking or replicating patterns for high performance.

Therefore, Neurocoaching is the application of neuroscience into coaching practice by applying it in a way clients can practically use it.

-Robert Holmes, Director of Research, Neurocoaching Australia

So in this respect I would agree with Sarah McKay who, in a recent post took umbrage at coaches simply quoting the latest pop-psych piece from a main stream media personality and randomly applying that to their coaching. The field of Neurocoaching cannot be mastered in one mainstream article, and nor should coaches apply the term ‘neuro’ to their practice if they have not had any training. 

Neurocoaching according to an Olympic Coach

Neurocoach for the Australian Olympic Taekawando team, Ian Snape says that Neurocoaching is about helping a client manage their state in the moment by changing one of three aspects: physiology, biochemistry and neurology. In practice then, Neurocoaching could take the form of: 

  1. Changing physiology – how we are within our physical selves, our mind-body connection including embodied memories, PTSD and other functional aspects. 
  2. Playing with our biochemistry through sleep, eating or performance. Much of sports coaching is now relying on neurofeedback, EEG application and brain stimulation. 
  3. Changing our thought life. Helping clients think different thoughts, especially changing your inner dialogue or self-talk, you will get different neurochemistry (feelings) and outcomes.

For further reading: “Coaching for Lasting Change: What neuropsychotherapy has to teach us.”