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Cognitive-behavioural neuro-linguistic coaching – making sense of it all


Gladeana McMahon describes a new approach to coaching based on the techniques of NLP and Cognitive Behavioural Coaching together.

Making Sense of it all

Individual Coaches and purchasers of coaching services want a coaching model that is effective, easy to use and with measurable results. Many coaches use Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) and others with a more psychological background use Cognitive Behavioural Coaching (CBC)

Many people have taken to NLP because it is user-friendly if not necessarily always as effective as stated. Others have avoided CBC because with its emphasis on evidence-based effectiveness the misguided impression has been that you already need to be an expert to learn how to use it.

However, there is now a model that brings together the perceived ease of communication of NLP with the evidence-based effectiveness of CBC. The official name of this new approach to coaching is Cognitive-Behavioural Neuro-Linguistic Coaching (CBNLC) - a complex name yet a simple process that focuses on measurable behavioural change.

Most coaches tend not to provide the name of the approach they use but focus more on how they do it and what outcomes can be expected.

One such organisation to feel the benefits of such a Model is Penna-Meridian, a City based Careers Coaching and Outplacement Agency. The organisation was so taken by the merging of these approaches that it is now training its own consultants in the model even though many already are fully trained in a range of coaching methodologies. In conjunction with the Association for Coaching, the first totally UK based Professional Coaching Body, this organisation is working on a project to measure results.

How does it work?

Setting up the Contract

In the case of corporate coaching an initial tripartite diagnostic meeting is set up between the Coach, the employee (hereinafter called the Client) and the organisation’s representative - the person’s manager or someone from Human Resources. If the model is to be successful the meeting has to be what has become termed “transparent” which means all parties agree measurable goals. The Coach very often has to take on the additional role of mediator as much Coach at this stage.

Once the contract has been agreed the Coach and his/her client then set about the work of bringing about the changes required.

The Process

First Meeting

The Coach will:

1. Confirm Coaching arrangements and the individual's understanding and acceptance of them based on the initial diagnostic meeting
2. Ask Client what he/she wants to achieve from the Coaching process based on items raised at the diagnostic meeting
3. Come up with a Coaching Agenda
4. Begin work in the session on ways of moving forward
5. Set Coaching Assignment with Client
6. Ask for feedback from Client as to his/her perception of the session and the Coach

On-Going Sessions

The Coach will:

1. Review Client’s mood and current situation
2. Make a list of Agenda items for current session
3. Check on assignment progress since last session (what went well, what could have been done differently, learning etc.)
4. Work on chosen Agenda item from list in session
5. Ask/help Client to set next Assignment
6. Ask for feedback on Coaching session


Each session has the space for a mini-review at the end as CBNLC™ places special emphasis on evaluation. In addition to session reviews, specific dates for more formalised reviews are also set. If, for example, a client is on a 12-week programme a formal review in accordance with agreed feedback structures will take place at session 6.

At its simplest, the review comprises of just three simple steps:

1. What was the Client’s situation when he/she first started Coaching?
2. Where does the Client perceive him/herself to be currently, what progress has been made, what has been learnt, where is the evidence that change has occurred?
3. What does the Client perceive he/she needs to work on for the remaining time

The Review also provides an opportunity for the Coach to provide the client with feedback.

The Skills

There are many different skills that come into play when using this approach. The approach requires the Coach to have the ability to form a coaching alliance quickly and effectively. The other skills required are taken from NLP and CBC and include:

  • Problem-solving skills
  • Ways of improving Emotional Intelligence
  • Ways of identifying self-defeating thinking patterns replacing them with more productive thinking styles
  • Identifying values and linking these to the work situation
  • Identifying skill deficits together with ways of dealing with these
  • Improving motivation
  • Increasing individual ability to cope with high levels of pressure

  • The Benefits

    By bringing together the evidence-based psychology and practical skill- base of Cognitive Behavioural Psychology with the perceived user-friendliness of Neuro-Linguistic Psychology this approach provides the following benefits: -

    For the Company

  • A recognised approach with a proven track record
  • A model that works well in a time-limited environment
  • An approach that is transparent in nature
  • An approach that is results orientated
  • For the Individual

  • A way of understanding and behaving that is easy to use
  • A model that truly provides skills training for the future
  • An approach that places the responsibility for change and the successes squarely at the feet of the individual
  • Control of the Coaching Process

  • Gladeana McMahon is an internationally published author and coaching consultant to a number of organisations. Fellow of the Association for Coaching, Institute of Management Specialists, British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy and Royal Society of Arts, Gladeana is also an NLP Certified Coach, Master Practitioner and Trainer as well as a BABCP Accredited Cognitive-Behavioural Psychotherapist and BACP Accredited Counsellor.


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