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Psychoanalysis and coaching


Disciplines > Coaching > Schools of thought > Psychoanalysis coaching

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



The ideas and methods of psychoanalysis were originally laid down by Sigmund Freud and his successors. The overall approach is sometimes called Psychodynamics.

The psychodynamic approach starts with the principle that the problem that you are presented is not the real problem, although it may well be a symptom and a shield against harm from both outer and inner sources.

Psychodynamics involves deep exploration of the past, uncovering traumas and addressing issues that have long led to limiting or dysfunctional behavior. Whilst this is not always desirable or feasible in coaching contexts, the principles of psychodynamics can be used in several ways, including helping the client understand something of their own complexities. If the symptoms are severe, the client may be advised to visit a therapist for more comprehensive treatment.

Psychodynamics can also help with understanding and handling the complexities of others. Resistance to change, for example, as well as resistance to coaching interventions, can appear in the form of coping mechanisms.

When you know how others are mostly just trying to cope, it can make it much easier to realize that it is not you and so more effectively interact with them.


A client is a poor listener. The coach holds up a mirror to show them how others see them as self-focused and, with gentle discussion, explores how long this has happened and how a lonely childhood seems to have been a major contributor. They then set a course of learning, practise and feedback that helps the client improve both their deeper perceptions and the techniques of listening.

An executive is having a problem with another board member who is displaying strong narcissistic tendencies. The coach helps the executive understand and develop strategies to handle this person.


Psychoanalysis is more of a therapy than a full coaching discipline, although many of its tools and techniques can be used in coaching.

Because of the potential for uncovering personal traumas and the difficulties this can create, both for the client and the coach, extreme caution is needed with psychodynamics. At the very least, it is useful for coaches to develop an understanding of psychoanalysis and coping mechanisms to help know when potentially dark waters lie ahead.

See also

Psychoanalysis, Coping Mechanisms, Identity

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