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Coaching with a Universal Framework

It makes sense that in order to be a coach, one should be knowledgeable about the cultural nuances of the community in which they practice (for a definition and discussion of what I mean by "coaching," please see my post titled "Coaching: A Definition of the Art and Science"). Practitioners should know what tools are available, in what instances their use is appropriate, and the evidence backing their effectiveness. This post investigates the idea of a universal framework that coaches across the globe can draw from as well as an exploration of one tool to apply in the practice of coaching techniques.

Law (2013) describes the vehicle of a Universal Integrated Framework (UIF) in coaching as one capable of moving across countries and thus different cultures. The author notes that a UIF should be rooted in the psychology of learning and stresses this as a preliminary point for the various practices of coaching/mentoring. Furthermore, Rogers (2016) iterates that methods surrounding a coaching practice need to address the person as a whole and will recognize a plethora of issues; ranging from basic biological processes in the human brain to the different nuances of creating trust with the coachee. As such, Law argues that the UIF at its core aims to embody the “human condition we all share” (p. 100) while developing an understanding that each intervention is unique in its construction due to the distinctiveness of individuals and environments.

Developed in the mid 1980’s solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT) focuses on people’s strengths, helping clients find solutions that fit their own world view, and is widely accepted among social workers and other human service professionals where client conditions (finances, childcare commitments, professional commitments, etc.) are better suited to briefer treatment options (Corcoran & Pillai, 2007; Gingerich & Peterson, 2013). The idea that the client holds the solutions to their own problems lies in league with Rogers’ (2016) statement that clients in coaching sessions are, essentially, resourceful in making their own choices and are responsible for themselves.


The client strength and self-solution techniques of SFBT have recent empirical support to back their effectiveness, such as the reviews done by Gingerich and Peterson (2013) and Corcoran and Pillai (2007). In addition, Zhang, Froerier, and Johnson (2016) noted that of the various techniques (as derived from the SFBT treatment manual; see Trepper et al., 2008), a focus on the strength and resources of the client yielded the most positive results. Kim (2008) demonstrated small treatment effect sizes that were comparable to other meta-analyses of methods in social work practice, also noting treatment effects favoring internalizing behaviors (e.g. depression) as opposed to externalizing behavioral problems (e.g. conduct problems). A useful insight for coaching practitioners with clients who struggle with these issues.

However, as many strengths as there are for SFBT, there are equally heavy criticisms that warn against its universal application. Stalker, Levene, and Coady (1999) outline a few key issues: brief therapies have been shown to be less effective than longer-term therapies, it neglects a wider assessment of the client, and runs the risk of being viewed as a model that can be used to treat everyone. For instance, Kim (2008) previously noted a lack of effectiveness with externalizing behavioral problems. SFBT’s lack of depth is also supported by Thomas’ (2007) concern that the method does not utilize enough background information of the client, an important factor in coaching (see Rogers, 2016, p. 118). Furthermore, Law’s (2013) UIF calls for coaches/coachees to learn and reflect on their own experiences, something that arguably can’t be done without a wide understanding of such experiences.   


All in all, SFBT has merits that liken it to solid coaching foundations, such as the focus on clients as the resource. However, a UIF for coaching must pay attention to the individuality of each person and their environment. This gives doubt that any single method can fully encompass the variety of human experience. As someone hoping to foster the potential of others, please remember that there is not likely to be a single technique that a coach can apply to their clients. Although one client's issue may sound similar to the next, remember that there are always nuances and experiences you do not fully comprehend.

Do you have any experience in coaching employees or in professional practice? What do you think of this assessment? Please post your thoughts in the comments below.



Corcoran, J., & Pillai, V. (2007). A review of the research on solution-focused therapy. British Journal of Social Work, 39(2), 234-242.

Franklin, C., Zhang, A., Froerer, A., & Johnson, S. (2017). Solution Focused Brief Therapy: A Systematic Review and Meta‐Summary of Process Research. Journal of marital and family therapy, 43(1), 16-30.

Gingerich, W. J., & Peterson, L. T. (2013). Effectiveness of solution-focused brief therapy: A systematic qualitative review of controlled outcome studies. Research on Social Work Practice, 23(3), 266-283.

Kim, J. S. (2008). Examining the effectiveness of solution-focused brief therapy: A meta-analysis. Research on Social Work Practice, 18(2), 107-116.

Law, H. (2013). The psychology of coaching, mentoring and learning (2nd ed). West Sussex, UK: Wiley.

Rogers, J. (2016). Coaching skills: The definitive guide to being a coach (4th ed.). Maidenhead, UK: Open University Press.

Stalker, C. A., Levene, J. E., & Coady, N. F. (1999). Solution-focused brief therapy—One model fits all?. Families in society, 80(5), 468-477.

Thomas, F. N. (2007). Possible limitations, misunderstandings, and misuses of solution-focused brief therapy. In T. S. Nelson & F. N. Thomas (Eds.), Handbook of solution-focused brief therapy: Clinical applications. 391-408. Binghamton, NY: Haworth.

Trepper, T. S., McCollum, E. E., De Jong, P., Korman, H., Gingerich, W., & Franklin, C. (2008). Solution focused therapy treatment manual for working with individuals research committee of the solution focused brief therapy association. Retrieved July, 23, 2008.

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