Coaching and Mentoring


Coaching and Mentoring are approaches to personal development that are used in many contexts. They are sometimes used as interchangeable terms but they represent significantly different approaches. There is no standard definition for coaching or mentoring that is agreed upon on in the literature. What is most important in any coaching or mentoring relationship is that the roles of the coach and coachee, or mentor and mentee, is understood and agreed upon between both parties[1]. In general terms the differences between the two concepts are:
  • Coaching is more focused and goal oriented, aimed at optimizing performance
  • Mentoring is often focused more on long term personal and professional growth.



Coaching is “a focused and deliberate conversation designed to facilitate learning and improve performance.” [2] Coaching encompasses the belief that the person being coached, or coachee, has the solutions within them and the coach facilitates the discovery of these solutions. [3] Coaching is generally a relationship between a coach and a coachee, whose roles and actions differ. Peer coaching is an approach where contemporaries form a relationship of mutual support where both parties fulfil both these roles at different times[4].

Coaching Effectiveness [3]

Coaching has been widely researched in the literature. There is, however, a lack of standardised outcome measures available to assess the efficacy of coaching, as these will vary widely and depend on the nature of the participant's goals and personal growth is difficult to define and measure. The general consensus is that coaching can be very effective in a variety of situations but a lot depends on the skills of the coach and the buy-in from the coachee. [3]


There are different approaches and methods when it comes to coaching. A Humanistic Approach is growing in popularity as its focus lies on bringing out the client's best potential. Behavioural coaching is much more structured and involves examining one's values and motivations and then working with goal setting. A cognitive behavioural approach uses the principles of cognitive behavioural therapy to manage problems by changing the way one thinks. Motivational Interviewing approaches to coaching use the core skills of Motivational Interviewing to elicit the change. There are also psychodynamic approaches, Gestalt approaches, Narrative approaches as well as positive psychological approaches. All these approaches use different techniques to achieve the same outcome. The coach's main aim is to facilitate change in the coachee, using the coachee's intrinsic abilities, and each approach is unique in the way this change is facilitated.



Mentoring is a long term relationship between a more experienced individual, the mentor, and a less experienced mentee where the aim of the relationship is for growth of the mentee in a personal or professional capacity. The mentor can fulfil a variety of roles such as; supporter, guide and teacher, supervisor or even assessor[5].

Types of Mentoring Relationships[1]

The traditional mentoring relationship is between someone who is normally older who is more knowledgeable and experienced and someone younger and inexperienced. However there are other types of mentoring relationships that can also exist. Peer mentoring occurs between equal individuals and is seen as a mutual relationship where both parties find themselves in both mentor and mentee roles. This is often found in school programmes where students from the same year learn from each other. Reverse mentoring is being found in organisations where the junior staff mentor the senior staff in technological advances. In healthcare reverse mentoring is seen where patients mentor healthcare professionals. Reverse mentoring can be an innovative way to introduce new ideas into a stale organisation or to reframe existing beliefs in an individual.

Virtual mentoring is becoming more popular with technological advances enabling many different forms of communication using a variety of devices. There are many advantages to e-mentoring including fewer time constraints and that mentoring can take place anywhere in the world. However important elements of communication are reduced or lost when using digital technologies such as the non-verbal cues that occur in a face to face interaction. Using these new forms of communication require the development of related techniques and skill set (e.g. use of emojis in text communications to convey emotion and context).

Benefits of Mentoring [6]

A review that specifically looked at the mentoring new graduates by more experienced physiotherapists looked at the benefits to the mentors and mentees. It found that there were both personal and professional benefits of mentoring to mentors[6]. Professionally the mentors had the opportunity to learn new skills from the mentees (reverse mentoring), their own skills were enhanced through the discussions and they were compensated for their mentoring time. Personally, the physiotherapists reported that they benefited from the satisfaction of helping someone else, they were motivated by a new desire to learn, they reflected on their own practice and were encouraged to up date their clinical skills.

In the same review, the benefits to the mentees were also both professional and personal. Professionally the mentees developed their clinical reasoning and decision-making ability, felt they were better able to handle complex clinical situations and improved their clinical skills. They felt they were given direction in their career and continued education pathways as well as empowered to foster the growth of their professional identities. Personally, they became aware of gaps in their knowledge and that the mentor relationship improved their self-confidence, self-esteem and independent thinking.

Mentoring and Coaching in Healthcare [5]

Coaching can be applied to a wide variety of settings with potential applications in any situation where someone needs to make a change or improve their skills. A coach can help that person bring about change whether it is in sports, life, business, teams etc. In healthcare, the healthcare professional can be viewed in a coaching role to their patients trying to facilitate change in the individuals in their care[7]. This is especially evident when dealing with chronic diseases that require lifestyle changes in order to manage the condition. Behaviours such as smoking, nutrition, physical activity etc are all factors that can be addressed in an encounter with a patient and using coaching based approaches may be helpful to bring about behaviour changes.

Mentoring in healthcare has been used for many years. It can be found in formal mentor programmes in larger institutes such as hospitals but also in the informal relationships that form between colleagues. A mentor-mentee relationship often develops between professionals in the same organisation, for example, a junior physiotherapist is mentored by a senior physiotherapist in a hospital. A more senior person may take a more inexperienced colleague “under their wing” or the more inexperienced person may seek out a mentor to help them develop their skills and career. The ever-changing and practical nature of healthcare means that mentoring relationships are extremely important.

A recent study evaluated coaching and mentoring programmes in health care systems in five African countries.[8] It concluded that even though all the coaching and mentoring programmes were different in their approaches, all led to improvements in the health-care systems. These improvements could be seen in the quality of clinical care, data-driven decision making, leadership and accountability, and staff satisfaction.

A systematic review of randomized controlled trials suggests positive effects of health coaching by physiotherapists on physical activity, as well as physiological and psychological factors[9].

Coaching vs Mentoring

As stated above, there are generally recognised differences between coaching and mentoring approaches. Coaching is focused and goal-driven often with more short term, performance-based goals. Mentoring is a long-term relationship where goal developments are focused and based on enhancing skills and knowledge. Often aspects of these two approaches can be combined in a single relationship, where one individual can be both coach and mentor to another individual.

These videos highlight the differences between coaching and mentoring.

How to Develop as a Mentor/Coach

The following list is from Garvey, Stokes and Megginson’s book on Coaching and Mentoring[1]

  1. Focus on self-awareness using experiential learning processes (learning through experience)
  2. Teach theory only when experiential learning has started
  3. Learn interactively by raising learner awareness of development need and quickly have an opportunity to put it into practice
  4. Use intensive feedback in small groups where learners work with each other as peers
  5. Teach basic skills in a way that brings them to life
  6. Do real play – not role play, which uses scenarios or case study to review real world issues from the past
  7. Have long periods of practice (which are supervised) that follow on from initial training in which learners establish their own connections between self-awareness, skills, theory and their experience of practice.
  8. Challenge existing patterns of behaviour that may be unhelpful when coaching and mentoring
  9. Have a genuine belief in the learner’s potential and ability to learn and recognise that the learner's ability may exceed that of the teacher

The role of Emotions in Mentoring and Coaching

Emotions play a significant role in both coaching and mentoring. A mentor or coach that possesses a high degree of Emotional Intelligence will be better able to understand their protégé's emotions as well as their own and adjust their style of mentoring or coaching to obtain the best outcomes[3].

Negative Outcomes in Mentoring and Coaching Relationships

It is important to note that not all coaching and mentoring relationships end in positive outcomes. Negative mentoring experiences have been shown to cause lowered job satisfaction and increased intention to leave organisations[3]. Negative outcomes may occur because of a poor mentor-mentee match, lack of interest by either the mentor or mentee, time constraints, poor planning or ethical breaches [2].

Ethical Considerations

Coaching and mentoring can often result in ethical dilemmas. Because there are few formal bodies or associations, particularly for mentoring, there are no clear cut ethical guidelines to follow. The American Psychology Association's, code of ethical principles is often the model that is followed, particularly in coaching circles[3]. In the Wiley-Blackwell Handbook of the Psychology of Coaching and Mentoring,[3] the authors suggest the following general ethical principles

  1. Competence
  2. Do no harm
  3. Integrity
  4. Informed consent
  5. Avoiding or effectively managing multiple relationships (eg coach - friendship - romantic relationship)
  6. Confidentiality
  7. Conflicts of interest
  8. Being multiculturally and internationally competent


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.    Garvey R, Garvey B, Stokes P, Megginson D. Coaching and mentoring: Theory and practice. Sage; 2017 Oct 23.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Jason Giesbrecht. Coaching and Mentoring Course Slides. Physioplus 2019
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 Passmore J, Peterson D, Freire T. The Wiley-Blackwell handbook of the psychology of coaching and mentoring. John Wiley & Sons; 2016 Aug 8.    
  4. Ladyshewsky RK. Building competency in the novice allied health professional through peer coaching. Journal of Allied Health. 2010 Jun 2;39(2):77E-82E.
  5. 5.0 5.1 1.    Bayley H, Chambers R, Donovan C. The good mentoring toolkit for healthcare. CRC Press; 2018 Apr 17.  
  6. 6.0 6.1 1.    Yap HW, Mattar SA, Krishna R. Mentoring in Occupational therapy and Physiotherapy, its place in a Palliative Medicine multidisciplinary mentoring program. Journal of Pediatrics and Palliative Care. 2017 Mar 16;2(1):46-55.
  7. Solvang PK, Fougner M. Professional roles in physiotherapy practice: Educating for self-management, relational matching, and coaching for everyday life. Physiotherapy theory and practice. 2016 Nov 16;32(8):591-602.
  8. Manzi A, Hirschhorn LR, Sherr K, Chirwa C, Baynes C, Awoonor-Williams JK. Mentorship and coaching to support strengthening healthcare systems: lessons learned across the five population health implementation and training partnership projects in sub-Saharan Africa. BMC health services research. 2017 Dec;17(3):831.    
  9. Rethorn ZD, Pettitt CD. What Is the Effect of Health Coaching Delivered by Physical Therapists? A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials. Physical therapy. 2019 Jul 16;99(10):1354-70.