Theorists and Their Contributions to the Coaching Field

Subject: Psychology
Pages: 5
Words: 1218
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Study level: PhD


Coaching can be defined as a situation whereby a person outside the organization uses his or her psychological skills by creating an alliance with a client to encourage and maintain personal growth and development (Peltier, 2001). Coaching helps to build skills that will enhance effective leadership in an organization. The skills are meant to solve a specific problem in life, but they go a long way in affecting other decisions later in life. Therefore, the skills are incorporated as a leadership style.

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The topic of coaching is very significant due to the role it plays in organizations, education, sports and also in personal growth. The topic has attracted many theorists such as Levinson, Kegan, Gould, Adler and Gilligan and many others. These theorists have contributed immensely in the coaching field. This paper discusses some of these theories as well as their specific contributions in the field of coaching.

Theorists and their Contributions to the Coaching Field

Organizational Immersion and Diagnosis

This theory was developed by Harry Levinson while in Harvard school of business. His main motive of developing this scholarly work was to come up with a psychoanalytical theory that was supposed to be applied in management and also to learn the psychology of leadership and organization processes. In his desire to understand these concepts, he came up with different articles that have greatly contributed to the coaching field. In his psychological contract study, Levinson outlines that there are conscious and unconscious human needs that greatly affect performance in an organization (Levinson, 1976). He argues that unless these psychological needs are met, employees will not feel adequately nurtured by their employers. Levinson also underlines that a good relationship between employees and the seniors is of great importance in ensuring that managers are effective in their work (Levinson, 1968). In addition, Levison outlines three primary human drives that are important in an organization (Miner, 2011). He indicates that for a human being to be comfortable, ministration, maturation and mastery are important. According to Levinson (1968), ministration involves satisfaction, closeness, support, guidance and protection. Maturation is the art of helping one to be creative, original and utilize his full potential, while mastery involves making meaningful achievement and consolidation.

Levinson’s theory has contributed significantly in the field of coaching. The theory outlines how managers can solve problems, focusing on performance and personnel conflict. He proposes practical steps that can be taken in an organization when diagnosing a problem and how to solve such problems. In his research, he indicates that there are many times when workers in an organization feel they have not performed to their level best. Therefore, there is a need for them to be properly guided to ensure that emotional needs do not affect their performance. Levinson’s theory shows the importance of coaching in an organization and why managers should put more emphasis on the three primary human drives mentioned in his theory.

Theory of psychological development

This theory was developed by Eric Erikson, a renowned psychologist. It is one of the most fundamental theories of psychology. His theory is used in teaching, parenting, self awareness, conflict management and coaching. In his theory, he outlines that every change in life is accompanied by a quality that can make one progress or stagnate. He proposed that there are eight stages of development in life. Each stage in life is accompanied by a negative or stagnant theme and a positive growth theme (Salkind, 2004). The first stage of life is trust and mistrust. The fundamental question in this stage is whether the world is a safe place for the new born. If the infant is taken care of in life and fed properly, the infant develops trust and grows knowing that life is okay. According to Wrightsman (1994), stage two is autonomy versus shame and doubt. The young infant in the age of two to three years want to know whether he or she is in full control of his or her life. Stage three takes place between four to six years. It is the stage of guilt versus initiative, where the main question is whether he or she is good or bad. Stage four deals with industry and inferiority. This stage takes place from the age of 6 years to puberty. Here, the main question is the level of competence. From the age of 12 to 18 years, the person is in the stage of identity vs. role confusion. Intimacy and isolation is the sixth stage. It is the first question in adulthood, where one is in confusion whether he or she should share their life with another person. Stage seven is the stage of generativity versus self absorption. This is the theme of middle adulthood and the main question is what to live for. One wants to understand his value and what he will produce in life. The last stage is integrity and despair, whereby the main question is whether or not one has lived a full life.

This theory is very fundamental in coaching and counseling sessions. Coaches apply the eights stages during coaching sessions. The eight stages can be used to guide people on how to attain their goals in life. The theory also emphasizes on the importance of social relationship in personal development (Nevid, 2008).

Theory of Personality and system of psychotherapy

This theory was developed and proposed by Alfred Adler, who is commonly referred to as the ‘Grandfather of coaching’. Adler was an Australian medical doctor and a psychologist. In his theory, he looks at man as a social being, who can live with other people and can corporate with them in order to have self fulfillment, self improvement as well as contributing to the common welfare of all members in the society (Adler, 2006). Adler (2006) says that man is a social person and is more close to happiness than an isolated person seeking superiority. He continues to say that the whole concept of human beings while on this planet is appreciating what others have done in the past as well as improving life for the present and future generations. Alder’s theory is based on humanist model of man with six basic concepts of Holism in man, field theory that is more about the social set up of man, teleology or the power of self will, creative style, life style and private intelligence (Prout & Brown, 2012).

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His theory changed the outlook of man and the society. Adler’s main theory focuses on man living in harmony with other people in the society in order to achieve his own goals as well as the collective goals of the society (Neukrug, 2010). The theory outlines the importance of helping one another in order to ensure that every individual lives a meaningful life. This is the foundation of life coaching as the main focus is ensuring that every individual lives a self fulfilling life.


The Organizational Immersion and Diagnosis theory, Theory of Personality and system of psychotherapy and Theory of psychological development are very important in coaching. The theories are also used in other situations such as in counseling, education, sports, and also in personal growth. Although the theories differ from one another, they all address fundamental issues in coaching. They are, therefore, very important to trainers and others involved in the coaching process.


Adler, A. (2006). The Collected Clinical Works of Alfred Adler. New York: Alfred Adler Institute.

Levinson, H. (1968).The exceptional executive: a psychological conception. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Levinson, H. (1976). Psychological man. Boston: Levinson Institute Press.

Miner, J. (2011). Organizational Behavior 6: Integrated Theory Development and the Role of the Unconscious. New York: M.E. Sharpe Publishers.

Neukrug, S. (2010). Counseling Theory and Practice. Stamford: Cengage Learning Publishers.

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Nevid, J. (2008). Psychology: Concepts and Applications. Stamford: Cengage Learning Publishers.

Peltier, B. (2001). The Psychology of Executive Coaching: Theory and Application. Kentucky: Psychology Press.

Prout, H & Brown, T. (2012). Counseling and Psychotherapy with Children and Adolescents: Theory and Practice for School and Clinical Settings. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons.

Salkind, N. (2004). An Introduction to Theories of Human Development. London: Sage Publishers.

Wrightsman, L. (1994). Adult Personality Development: Volume 1: Theories and Concepts. London: Sage Publishers.