What is Coaching and Coaching Models? – Complete Guide

During this post we will explore different aspects of coaching. This will include understanding what is coaching, what are the different coaching competencies, the different coaching models, along with the difference between coaching and other related fields.

What is coaching all about?

As discussed during the interview on Life Coaching with Misba Shah:

[easy-tweet tweet=”#Coaching is a #SolutionFocused process that facilitates a coachee’s movement from their current situation to a desired situation.” user=”icharsonline” hashtags=”ICHARS” template=”light”]

So obviously one of the most important elements of coaching is being able to define the desired outcome. Once we know the outcome the next step is to assess the client’s current reality or situation. The clarity about current situation and outcome then helps us create a plan to move from the current reality to the desired outcome. Finally helping the client apply the plan into action on a consistent and systematic basis so that the client can achieve the outcome.

In short the four basic components of any coaching process / coaching model includes:

  1. Outcome or Goal
  2. Current reality or situation
  3. Systematic plan of action and
  4. Action

Almost all coaching models include these components. Though different models will build up on these components and will have their own ways of exploring each of these components.

Before we discuss the different coaching models, it is important to remember that these models are just that models. The effectiveness of these model to a large extent depends on the coaching competencies that the coach may or may not have.

In short having these coaching competencies will ensure that the coach will be able to bring out the best from their coachees. Below is a list of the essential Coaching Competencies.

What are the different Coaching Competencies?

  1. Setting the foundation:

    This is one of the most basic and primary coaching competencies required by the coach. Here the coach would facilitate the coachee with the basic idea of coaching and the norms attached to it. Once the foundation of the coaching session is set, it becomes easier for the coachee to flow smoothly with the session. Within this coaching competency, there are a few sub-competencies which are essential. These include:

    • Establishing the coaching agreement:

      This coaching competency is about understanding the purpose of the coaching interaction and to come to an agreement with the prospective client about the coaching process and relationship.

      This includes understanding and effectively discussing the guidelines, specific parameters of the coaching relationship, reaching agreement about what is and is not appropriate in the coaching relationship, what is and is not being offered, what are the coach’s and coachee’s responsibilities, and determining whether there is an effective match between his/her coaching method and the needs of the prospective coachee.

    • Meeting Ethical Guidelines and Professional Standards:

      This Coaching competency is about understanding the professional standards and guidelines set by different coaching federations and coach training institutes, abiding by which would be beneficial for both the parties (coach and the coachee). This also helps the coachee to understand how different coaches work and the effectiveness in their coaching process.

  2. Co-creating the relationship:

    Coaching is not a one-session event. Generally, it extends over a period of 6 to 8 sessions depending on the coachee’s desired outcome. For this, the coach needs to foster a friendly and warm yet professional relationship with the coachee. This coaching competency is all about establishing a relationship that is most conducive to the coaching process. Sub-competencies within this coaching competencies include:

    • Using a flexible approach that is client-centric:

      Not every coachee is the same. So, it is beneficial for the coach to identify which approach to use for whom. A coach may be equipped with multiple tools and techniques to deal with the desired outcome.

      However, it is essential to identify which tool/model would best suit the coachee and require the least amount of effort and time. A coach needs to have the competency to not just identify and select the right approach for the coachee but also to modify the approaches in the most appropriate ways.

    • Managing self and maintaining coaching presence:

      Whilst in a coaching session, the coach must be fully aware of what the coachee is saying and respond accordingly. The coach’s response will help set a direction/path for the coachee’s desired outcome.

      The coach should also be aware of his/her biases and not let these biases influence the coaching interaction. This can completely derail the session and hamper the process. The coach must also be competent to demonstrate confidence in himself/herself and in the process that they are planning to use with the coachee.

    • Establishing a trust-based relationship with the coachee:

      This coaching competency is all about creating a safe/supportive environment for the coachee which would ensure trust and mutual respect between the individuals involved. The coach should also demonstrate genuine concern for the coachee’s personal welfare and future.

      This should be done in a way that does not seem forced and yet effective for the coachee. This will also help the coach develop a strong rapport with the coachee thereby ensuring the coaching process goes smoothly.

  3. Communicating Effectively:

    One of the key tools/skills used by the coach is communication. The entire process of coaching is dependent on this one tool without which it will be difficult for the coachee to understand and work towards his/her desired outcome.

    This requires the coach to be aware of different aspects of communication that can influence a coachees style of communication. And that is why this particular coaching competency becomes important. Sub-competencies within this coaching competency includes:

    • Engaged Listening:

      This coaching competency is about the ability to effectively listen, encourage, accept and explore what the coachee is saying. Listening is completely different from hearing; it means listening not just through your ears but through your eyes and other senses.

      Whilst listening, the coach should also observe the body language of the coachee, the changes in tonality of the voice, summarise, paraphrase, reiterate what the coachee is saying, mirror the coachee and ensure that there is clarity in understanding the coachee.

      Through engaged listening, the coach would be able to make out a lot of the things about the coachee. It will ensure that the coach uses the right kind of tools and processes on the coachee for him/her to reach the desired outcome.

    • Powerful Questioning:

      This competency is about the ability to ask questions that will uncover the information needed for greatest benefit to the coaching relationship and the coachee, by posing questions that are open-ended to create greater clarity, possibility or new learning.

      It’s important for coaches to question not to confront but to understand the coachee. These questions are meant to help the coachee explore their thoughts, perceptions, and behaviours in a way that the coachee can understand him/herself better and the coach can assist them to achieve their outcome.

      This also enables the coach to collect specific details so that they can work on facts and not personal biases.

    • Flexible/Person centric communication:

      While engaged listening and powerful questioning are important coaching competencies, another thing to keep in mind is that different people communicate differently. It is important for a coach to be able to identify and use the style of communication preferred by the coachee.

      This requires the coach to be aware of different aspects of communication (suggestibility, love language, representation system, level of expressiveness, meta programs…) that can influence a coachees style of communication. Based on how the coachee understands and communicates, the coach needs to be flexible and communicate accordingly.

      While this coaching competency is closely associated with the person-centric approach, it also helps the coach to build a trust-based relationship.

  4. Facilitating Learning and Results:

    Once the process of the coaching is set and adhered to by the coachee, it is important to ensure that there are visible or measurable results. These results will help the coach identify the effectiveness of the coaching tool/model used and decide whether to continue or change the process/model.

    This Coaching competency also helps the coachee understand the coach’s effectiveness and skill set or decide if he/she wants to be coached under the same coach.

    • Raising awareness and insights:

      This coaching competency is about the ability to integrate, accurately assess and interpret various information to help the client gain awareness and achieve agreed-upon results. The coachee will be equipped to identify facts from the interpretation and distinguish between behaviours that need to be worked on to ensure the desired outcome is met.

      While coaching is more about the outcome and not insights, it is true that many times insights becomes the seed on which an outcome can be achieved. In cases where insights are important coaches must have the tool to help coachees get these insights.

      since insights are spontaneous and come from the unconscious mind, a coach’s ability to work with the unconscious can be very handy. While the coach can use processes to help the coachees tap into his/her unconscious, the coach also enables the coachee to develop mindfulness leading to increased awareness about themselves and their lives.

    • Inviting Possibility:

      The coach should have the competency to ensure that the coachee is open to all possibilities. At times certain thoughts, emotions or beliefs lead to the coachee not being open to things that may be beneficial for achieving the desired outcome. The coach would help the coachee restructure these things that are essential for a better tomorrow in life.

      This also inculcates a sense of hopefulness within the coachee thereby looking at things in the rawest form possible and not interpreting them with his/her own biases.

    • Ecological goal setting:

      Since coaching is about helping coachees achieve desired goals, goal setting becomes an extremely important part of the coaching process. Having said that, there are times when one goal can negatively influence other goals which may be more important from the point of view of the coachees unconscious.

      In such cases, the unconscious doesn’t support the accomplishment of these goals which can lead to self sabotaging. Ecological goal setting ensures that goals are set in a way that they do not negatively affect any other goals.

    • Designing Actions:

      This coaching competency is about the ability to co-create opportunities for ongoing learning and for taking new actions that will most effectively lead to agreed-upon coaching results. This can be achieved through brainstorming and assisting coachees to define actions that will enable them to demonstrate, practice and deepen new learning.

      Challenging coachee’s assumptions, helping them to evaluate options, focus on alternative ideas and solutions, and explore specific concerns and opportunities vital to coaching goals is equally important whilst designing action plans for them.

      After helping clients create ecological goals it is necessary for the coachee to also ensure specific steps to take them from where they are to move to desired goals. In order to understand these steps, a coach helps the coachee explore and evaluate different ways, options, ideas and solutions.

    • Overcoming conscious and unconscious hindrances:

      The coach whilst designing the plan of action/task-list for the coachee, should assess and see if there are possible hindrances that may prevent the coachee from consistently completing the tasks. At times these hindrances may be out of the coachee’s awareness.

      At this point, it is essential for the coach to ensure that the coachee is aware of the same and should enable him/her to deal with it. It can also be that at times the coachee may be aware of the hindrances but is not able to control or overcome it. For ex: – persistent dysfunctional thought, feeling or behaviour pattern.

      In times like this, the coach helps the coachee become aware of the hindrances they were unaware of and help the coachee change those thoughts and feelings that were getting triggered automatically. Dealing with hindrances can also ensure that the coachee gets new learnings and will be better equipped to deal with similar or new hindrances in the future.

    • Managing Progress and Accountability:

      This coaching competency is about the ability to hold attention on what is significant for the coachee and to leave the responsibility with him/her by clearly requesting the coachee to stick to the agreed plan of actions that will move the coachee toward his/her stated goals.

      Following through – by asking about those actions that the coachee is committed to in previous session(s), and acknowledging the lessons learned, what was done and what wasn’t along with keeping the coachee on track by holding attention to the coaching plan and the desired outcome – is important.

What is a Coaching Model?

A coaching model is a framework; it’s the underlying structure that you can use when you’re coaching someone. This structure consists of different components or steps. Each component or step has an objective which allows you to ensure that the coaching session is systematic and does not spiral into a roundabout chat. There are multiple coaching models but all of them are based on the primary understanding of what coaching is about.

What is the GROW Coaching Model?

Now that you know understand what is a coaching module and what is its purpose, let us explore the GROW coaching model. Over the years this model or framework has grown in popularity due to its broad scope of application, ease of use and effectiveness.

Each letter from GROW represents a step that the coach takes the one being coached through. GROW stands for

  • Goal
  • Reality
  • Options
  • Wrap up

Some schools use the expression “what next” while others use the word “Will”, instead of wrap up. But they are really speaking about the same thing.

Step 1: Goal Setting

The objective of the first step in the GROW model is to help the client decide & get clarity about their goals. The questions that a coach asks the client include:

  • What would you like to achieve as a result of this session?
  • What would you like to get from the next 30 minutes?
  • Describe your perfect world

The coach may also ask what is known as the “miracle question”

Suppose tonight, while you slept, a miracle occurred. When you awake tomorrow, what would be some of the things you would notice that would tell you that your life had suddenly gotten better?

Step 2: Reality Assessment

Once the client has clarity about his / her goals, the next step is to help them explore and get an understanding of their current Reality. Questions that a coach asks a client includes:

  • On a scale of 1-10 where are you in relation to your goal?
  • What has contributed to your success so far?
  • What strategies have use used that have not worked for you?
  • What skills do you already have that can help you achieve this outcome?
  • What skills would you need to develop to achieve this outcome?
  • What progress have you made so far?
  • What is working well right now?

The coach may also explore if the chosen goal is in sync with other goals and objectives they have or not. The coach can ask a question like:

  • Does this goal conflict with any other goals or objectives you have?
  • What would you have to give up, to accomplish this goal?
  • How would you make time to work towards this goal?

Step 3: Consider different options

Now that the client has an understanding of where they are and where they want to go, the next step focuses on helping the client consider the different Options and ways that can help them reach where they want to. Here the Coach work with the client to brainstorm options, as well as possible actions that have already been taken. The questions that a coach asks the client includes:

  • How have you tracked this or a similar situation before?
  • What possible options do you have?
  • Give me five options that can help you move closer to your goals?
  • If anything was possible, what would you do?
  • What else?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of each option?
  • What factors or considerations will you use to weigh the options?
  • What do you need to stop doing in order to achieve this goal?
  • What obstacles stand in your way?

Step 4: Wrap Up

Once each of the options have been considered and weighed with respect to other options, during the Wrap up phase, the Coach works with the client to help the client identify specific steps and obstacles, write an action plan and finally check for commitment to act on the specific actions that have been identified. The questions that a coach asks during this step include:

  • Which options work best for you?
  • What one small step are you going to take now?
  • What actions will you take?
  • When are you going to start?
  • Who will help you?
  • How will you know you have been successful?
  • How will you ensure you do it?
  • What could stop you moving forward? How will you overcome this?
  • On a scale of 1-10, how committed and motivated are you to doing it?

Once the client gives a commitment, the session would generally come to an end.

With each session, the client’s reality begins to change as they start moving towards their goals. This process is followed by the coach and the client in each session which helps the client moves towards their goals in a systematic and effective manner.

If you would like to learn advanced Coaching Models and use them in combination with Hypnosis, NLP and other change processes, join us for the CHC course. You can also begin with the online foundation course before enrolling for the complete program.

Over a period of time with more and more coaches using GROW Model, there were certain areas of improvement that were identified in the GROW Model. This lead to the evolution of the GROW Model into what are known as the T-GROW and the RE-GROW Coaching Models.

What are the "T-GROW" and "RE-GROW" Coaching Models?

Let us begin with the T-GROW model first.

The letter “T” in the T grow model is an acronym for Topic.

The idea behind T-GROW model was that at times clients come with multiple problems or topics and they try to talk about all of those problems or topics in the same session. This would lead to collection of information in a very unsystematic and haphazard way which could create more confusion than clarity.

So as a way to ensure that the session is more planned and the collected information is systematic enough to create clarity, a coach will first begin by asking the client to identify a particular problem or a particular topic that they would like to work with. Once the client identifies that topic the session will revolve around that particular problem or topic and the standard GROW model will be applied.

In case of multiple problems or topics, each problem or topic would be considered and approached as a different coaching assignment.

RE-GROW Coaching Model

Now that you understand the T-GROW model, let us quickly look at the RE-GROW model of Coaching.

The letters “R” and “E” in the RE-GROW model stand for Review and Evaluate.

The idea behind this model was that a coaching assignment doesn’t end in one session. There are multiple sessions required to help the client achieve their desired outcome.

Hence in every subsequent session before we use the GROW model, we need to review and evaluate the impact of the previous session. In short when we add Review and Evaluation to GROW model, it becomes RE-GROW Model.

Which is the best and most comprehensive Coaching Model?

Many coaching models have been developed over the years yet the most popular coaching model still is “GROW”. That said we at ICHARS use a coaching model that we developed in house called SOFT SEA™ or SO FACE THE SEA™

The model in our understanding is a lot more comprehensive in itself and can be used seamlessly with hypnosis, NLP and to be true any other therapeutic or change process.

The SOFT SEA model can also be used to create a systematic coaching plan or therapy plan for each of your clients.

What is the "SO FACE THE SEA" or the "SOFT SEA" Coaching Model

This is probably the most powerful and comprehensive coaching model or coaching framework that is structured yet flexible, which ensures that you and the client walk together on a path that is in sync with their desired outcome.

The best way of understanding this model is to go back to understanding why does a client come for a coaching or a therapy session or a participant join a training program in the first place.

As discussed earlier, most clients when they visit for a session are let’s say in a situation “A” (Current Situation) and they would like to change or improve that situation to “B” (Desired Situation).

Once we understand this, it becomes obvious that the first step in coaching and therapy is to help the client define their current situation and their desired outcome. Once the client is able to define the two, it becomes clear that the client needs to take some steps or do some tasks to move from the current situation to the desired outcome. So we help the client identify and list all those tasks that need to be completed for them to move from the current situation to the desired outcome.

Till here the model seems to be very similar to the GROW Coaching Model. Doesn’t it?

The real magic and power of the SO FACE THE SEA Coaching model starts from the next step.

Once we know the tasks you will notice that these tasks can be broadly divided in two parts. Tasks that the client is already doing and the tasks that the client is not able to do. The tasks that the client is already doing well, we don’t really need to fidget with. So we are left with the tasks that the client is not able to do.

Now if the client knows the task, what will stop the client from doing it?

Look back into your own life. Have you ever been in a situation where you knew, what to do and yet you were not able to do it? What was your reasons for not being able to do it?

Broadly speaking, we can divide these reasons in three categories:

  1. Lack of skills
  2. Lack of resources
  3. Dis-empowering mental states i.e. a dysfunctional thought or dysfunctional emotion.

The first two i.e. the lack of skills and the lack of resources will take us back to new tasks. In the long run, we can develop skills and we can also arrange resources, this may not happen immediately but can be done.

Developing skills and arranging for resources requires the client to be involved in new tasks which requires an additional level of motivation. So even before we come to the tasks we, first make the outcome more motivating.

Helping the client explore the benefits of reaching the desired outcome can be extremely useful for this purpose. One of the best ways to do so is to ask the client to describe how would the future be once they have achieved the outcome. To make the future inspiring and engaging describing it in sensory details. i.e. what will the client see, hear and feel after achieving the outcome.

The sensory details could also include the ways the client observes himself or herself act and behave in this future, the capabilities and skills they have developed and the emotions they are going to experience as a result of these changes. Once the level of motivation is high and we know the tasks that need to be done, we are back to two kind of tasks, one that a client can do and one that the client can’t do because of a certain negative mental States. We call these negative mental states as Hindrances. Lack of motivation is an example of such hindrance which we have consciously tried to address by helping the client become conscious of the benefits of achieving the outcome.

Many a times, this conscious motivation is not enough as hindrance maybe rooted into the unconscious. So what we would ideally like to do, not just at the conscious but also unconscious level, is to disconnect the task from the hindrance and connect that to an appropriate replacement feeling.

To understand this better, take the example of a task “to get up in the morning and go for exercise”. The hindrance is a feeling of lethargy and laziness when the alarm rings. The appropriate replacement feeling could be feeling fresh, energetic and a sense of excitement.

Now imagine if we were able to disconnect getting up and exercising from this feeling of laziness and connect it to feeling energetic. So when the alarm rings the natural feeling that the client gets is that of energy and excitement instead of laziness. That would help, wouldn’t it?

What is important to remember is that at times this can be done simply by creating unconscious motivation towards achieving the outcome. This is one of the things that you will learn to do with hypnosis in the basic practitioner course. That said in some cases it may require more work than just increasing unconscious motivation. To understand what else maybe required, we need to dig a bit deeper and explore the source of these hindrances.

Apart from lack of motivation, other sources of hindrance can be a habit or a strong association or a belief that our mind has formed. At times these habits and associations maybe a result of a strong positive intention or a secondary gain. In some cases, the hindrances may be driven by some irrational thoughts or stories that are playing in our minds on an automatic basis. Finally, the belief itself could be a result of a trauma or a series of past experiences that have accumulated over the years.

As a part of the complete course, you would learn to work with each of these sources effectively. As I said earlier, in the basic practitioner course you will learn to work with unconscious motivations and also habits and associations to an extent.

In the practitioner course you will learn to work with habits and associations more extensively. Advanced practitioner course in coaching will focus on working with beliefs and secondary gain. Finally, the last two levels that is the psychotherapy program will focus on helping you develop skills to work with intense negative emotions, traumas and deep rooted past experiences.

Irrespective of what level of the course you have completed, you learn to help the client summarise and evaluate the work you are doing with them effectively. There is also a lot of emphasis on assignments and homework that the client needs to do between sessions. These assignments ensure that the client is continuing to work towards the desired outcome as well and is not becoming dependent on the sessions for the same.

In short our entire approach can be summarised using the acronym “SO Face The SEA™” also known as “SOFT SEA™“.


S Stands for Current Situation
O stands for Desired Outcome
F for Future which includes Actions, Capabilities and Emotions which are represented by A, C and E respectively.
T stands for Tasks and includes sub points Hindrance and Replacement Emotion which are represented by H and E respectively.

Finally we have the SEA, where each letter stands for Summary, Evaluation and Assignment respectively.

We, at ICHARS, created SOFT SEA™ as a model, to help our participants understand the key areas that they need to address while working with clients.

Most of the participants have come back to tell us that the model is extremely simple yet very powerful and comprehensive in terms of its effectiveness.

If you have studied psychology, you may already have realised how this model is eclectic as it includes principles from all the three primary approaches to psychology i.e. cognitive, behavioural and psychoanalysis.

As a part of the complete Cognitive Hypnotic Coaching™ and Cognitive Hypnotic Psychotherapy™ course you are learning to work with automatic thoughts and beliefs, conditioned behaviours, past experiences and actually a lot more.

What is the difference between Coaching and Therapy?

One of the questions that we get frequently asked by people before enrolling for our Cognitive Hypnotic Coaching and Psychotherapy Program is “What is the difference between Coaching and Therapy?

Primarily Coaching is all about working with present and future. It is more outcome-focused with emphasis on identifying and applying the plan of action to achieve the desired outcome.

Though Coaches are trained to help clients focus on the present and work towards the desired future, they are not really equipped to help clients deal with intense negative emotions or issues coming from the past.

Therapists, on the other hand, have a tendency to focus more on past and negative emotions as opposed to any specific goal that the client may wish to achieve. Classically, therapy would also include developing a deeper understanding of the cause of the problem and may majorly revolve around resolving emotional baggage coming from the past. Work with any kind of disorder or addiction will also fall within the realm of therapy.

Having said that, this distinction between coaching and therapy is more applicable to coaches than to therapists. Most successful therapists, if not all, knowingly or unknowingly do help the clients move towards their goals.

As we see it, coaching is a subset of therapy. All therapists who use a solution-focused approach, coach their clients but coaches can’t take therapies for clients unless they are trained therapists as well.

Table showing the Differences between Coaching and Therapy

Coaching Therapy
Views the client as creative, resourceful and whole. Views clients from a diagnosis and treatment perspective.
Emphasis on present and future. Emphasis on past and present.
Action and being oriented. Insight oriented.
Solution oriented. Problem oriented.
Helps clients design their lives. Resolves issues.
Coaches and clients on a peer basis. Hierarchical difference between therapist and clients
Active, energetic approach. Passive, reflective, background approach.
Focus on exploring and achieving the client’s potential. Focus on healing and understanding the client.
Emphasis on present and future. Emphasis on past and present.
Explores actions and behaviours to achieve goals. Increases client insight.

Regard and coach negative self-beliefs as

temporary obstacles

Analyse and treat origins and historical roots of negative self-beliefs.

Coach and client ask: “What’s next/what


Therapist and client ask: “Why and from


Takes the client form where they are and helps them move forward. Examines unfinished emotional business from all stages of life.
Uses coaching skills. Uses therapy techniques.

Which is the best Coaching Certification Program?

Cognitive Hypnotic Coaching™ Certification Course is the best and the most comprehensive coaching certification program, if you too would like to develop advanced coaching competencies.

If you are a therapist and would like to develop advanced therapeutic skills do check out Cognitive Hypnotic Psychotherapy™ Course.