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Mental Health and Coaching - Dr Tatiana Rowson

With World Mental Health Day still fresh in our minds, Dr Tatiana Rowson suggests it is time to reflect on mental health at work and what role coaching can play in this matter.

Please join the debate on the Coaching Centre discussion board and at the Masterclass on 20 November 2018.

Although research on coaching in the workplace is in its infancy, there is a growing body of evidence that engaging in coaching has a positive effect on well-being. In fact, this ’ripple effect’ of coaching is often marketed as an additional value of hiring an executive or workplace coach.

Despite this connection between coaching and well-being, little is explicitly said about mental health and coaching, whether we are talking about enhancing and preventing mental illness or on how to manage a particular condition. In fact, many coaching practitioners make a point of staying well clear of mental health conversations as part of their professional boundaries. Interestingly, reviewing the statistics of mental health at work, it feels that many of us are failing to see the obvious: mental health problems are so prevalent that we cannot assume it is just something that only happens to ‘others’.

According to the charity Mind, approximately one in four people will experience a mental health problem each year in the UK. At work, one in two people reports experiencing common mental health problems, such as stress, low mood and anxiety. Mind emphasises the role of managers and employers in creating a safe and stigma-free environment where employees feel they can be open about their mental health. And, moreover, that they can be supported. As part of this, they partnered with the CIPD to create a guide to managers as a first step to create awareness. Ideally, managers would be trained to handle mental health at work so they can support their teams more effectively.

As organisations and managers understand the importance of removing the stigma around mental health and are more open to talking about it, I wonder about coaching practitioners. So, my question is, as executive, business and workplace coaches, are we prepared to discuss the role of coaching in mental health at work?

Note that I am not suggesting that coaches should be treating mental health as the focus of their coaching. As much as I would not expect a manager to do so, as only mental health professionals, with adequate training should be 'treating' it. Instead, what I am suggesting is that coaching practitioners should have a greater awareness of mental health issues so they are able to recognise when a coachee might need help from a different professional. In some circumstances, this would mean that coaching should be paused until the coachee’s personal resources are restored. Just like many managers, we should start engaging more in conversations about this issue, in order to better understand how coaching can have a positive impact on someone experiencing poor mental health. Perhaps, we should even get more training on this (e.g. mental health first aid), so we feel more comfortable with the topic of mental health and clear about our role as coaches without blurring professional boundaries.

As someone with a professional background in mental health, I feel it is time to talk more openly about this.

What are your views?

<>Discussion board

Please join the debate via our Coaching Centre discussion board – Points of View- Mental Health and Coaching

Not a Coaching Centre member? Join the vibrant learning community and help shape research and practice in coaching.


You may also be aware of the upcoming Masterclass on A Psychiatrist's Guide to the Office and How to Survive It on Tuesday 20 November 2018. During the networking lunch, I am hoping to run an exercise around some of the outputs from the discussion board above.

Published 1 November 2018

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