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Making the Connection

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By Leni Wildflower and Diane Brennan

We set out to write The Handbook of Knowledge Based Coaching: From Theory to Practice in response to a felt need among coaches and clients. The coaching profession was growing rapidly, with the number of both coaches and coach-training programs climbing every year.

In the area of coaching literature, there were numerous well-written, technically skillful books available on how to coach. In more limited supply, however, were books that explored the theoretical background of coaching. What we felt was missing from the coaching library was a book that brought these two together, covering an extensive range of disciplines and traditions and, for each, directly linking theory and practice.

Although exploring the theoretical roots of coaching requires us to look backward, it’s an endeavor that will help ensure a dynamic future for the profession. As coaches and authors, it is our fervent desire that coaching continues to evolve as a profession of consequence. To accomplish this, we need ongoing research; we also need coaches to base their practice in theories and ideas that have established validity. In other words, we need them to follow an evidence-based practice.

What is an Evidence-based Practice?

Evidence-based practice grew out of the practice of medicine and has since expanded to a range of disciplines, including psychology. An evidence-based practice has three key features: First, it depends on the practitioner (in this case, the coach) using the best-available knowledge in the field. Ideally, the “best-available knowledge” is that which has been researched and tested. For coaches, such knowledge is derived from current studies in coaching and from studies in related fields. Second, evidence-based practitioners integrate researched knowledge with their own expertise and skills. And third, in evidence-based practice, skills and theory are integrated and applied in the context of the individual client—the situation she is in, her individual needs and her personal preferences.

Although coaching theory is an emerging—and promising—field of study, most scholars and practitioners of coaching are still largely reliant on knowledge gathered from a wide range of disparate fields—from the numerous schools of psychology to theories of leadership and organizational development.

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