Co-Active Coaching

It is 18 years since I obtained certification as a Co-Active Coach. I suspect that, like myself, many coaches don't only coach according to the model they originally trained in but also incorporate many other approaches, trainings and techniques that have contributed to their professional development 

For me these include NLP, Cognitive Behavioural techniques, mindfulness practices, positive psychology and other methods of working with mindsets and behaviour

However, the coactive model is 'in my bones' and continues to form the bedrock of my coaching

Co-Active Coaching is the approach to coaching developed by CTI (Coach Training Institute) - the largest coach training organisation in the world and the first to be accredited by the International Coach Federation (ICF).  Their book - ‘Co-Active Coaching’ by Laura Whitworth, Henry Kimsey-House & Phil Sandahl – is used as a core text by many other coach training organisations 

CTI’s Definition of Co-active Coaching : A powerful alliance designed to forward and enhance the lifelong process of human learning, effectiveness and fulfillment

it is an 'alliance’ because the coach and client work together as equals to create a coaching relationship which provides a powerful and safe ‘container’.
The sole purpose of this container is to support the client in creating a life which they experience as fulfilling and meaningful. It is a very powerful and transformational model

The client achieves this by :
Taking actions which move them towards what they want and where they want to be (and away from what they don’t want and where they don’t want to be)
Deepening their understanding of themselves so that they gain greater clarity about exactly what it is that they do want

As the client’s clarity and understanding of themselves deepens, the actions they take will be more focused and effective. At the same time, any action that they take – regardless of the consequences – will provide feedback and learning which will increase their clarity and understanding

There are four underlying principles that form the foundation of co-active coaching :

1) The client is naturally creative, resourceful and whole (even if they may temporarily feel they have lost touch with some of those resources). I do not perceive you as broken or needing to be fixed. I know that you, not me, have, and can find, the answers you are looking for - the ones that will work for the unique, complex person you are with all your individual strengths and weaknesses, beliefs, values and personal history. My job is to ask the powerful questions, and use other techniques and activities, that will enable you to access those answers

2) Co-active coaching addresses the client's whole life. It recognizes that all the areas of your life are interlinked and that decisions made in one area will impact others. For example, a career choice can affect health, family, friends and where you live

3) The agenda comes from the client. You are in charge; the relationship is focused on you getting the results that you want. I never assume that I know what is best for you. Rather, I ensure that you are moving towards your stated objectives within the wider context of a fulfilled and balanced life

4) The coach 'dances in the moment' with the client. This means that there is no predetermined plan or structure for a session. Sometimes you take the lead and some I do - for example, by sensing what seems most important/had the most energy, and basing my next question or suggestion on what is happening in the moment. I listen at a deep level, use my intuition and am willing and able to be totally flexible


Here are some of the key coaching terms and concepts used, to give you an idea of the types of intervention you may experience while being coached


The coach asks you for ‘an account of’ your progress on actions you committed to. The purpose is 
- to support you in doing what you said you would do 
- to evaluate an action taken or to reevaluate an intended action that was not taken  : 

These actions are defined by three questions:
What action are you willing to take?
By when will you do this?
How will I know you have done it? (eg email me, call me, let me know at our next session)

Accountability is a way for the coach to hold your commitments with you, as a partner. It does not include blame or judgment. Whether you ‘succeed’ or ‘fail’ to progress with the action(s) you committed to, there will be learning for you


Your coach will not give advice in the sense of saying “What I think you should do is ……”.  But at times they may make a Request, based on your agenda (what you want), and designed to encourage you take action in line with your dreams and goals

Your response can be : 
Accepting the request (Yes) 
Declining the request (No) 
Suggesting a counter-offer (No, but what I will do is...) 
Agreeing to respond at a later time (Let me think about it tonight, and I'll call you tomorrow with my response) 

Examples of Requests :
Will you ask your boss for a raise by 5:00 p.m. this Thursday? 
Will you book your driving test tomorrow? 
Will you schedule a massage for yourself by our next session? 


Like a Request – but one which is designed to be so outrageous and ‘out of the box’ that it shocks you into thinking/acting beyond any previously conceived limitation.  It may well make your palms sweat, your stomach lurch and laughter (hysterical?) burst from your mouth!

Unlike Requests, which will be issued regularly, Challenges will not be issued very often. 

Your response can be : 
Accepting the request (Yes) 
Declining the request (No) 
Suggesting a counter-offer (No, but what I will do is...) 
Agreeing to respond at a later time (Let me think about it tonight, and I'll call you tomorrow with my response) 

Examples of Challenges :  
Will you get up right now and smash your television screen with a hammer? 
Will you send out 500 letters requesting business by this Saturday? 
Will you lock your to-do list in a friend's safety deposit box for one month and ask your friend to block all access to the key – and not create another one?


A question for you to ponder, over a period of time, as a ‘flashlight’ to explore a particular area with the intention of aiding clarity, discovery, insight or commitment. There is no ‘right’ answer, there may be more than one answer

It is usually given at the end of a coaching session - to think about, write about, create with, dream about, talk with others about

Examples of Inquiries :
What is it to be fearless? 
What would living a magical life look, and feel, like?
What lies do you tell yourself? 
Where are you powerful in your life? 

Asking Permission

For example, the coach may say :
“Can I tell you a hard truth?”
“Is it all right to coach you to enquire more deeply about this issue?”
“Can I tell you what I see going on here?”



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