Science & Tech

McLean launches coaching institute

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The Institute of Coaching is the first of its kind in coaching research

With a $2 million gift from the Harnisch Foundation, Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital recently launched the Institute of Coaching to support coaching-related research, practice, and education. The first of its kind, the center will look to advance excellence in research and practice within the field of coaching, a professional practice designed to optimize human potential and performance in diverse arenas including leadership, health care, and public service.

“Coaching is a remarkable change process that has often been thought of as a self-help method without established best practices,” said Carol Kauffman, institute director and assistant clinical professor of psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at McLean Hospital. “The goal of the institute is to provide a solid scientific foundation of coaching based on good science, good research, and good practice. Evidence-based coaching will transform the field by giving coaches and clients more and better choices of best practices.”

The institute will seek to advance the field of coaching through five centers of excellence including research, education, applied positive psychology, health coaching, and executive and leadership coaching. The Harnisch Fund for Coaching, established with the $2 million gift, will fuel coaching-related research by awarding grants for high-quality scientific coaching studies. The institute’s research center will also disseminate empirically supported best practices, which include peer-reviewed studies.

Ruth Ann Harnisch, a philanthropist and certified professional coach, chose to fund coaching research at McLean after listening to the stories of researchers at the first-ever International Coaching Research Forum, organized by Kauffman in 2008.

“They talked about the challenges they faced as serious academics attempting to do peer-reviewed, respected coaching research. It became clear to me that a respectable academic home for coaching would be a game-changer for the field,” Harnisch said.

Known for its cutting-edge research and world-class professionals, McLean Hospital has studied and practiced coaching-related disciplines for years.

“There is a growing interest in positive psychology, of which coaching is an integral part,” said Philip Levendusky, director of psychology at McLean and associate professor of psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. “Increasing evidence shows that coaching can have a positive impact on health care delivery in terms of lifestyle changes, medication compliance, and a host of other changes that reap big rewards for patients and the health care system.

“In her gift to establish the Institute of Coaching, Ruth Ann Harnisch has made a significant commitment to the coaching profession and to improving the lives of individuals,” Levendusky said.