48 Ways to Apply Psychoeducation as a Coach

Psychoeducation in CoachingWhether or not you realize it, psychoeducation is likely at the core of your work as a coach.

This holistic term represents a growing recognition that many of the educational tools used in the medical profession, designed to foster better mental health, are just as well suited to giving nonclinical populations the keys to healthier, happier living.

And as a coach, you’re a critical key-bearer for your clients.

In this post, we’ll give a definition of psychoeducation, walk you through some examples of psychoeducation interventions, and point you toward a heap of useful tools to embed science-backed psychoeducation in your coaching work today.

Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our three Positive Psychology Exercises for free. These science-based exercises explore fundamental aspects of positive psychology, including strengths, values, and self-compassion, and will give you the tools to enhance the wellbeing of your clients, students, or employees.

What Is Psychoeducation? 5 Examples

Psychoeducation is

“an intervention with systematic, structured, and didactic knowledge transfer for an illness and its treatment, integrating emotional and motivational aspects to enable patients to cope with the illness and to improve its treatment adherence and efficacy.”

Ekhtiari, Rezapour, Aupperle, & Paulus, 2017, p. 239

Psychoeducation is generally thought to be a form of health promotion aimed at raising a client’s awareness of factors that promote or compromise wellbeing. Through psychoeducation, clients gain the skills and understanding that lead to behavior change and better quality of living (Jarosz, 2020).

Here are five real-life examples illustrating the breadth of possible psychoeducation interventions across a range of coaching contexts:

  • A group of cigarette smokers are presented with pictures and information booklets illustrating nicotine’s adverse effects on the brain (Richmond, Austin, & Webster, 1986)

  • Volunteers from a start-up attend 10 lecture-style sessions teaching prominent theories of emotional intelligence and wellbeing (e.g., SMART goal setting; Jarosz, 2020)

  • A group of economically disadvantaged high school students attend an eight-week summer program comprising academic and vocational instruction to increase self-esteem (Wells, Miller, Tobacyk, & Clanton, 2002)

  • College students are invited to read a series of materials and complete weekly help sheets exploring themes around body-image development, as well as a series of self-monitoring diaries detailing recent positive or negative body-image experiences (Cash & Hrabosky, 2003)

  • Attendees of a spiritual development group undertake psychoeducation according to the SPARC sequence: Spiritual Education material, an experiential Activity, personal and group Reflection, and a focus on Connection (Christmas & Van Horn, 2012)

 

Is Psychoeducation Important in Coaching?

Importance of PsychoeducationWhile psychoeducation has traditionally been a feature of medical interventions targeted at treating illness (Lukens & McFarlane, 2006), it’s increasingly being used in coaching.

This shift reflects a growing awareness of the value of psychoeducation as a holistic, competence-based approach to supporting clients.

There are two reasons psychoeducation is increasingly becoming an important part of many coaches’ offerings.

First, as the applications of psychoeducation have broadened, practitioners are discovering that interventions need not center around a person’s faults, illnesses, or deficits. Rather, they can leverage a client’s strengths to encourage new competencies, greater resilience, and empowerment (Lukens & McFarlane, 2006).

This positive focus is helpful because people remain more motivated when taking part in positively focused interventions (Hiemstra & Van Yperen, 2015). Therefore, coaches can now leverage what was previously only a therapeutic tool in a way that keeps clients smiling and engaged, rather than likening their coaching session to a visit to the doctor’s office.

Second, psychoeducation in coaching provides an opportunity for the general population to learn about theories of wellbeing and health that can contribute to better living that were previously only available to clinical populations.

This opportunity reflects a broader trend in healthcare and societies, whereby prevention and early intervention are generally considered more desirable than treatment following the onset of clinical conditions.

Put differently, isn’t it preferable that a person learn the keys to coping and resilience in the context of everyday stressors before the onset of depression following a major life disruption?

 

3 Popular Psychoeducation Interventions

Usually, you will find it beneficial to design and tailor psychoeducation interventions to suit your coaching focus and meet the specific needs of your clients. However, a few tried-and-tested psychoeducation interventions are likely to have a home in any coach’s toolkit, several of which you may have come across before.

If you’re interested, you can access ready-to-use versions of each of these interventions from our own Positive Psychology Toolkit©.

 

The Wheel of Life

Arguably one of the world’s most popular coaching tools, the Wheel of Life is a simple, easy-to-administer psychoeducation intervention assessing wellbeing across 10 core domains of a person’s life.

Consider pairing this assessment tool with a goal-setting exercise or session on the science of goal striving to help clients understand the steps they might take to improve subjective wellbeing in any domains that may be lacking.

 

Three Good Things

Sometimes known as the ‘Three Blessings,’ this intervention invites clients to write down the three things about their day that went well.

While seemingly simple, this small act of reflecting on the positive is a powerful way to invoke gratitude and has even been shown to induce positive affect in populations with depression (Lewinsohn & Graf, 1973).

 

24 VIA Character Strengths

Designing psychoeducation interventions that leverage a client’s strengths can help make the process of being coached more enjoyable for the client. Discovering one’s strengths also has the side effect of encouraging self-appreciation.

For a free and psychometrically valid assessment of strengths, check out the VIA Character Assessment.

 

26 Ways to Apply Psychoeducation in Coaching

Psychoeducation InterventionsAs the examples so far illustrate, psychoeducation can take a variety of forms.

And as a coach, you have the freedom to prepare psychoeducation in a way that not only meets your clients’ needs, but suits your coaching focus and style.

There are many parameters to consider when delivering psychoeducation.

Let’s consider three of these now.

 

Who will be involved?

Who will be present when your client takes part in psychoeducation?

  1. One to-one psychoeducation with the coach
  2. Self-directed psychoeducation as a take-home exercise
  3. Group psychoeducation

A coaching session that teaches the technique of Socratic questioning, which involves exploring underlying beliefs through repeated questioning, may be best undertaken (at least initially) one-to-one in the coach’s presence. That way, the coach can demonstrate the technique by acting as the ‘questioner.’

Some interventions, such as a thought diary or gratitude journal, may involve substantial self-disclosure. Therefore, these interventions may be more impactful when undertaken in a self-directed way, allowing the client to write at their own pace and in private.

In contrast, psychoeducation on inherently interpersonal themes, such as nonviolent communication, or centered around a common event or widely shared goal, such as the anniversary of a tragic event or objective of losing weight, may be better suited to groups.

 

What is the objective?

What are you aiming to achieve with a psychoeducation intervention? Most aims can be drilled down to one of three objectives (Oncology Nursing Society, n.d.):

  1. To inform
  2. To train
  3. To problem-solve

Sometimes, your aim as a coach may be to provide information about treatments, symptoms, theories, research, resources, or services. For instance, in a one-to-one session, an emotion coach might begin by teaching the client about appraisal theory to inform them that it is possible to insert a pause between emotions and behavioral reactions.

In a later session, the coach might then train the client in mindfulness so they may learn practical strategies to shorten the half-life of experienced negative emotions.

Finally, the coach may provide some pre-recorded guided meditations or a book of troubleshooting tips to help when experiencing extreme negative emotions or when the mind seems particularly out of control while meditating.

As a coach, you should determine your objective before designing a psychoeducation intervention. Once you do, you can decide on the ‘how,’ bringing us to our final consideration.

 

How will the intervention be carried out?

Depending on your goals, there are an almost infinite number of ways you might guide clients.

Here are just a few ideas:

Follow the links to learn more and read on for several useful handouts, worksheets, and psychoeducation interventions you can apply in your coaching today.

 

Helpful Worksheets and Handouts

Looking for some free psychoeducation materials? Check out the following options from our site, which broadly apply to a range of coaching foci:

  • Is Coaching Right for Me?
    Sometimes prospective clients may be on the fence about being coached. This simple survey probes factors like mindset, openness, and timing to facilitate discussion about whether coaching is likely to meet a prospective client’s goals.

  • Reward Replacement Worksheet
    Negative habits often became habits in the first place because they served or rewarded us somehow. In this worksheet, clients will identify one negative habit they wish to change and replace it with a more positive behavior that provides a similar reward.

  • Coping Skills Inventory
    Helping clients become more aware of different options for managing stress can facilitate positive coping. This handout describes six categories of coping, presents examples of each, and invites clients to identify their own.

  • Strengths in Challenging Times Worksheet
    When unpreventable setbacks happen, we can leverage our strengths to work through the challenge. This worksheet poses a series of four questions to help clients plan and anticipate how they will use strengths to endure and learn from life’s challenges.

 

4 Psychoeducation Topics for Coaching Groups

As noted, some themes in psychoeducation are better suited to a group coaching context. This tends to be true when themes center around a shared event or mutual goal.

Coaching in a group can also help foster shared accountability or provide an opportunity for long-time group members to mentor newer members by modeling positive behaviors.

Here are some examples of different topics that might be covered in various group coaching contexts:

  • A monthly group coaching program aimed at women leaders explores strategies for supporting work–life balance, inviting discussion and stories from its participants.

  • Every week, participants in a healthy living group meet to share their progress toward achieving a series of health goals, pursued using theories of motivation and habit change.

  • Twice a week, survivors of domestic abuse meet in a support group led by a social worker to share experiences and learn skills to strengthen resilience and coping.

  • For one year, new managers are invited to a group coaching call following a week-long strengths-based leadership development program to discuss their experiences and receive follow-up advice.

 

A Look at Online Psychoeducation Interventions

Quenza Camera Lens Jealousy Metaphor

It will be appropriate and often desirable to provide psychoeducation interventions using digital technologies in many coaching contexts.

Doing so can have the advantage of allowing clients to engage with interventions at their own pace and in the comfort of their home or help them connect to the coach or fellow coachees despite physical distance.

Many of the interventions and topics we’ve explored can be delivered just as effectively via an online intervention, either self-directed or in real time, with the coach’s guidance.

Likewise, there are many powerful platforms and tools that can assist you.

 

Using Quenza for psychoeducation

One platform for the job is our own favorite, Quenza. This done-for-you psychoeducation solution was designed by our founders, together with the positive psychology community, as a simple solution to deliver online coaching interventions.

Accessible via desktop, smartphone, and tablet, Quenza allows coaches and other helping professionals to design and tailor psychoeducation materials relevant to all phases of the coaching process as part of a blended care approach to coaching.

No matter what area of coaching you’re in, you’re bound to find something useful in Quenza’s pre-loaded library of psychoeducation interventions. But just for fun, let’s illustrate the platform’s functions with an example from the world of relationship coaching:

Cindy is a single 30-year-old woman. After a recent breakup, she is now dating someone new and has come to relationship coach Kim seeking help to avoid the traps that put pressure on her previous relationship.

To begin, Kim invites Cindy to complete Quenza’s Pre-Coaching Questionnaire to help get a better sense of her goals. Upon viewing the results, Kim discovers that a key challenge in Cindy’s previous relationship centered around jealousy:

“There were times when I’d stop by my ex’s office and see the women he worked with. Many of them were very beautiful, and while I had no reason to be concerned because my ex was always faithful, I’d compare myself to these women endlessly. This left me feeling terrible about myself. I don’t want that to happen again.”

Considering this discovery, Kim draws on several of the pre-loaded positive psychology materials in Quenza to design a custom coaching program for Cindy. In particular, she prepares an automated pathway of activities spanning three weeks, exploring the themes of jealousy and self-appreciation.

The pathway looks like this:

  • Week 1: Resolving Jealousy Using the Camera Lens Metaphor
    This activity uses the metaphor of a camera lens to help Cindy ‘zoom out’ and imagine the bigger picture when comparing herself to others.

  • Week 2: Developing Self-Appreciation
    This exercise guides Cindy through a series of questions to explore and savor her best personal qualities.

  • Week 3: A Personal Coping Mantra
    This exercise teaches Cindy to recognize situations that invoke jealousy as signals to use a personal coping mantra. In particular, Kim encourages Cindy to incorporate the positive qualities she identified in Week 2 in her mantra as a way to interrupt the flow of jealous thoughts and refocus on the bigger picture.

This is just one example of how you might leverage Quenza’s ever-growing library of psychoeducation interventions as part of a digital coaching program.

If you’re curious to see more, we invite you to try the platform for yourself with its 30-day trial for just $1.

 

Best Resources From PositivePsychology.com

Looking for more materials for your psychoeducation program? Here are some of our best free resources you can use today:

  • The “What If?” Bias
    This worksheet helps clients avoid the trap of catastrophizing, helping them to regain a balanced perspective in a stressful situation.

  • The PERMA Model
    This handout summarizes one of the leading theories of wellbeing, commonly used by coaches, giving clients five key areas to evaluate when working to improve their lives.

  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation: Easy Basics
    Once memorized, this progressive muscle relaxation script can help clients calm their minds and bodies during stressful situations before they act or make impulsive decisions.

  • 17 Positive Psychology Exercises
    If you’re looking for more science-based ways to help others enhance their wellbeing, check out this signature collection of 17 validated positive psychology tools for practitioners. Use them to help others flourish and thrive.

 

A Take-Home Message

As a coach, your job is to give clients the keys to improve their lives and safeguard their wellbeing. Some of these tools may serve your clients long after a particular goal is achieved or trial overcome.

Knowing how to decatastrophize, look at themselves objectively, or calm themselves during stressful moments may make a substantial difference in the lives of those you serve when they need these skills most. Likewise, a good grasp of such skills may shield your clients from needing further professional support down the line.

To this end, we hope this post has convinced you of the value of psychoeducation in your work. And if you make use of any of these materials yourself, be sure to let us know in the comments.

We’d love to hear from you.

Also, don’t forget to download our three Positive Psychology Exercises for free.

  • Cash, T. F., & Hrabosky, J. I. (2003). The effects of psychoeducation and self-monitoring in a cognitive-behavioral program for body-image improvement. Eating Disorders, 11(4), 255–270.
  • Christmas, C., & Van Horn, S. M. (2012). SPARC groups: A model for incorporating spiritual psychoeducation into group work. The Journal for Specialists in Group Work, 37(3), 170–201.
  • Ekhtiari, H., Rezapour, T., Aupperle, R. L., & Paulus, M. P. (2017). Neuroscience-informed psychoeducation for addiction medicine: A neurocognitive perspective. Progress in Brain Research, 235, 239–264.
  • Hiemstra, D., & Van Yperen, N. W. (2015). The effects of strength-based versus deficit-based self-regulated learning strategies on students’ effort intentions. Motivation and Emotion, 39(5), 656–668.
  • Jarosz, J. (2020). Psychoeducational role of coaching in developing emotional intelligence and well-being (Doctoral dissertation). University of Silesia, Katowice, Poland.
  • Lewinsohn, P. M., & Graf, M. (1973). Pleasant activities and depression. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 41(2), 261-268.
  • Lukens, E. P., & McFarlane, W. R. (2006). Psychoeducation as evidence-based practice. Foundations of Evidence-based Social Work Practice, 291, 205-25.
  • Oncology Nursing Society. (n.d.). Psychoeducation/Psychoeducational interventions. Retrieved from https://www.ons.org/node/901
  • Richmond, R. L., Austin, A., & Webster, I. W. (1986). Three year evaluation of a programme by general practitioners to help patients to stop smoking. British Medical Journal (Clinical Research ed.), 292(6523), 803–806.
  • Wells, D., Miller, M., Tobacyk, J., & Clanton, R. (2002). Using a psychoeducational approach to increase the self-esteem of adolescents at high risk for dropping out. Adolescence, 37(146), 431–434.

About the Author

Nicole is a behavioral scientist and writer based in Perth, Western Australia. Her research interests lie at the intersection between wellbeing, personal energy, and positive psychology, and her work appears in several top business journals, including the Journal of Organizational Behavior.

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