BOOK REVIEW- The Wiley-Blackwell Handbook of the Psychology of Coaching and Mentoring

The Wiley-Blackwell Handbook of the Psychology of Coaching and Mentoring
Jonathan Passmore, David B Peterson, and Teresa Freire
Wiley-Blackwell 2013
ISBN 978-1-119-99315-5

The style and price (£117.36 today on Amazon) make it very unlikely that many practicing coaches are going to buy this book, and as most mentors still don’t have a training of a psychological kind they are unlikely to. The primary market therefore, I assume, has to be institutional libraries. Even then, I would suggest that the few readers are going to be those who are either academics running coaching courses or students attending academically-oriented coaching training. I am not questioning the wisdom of Wiley-Blackwell’s business model. However, I am questioning why the authors devote so much effort in producing such a tome when they know it is going to be read by so few people and what they hoped it would achieve?

A huge amount of effort has gone into the production of this work. There are 26 chapters with an average of 20 pages each, though that does include the references. The main sections are on Coaching, Mentoring, Theories and Models with Implications for Coaching and Mentoring, and Issues in Coaching and Mentoring. Within each are between 4 and 9 individual chapters authored individually by 43 different people. There’s no obvious pattern to the authors other than that most have a strong academic background but also a broad range of predominantly business and organisational coaching practice. The themes are generally leading edge. If you want to begin some literature research on efficacy, contracting, ethics, neuroscience, mindfulness, gender, research methods, emotions, or virtual coaching, then it provides a useful starting point – with some provisos. Similarly, if you are interested in the relationship between classical counselling and psychotherapy models, such as humanistic, behavioural, cognitive behavioural, motivational interviewing, psychodynamic, gestalt, narrative and even positive psychology approaches to coaching, then there’s a chapter here for you.

Sadly, some of the chapters seem to reflect the interests and perspectives of the authors a little too much and I’m surprised that the editors didn’t exercise more control to produce a better balanced coverage. For example, the chapter on team coaching paints a picture of the sector which is remarkably at odds with my own perception of it. It pays little attention to the growth of sports coaching as a discipline in graduate psychology courses, and doesn’t mention any of the work done at military academies in the UK, USA and elsewhere, while suggesting that it is a growing corporate strategy towards teams (which I would be interested to see the evidence for) and is, as a field, ‘little developed’.

So, in summary, this is an interesting book if you want to go into depth on a subject, though you’re hardly likely to buy it yourself and will have to seek it out in an academic library if you have access to one. It gives you a short-cut to some useful references and is reasonably comprehensively indexed. However, it is not a comprehensive overview, neither is it balanced in its coverage.

This review appeared first in the BACP journal – Coaching Today – in April 2014.

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