Coaching in social work

Coaching is designed to empower an individual to develop their skills, knowledge and performance through the support of one-to-one conversations with a trained coach.

This approach focuses on an individual’s goals as well as exploring personal attributes and possible barriers to achieving those aspirations. Guidance provided by a coach is designed to help the coachee find solutions for themselves, by listening, asking the right questions and reframing their discussions.

While professional coaching is aimed at boosting performance in the workplace it may also cover aspects of an individual’s personal life and challenges to support them to improve their effectiveness and overall performance.

Professional development in social work

Workplace coaching is a relatively new approach to professional development in social work but it is widely recognised as a powerful tool to improve performance and help individuals reach their full potential.

In some organisations it may only be used in situations where something has gone wrong. However, the SWPSS is designed to provide another layer of support for an individual to manage issues and challenges before things become a big problem.

Sessions usually last for a defined period, in this case the service offers up to six, one-hour sessions with a volunteer trained coach. For the sessions to be successful the individual must be open to confidentially discussing their concerns and challenges with their coach, so that they can begin to explore solutions to their situation.

The CIPD 2023 Learning at work report indicates that coaching is one of the most effective learning and development strategies but it will not suit everyone.

When should I choose coaching?

Since the service began over 800 social workers have received support from the SWPSS through coaching.

Whether you’re studying, new to practice or you’ve been a social worker many years, you may be looking for extra support to navigate personal or professional challenges in your life.

Those that have used the service have told us that support from their volunteer coach helped them with:

Listen to the BASW podcast

In a first for Let’s Talk Social Work, Andy McClenaghan and guests came together to explore the benefits of coaching in social work. Listen to the full episode: ‘Don’t park the bus’ here.


Techniques used in coaching

Coaching uses a range of different tools to support an individual to manage the personal and professional challenges they might be facing. To help you better understand the approach we’ve outlined one of the techniques used here.

One of those is the BRAIN decision making acronym. This is a simple tool to help us to understand how to make better decisions. The five areas explored in the BRAIN acronym pose questions about the options that we have to help us to choose the right path.

The acronym is made up of:

–        Benefits – What are the benefits of the options you have?

–        Risks – What are the likely risks of the options you have?

–        Alternatives – Are there any available alternatives?

–        Information – Do you need any more information?

–        Nothing – What would happen if you did nothing?

This approach is designed to help you make more informed decisions.

Like the BRAIN acronym, coaching uses lots of simple tools to support a coachee to reflect, focus on their goals and aspirations and the steps they can take to achieve them.


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