Mindfulness training for coaches: taking control of the wandering mind

Mindfulness training for coaches: taking control of the wandering mind

waterlily in dark pool

24 March 2023

In the first of a new blog series, Eike Tischer, a member of the Coaching Psychology Special Interest Group and a qualified mindfulness teacher, shares key findings from her master’s dissertation.

As a coach and mindfulness teacher, I am curious about the role of mindfulness in coaching. Mindfulness is still a relatively new concept, and there is a lack of evidence-based research exploring its impact on coaches and their practice. So, for my master’s dissertation, I decided to develop and deliver a mindfulness training programme for coaches and investigate how it affected them and their practice.

Mindfulness background and benefits

Mindfulness has become a popular wellbeing intervention in clinical and non-clinical settings. The concept of mindfulness stems from eastern contemplative practices and was introduced into western clinical settings by Jon Kabat-Zinn. In the 1970s, he developed the mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) programme to assist people who experienced symptoms relating to chronic pain. Since then, many adaptations of the original programme have emerged to address the wellbeing needs of different target populations. The following definition by Kabat-Zinn (2003) captures the core elements of mindfulness:

Mindfulness is awareness 
that arises through paying attention, 
on purpose, 
in the present moment, 

There is a growing number of research studies that indicate the effectiveness of mindful awareness in dealing with conditions such as stress, pain, addiction, anxiety and depression. Furthermore, neuroscience illustrates that mindfulness practitioners show increased brain activity in the areas of attention and focus. This is important as according to Harvard research the human mind wanders 47% of the time (Killingsworth and Gilbert, 2010).

In other words, humans spend almost half of the time ruminating about the past or contemplating the future. These insights have important implications for coaching practice.

Mindfulness in coaching

As a mindfulness teacher, I am aware of how easily my mind turns to past events or forward planning. Of course, this may also happen during coaching and will negatively affect my presence and focus. My mindfulness practice has helped me to notice and respond to these mental distractions faster.

Mindful awareness comes from intentionally placing one’s attention in the present moment, with the attitude of non-judgement. This closely resonates with the coaching concepts of being present, not just physically, and active listening with openness and no assumptions. As a result, this can lead to greater attunement with the client.

Studies by Hall (2013) and Chaskalson and McMordie (2018) have shown that mindfulness practice can support coaches, the coaching relationship and outcomes. My research focused on how attending an evidence-based mindfulness programme affected coaches and their practice. The findings not only demonstrate the impact of mindfulness on the coach, but also illustrate the importance of experiential learning.

Impact of mindfulness training on coaches

The research findings highlight that attending the mindfulness programme supported coaches before, during and after coaching in the following ways:

Raising awareness of the self and others: the training helped the coaches to become more aware of their own thoughts, feelings and reactive behaviours. This increased self-awareness enabled them to regulate their urge to ‘strive’ and ‘problem-solve’ on behalf of their clients and to ‘just hold the space’. As a result, they noticed their clients took more ownership over the coaching agenda and outcomes.

Enhancing coaching competencies such as focus, presence and attunement: learning to focus their attention in the present moment increased the coaches’ ability to be fully present. This led to better connection with their clients and enhanced their active listening skills. The training also supported the coaches’ self-development and increased their coaching confidence.

Recognising and addressing self-care needs: The study highlighted the great importance of self-care to prevent coaches’ burn-out and compassion fatigue. Becoming more self-aware meant the coaches recognised unhelpful behaviours or habits that affected the quality of their coaching and their wellbeing. For example, some mentioned that adding time for reflection before and after their coaching sessions significantly improved ‘how they showed up for coaching’. Greater awareness also enabled coaches to notice harsh self-criticism during their reflective practice and to respond with self-compassion.

The significance of experiential learning

The research highlighted that mindfulness training offers coaches the opportunity to enhance their competencies through experiential learning. This specifically affected the following coaching aspects:

Embodiment: At the beginning of the training, many coaches felt disconnected from their physical body sensations. They struggled to switch from a conceptional to an experiential state of mind during their coaching sessions. The mindfulness programme helped them to become more aware of their own body sensations. This physical awareness is important in coaching as it can provide access to subconscious processes, such as intuition, projection or transference in coaching.

Mindful attitudes: These determine how we encounter present moment experiences. The training focused on cultivating mindful attitudes, such as being non-judgemental, open, kind and empathic. These attitudes greatly overlap with those that are required in coaching. While the coaches were well aware of these attitudes, the research highlighted a lack of practical application. For example, some coaches were extremely self-critical, and others struggled to be open to new or unexpected experiences. The training provided an opportunity to cultivate these attitudes through experiential practice.


My study highlights the wide range of coaching competencies and attitudes that can be further developed and enhanced through customised mindfulness training. While mindfulness has great potential benefits, it is neither a universal panacea nor a plug-in intervention. It requires dedicated practice and the choice to engage with mindfulness will therefore remain with the individual coach.

For coaching educators and organisations, mindfulness offers the chance to provide experiential training in core coaching competencies and to address currently neglected coaching aspects, such as embodiment and the application of mindful attitudes. It seems therefore plausible that mindfulness training could become an integral part of coach education and continued professional development.

Blog series

Eike Tischer is sharing specific results from her research into coaching and mindfulness in a series of blog posts: Mindfulness training for coaches. Find the other posts below:

Taking control of the wandering mind (April 2023)
Raising mindful awareness of body and mind (May 2023)
Enabling self-regulation and agency (June 2023)
The importance of self-care and self-compassion (July 2023)

Eike Tischer

About Eike Tischer

Eike is a freelance business consultant, coach and facilitator. She supports her clients during times of uncertainty and change in their professional and/or personal life. Her approach enables her clients to make the choices that will allow them to flourish. Eike has a passion for wellbeing and regularly facilitates experiential coaching workshops and mindfulness training. She is an accredited EMCC senior practitioner, a licensed career counsellor and a qualified mindfulness teacher.

For further information about mindfulness programmes or workshops please contact: [email protected] or visit her LinkedIn profile, or find her at Oxford Coaching Partners.


Chaskalson, M. and McMordie, M. (2018) Mindfulness for coaches: an experiential guide. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.

Hall, L. (2013) Mindful coaching: how mindfulness can transform coaching practice. London: Kogan Page Limited.

Kabat-Zinn, J. (2003) ‘Mindfulness-based interventions in context: Past, present, and future.’ Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 10(2), 144-156.

Killingsworth, M.A. and Gilbert, D.T., 2010. ‘A wandering mind is an unhappy mind.’ Science, 330(6006), pp.932-932.

Suggested book

Kabat-Zinn, J. (2001) Full Catastrophe Living: how to cope with stress, pain and illness using mindfulness meditation. London: Judy Piatkus (Publishers).


Cavanagh, M. J. and Spence, G. B. (2013) 'Mindfulness in coaching: philosophy, psychology or just a useful skill?', in Passmore, J., Peterson, D.B. & Freire, T. (eds.) Wiley-Blackwell Handbook of the Psychology of Coaching and Mentoring. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, pp. 112-134.

Kabat-Zinn, J. (2003) ‘Mindfulness-based interventions in context: Past, present, and future.’ Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 10(2), 144-156.

Passmore, J. and Marianetti, O. (2007) 'The role of mindfulness in coaching', The Coaching Psychologist, 3(3), pp. 131-137.

Segal, Z, William, M. and Teasdale, J. (2013) Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for depression. New York: The Guilford Press.

Shapiro, S. L., Carlson, L. E., Astin, J. A. and Freedman, B. (2006) 'Mechanisms of Mindfulness', Journal of Clinical Psychology, 62(3), pp. 373-386.

Image by Jay Castor on Unsplash