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Striving for autonomy: The importance of the autonomy need and its support within coaching

S Schiemann, C Mühlberger, E Jonas International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring 2018

Based on definitions of coaching, coaches support their clients with their self-determination as well as their self-congruent, self-valued goals; in other words and with regard to Self-Determination Theory (SDT; Deci & Ryan, 2000), coaches support their clients’ autonomy need. In this paper, we present an overview of three research studies on the importance of the autonomy need and its support within coaching. In the first study, we explored the clients’ basic psychological needs within the context of coaching and found that coaching was expected to mainly fulfil the autonomy need. The second study showed that, if a client had a high need for autonomy, this need could be fulfilled by coaching which further increased the client’s satisfaction with the coaching. In the third study, we found that the coach’s empathy seemed to contribute to supporting clients in their autonomy. We conclude the paper with theoretical and practical implications regarding the importance of autonomy and its support within coaching.

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