Acceptance and Commitment Training

Acceptance and Commitment Training (ACT), also known as Mindfulness, Acceptance and Commitment (MAC) training, helps individuals to accept what is out of their personal control, and commit to action that improves and enriches their professional and personal life. It achieves this by:

Teaching psychological skills to individuals which assist them to deal with their thoughts and feelings effectively thereby minimising influence on behaviour

Helping individuals to clarify what is truly important and meaningful to them i.e. their values, and to then use that knowledge to guide, inspire and motivate changes in behaviour.

ACT is a mindfulness-based approach. Mindfulness is a motivated state of de-centred awareness brought about by receptive attending to present moment experience (Cavanagh & Spence, 2012 p 117). Mindfulness has recently been increasingly recognised as a powerful intervention in both coaching and therapy, and is used in areas such as leadership training, building resilience, reducing work stress and treating depression.
Mindfulness facilitates individuals to engage fully in what they are doing at any moment. In a state of mindfulness, the impact of unproductive and/or difficult thoughts and feelings is significantly reduced. . Used by many therapists, mindfulness has also proven very useful in enhancing athletic and business performance.

ACT breaks mindfulness skills down into 3 categories:

Defusion – distancing from, and letting go of, unhelpful thoughts, beliefs and memories

Acceptance – making room for painful feelings, urges and sensations, and allowing them to come and go without a struggle

Contact – with the present moment: engaging fully with your here-and-now experience, with an attitude of openness and curiosity

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is a unique and creative approach to behaviour change premised on scientific research into human behavioural psychology with a continually expanding evidence base.


Coaching Compared to Mentoring

Coaching and mentoring primarily differ in that mentoring is more of an expert-learner relationship with the mentor being the subject matter expert and the person being mentored being the learner. In coaching, whilst the coach may be a subject matter expert, it is not necessary for the success of the coaching relationship. The coaching relationship is more one of “how do we learn together” and the agenda and focus of coaching are held by the coachee.

m & c
Mentoring Coaching
Ongoing relationship that can last for a long period of time and cover many issues Relationship generally has a set duration and/or is based around a specific issue
Can be more informal and meetings can take place as and when the person being mentored needs some advice, guidance or support Generally more structured in nature and meetings are scheduled on a regular basis outcomes set for each meeting
Mentor is usually more experienced and qualified than the person being mentored. They often a senior person in the organisation and seen as an expert who can pass on knowledge, experience and open doors to otherwise out-of-reach opportunities Coaching is generally not performed on the basis that the coach needs to have direct experience of their clients formal occupational role, unless the coaching is specific and skills-focused. When the coaching is transformational, the person being coached is considered the expert in their life
Focus is on career and personal development Focus is generally on personal development (transformational coaching) or personal/issues at work (executive coaching)
Agenda is set by the person being mentored, with the mentor providing support and guidance to prepare them for future roles The agenda is focused on achieving specific, immediate goals
Mentoring revolves more around developing the person being mentored as a professional Coaching revolves more around specific development areas/issues

Coaching Compared to Training

While training and coaching both promote learning, they do so in different ways.

Although they are distinct activities, training and coaching can work very well when used together. One classic obstacle encountered in business training is the difficulty of transferring skills and enthusiasm from the training room to the workplace. At Ascent, we see Workplace and Executive Coaching as extremely useful in helping people apply what they learn from a course to achieve the results they are seeking in their day-to-day work. In one 1997 study by Olivero et al in the Journal of Public Personnel Management training a group of executives resulted in a 22.4% improvement in productivity. However, when training was combined with one-to-one Executive Training there was an 88% improvement in productivity.

Training Coaching
Teaching specific skills or knowledge Facilitating thinking and learning by working on live work or personal issues
Trainer is the expert Person receiving the coaching is the expert in their life(Transformational Coaching)
Agenda is set by trainer/organisation Agenda is set by individual (Transformational Coaching) or individual and organisation (Business Coaching)
Often a group exercise Often one to one and tailored to the individual needs of the person being coached
Usually based on achieving competence Focused on achieving more adaptive and effective performance
Success determined by attainment of skills usually assessed by trainer Success determined by achieving personal and/or professional goals and is often difficult to establish by purely quantitative methods. Success is often determined by person being coached and/or by the sponsor of the coaching

Coaching Compared to Counselling

Counselling, is a highly skilled intervention focused on helping individuals address underlying psychological problems. It generally focuses on resolving the past to create a better present.

Counselling Coaching
Broader focus and greater depth Narrower focus
Goal is to help people understand the root causes of either long-standing performance problems/issues at work or long-standing personal problems The goal is to improve an individuals life performance or performance at work i.e. the focus is on results
A short-term intervention, but can last for longer time periods due to the breadth of issues to be addressed Tends for be a short-term intervention with a specific issue and outcome in mind
Counselling can be used to address psycho-social as well as performance issues Coaching does not seek to resolve any underlying psychological problems. It assumes a person does not require a psycho-social intervention i.e. the person being coached is clinically well
The agenda is generally agreed by the individuals and the counsellor The agenda is typically set by the individual (transformational coaching) or by the individual in agreement/ consultation with the organisation (executive coaching)
Other stakeholders are rarely involved Other stakeholders may be involved (executive coaching)

Cognitive Behavioural Coaching

Cognitive behavioural coaching (CBC) is a fusion of cognitive behavioural therapy, rational emotive therapy, solution focused approaches, goal setting theory and social cognitive theory. CBC is goal focused, time-limited and focused in the present. It is a non-therapeutic approach dealing with non-clinical problems and challenges. CBC premises that individuals may have inadequate problem solving skills or may not apply skills they have in a contextually appropriate manner, and that their thoughts, emotions and behaviours are key to understanding their perception of problems and situations.
CBC is often combined with a solution-focused (SF) approach to create a dual approach incorporating the psychological and the practical. In dealing with cognition’s coachees are able to change how they view situations and stumbling blocks to change, such as procrastination, indecisiveness and self-doubt are removed.

The concurrent behavioural approach assists the coachee develop goal directed action steps. CBC is parsimonious, using the least effort to achieve the desired outcome for the coachee. It has the ultimate goal of assisting the coachee to learn how to “self-coach”. CBC uses Socratic questioning to facilitate insight and improve rational decision making: The focus is on stimulating thought and increasing awareness rather than providing a correct answer. This assists the coachee to identify and modify erroneous thinking patterns that cause stress (stress induced thinking), interfere with performance (performance inhibiting thoughts) and develop negative attitudes (automatic negative thoughts). If necessary, it involves the exploration, challenging and modulating of the coachees core beliefs, but only where parsimony dictates.


Organisational Coaching

This is also known as “Executive Coaching” We prefer the term “Organisational Coaching” as coaching and coaching techniques are increasing being used in non-executive settings in the workplace. Our understanding of Organisational Coaching is informed by Standards Australia (2011) who define it as follows.

Coaching that is provided by a formally designated coach and conducted within organisational settings. Its focus is on improving clients’ work-related skills, work performance or work-related personal development in a way that is personally and professionally beneficial to the client.