Problem Statement

In politics on July 23, 2015 at 10:22 am

Problem Statement

In 1948, Lester Guest (1948) wrote the following:
If psychologists are to attain dignity and respect in the eyes of the general public in order to fulfill
Their objectives and obligations, it is mandatory that they first find out what people know about
them, what attitudes about psychologists exist, and the sources of information that lead to these
attitudes and ideas.

Years later the I/O psychology field that provides personal and executive coaching faces challenges from
the business community that reflect the feelings of the quote above. There is a problem in the Industrial
Organizational Psychology field. Despite the fact that Industrial Organizational Psychologists are trained
to deal with work and organizational issues and cannot diagnose mental illness in the work place
(Spector, 2008), they are being viewed that way. This prevents them from being the logical choice for
coaching psychology in the workplace. Psychologists are unwelcome in organizations as coaches because
organizations believe they will diagnose mental illnesses while coaching their employees (Joo, 2005).
Individuals who are clinical psychologists and coaches have admitted that they think that they are better
coaches because they can diagnose mental illnesses (Hart, Blattner, & Leipsic, 2001). Some researchers
believe psychological practices are needed in coaching but do not believe psychologists are needed to use
them (Feldman & Lankau, 2005). In 1989 it was written the perception of psychologists has been an APA
concern for decades (Hartnett, Simonetta, & Mahoney, 1989). In the year 2015, these perceptions are still
affecting the ability of I/O psychologists to act as Coaching Psychologists.
This problem negatively affects coachees. Research has shown that individuals with a psychology
background are more effective at generating positive outcomes for coachees during executive coaching
(Bozer, Sarros, & Santora, 2014). Unqualified individuals as coaches can actually harm coachees (Palmer
& Whybrow, 2005).

A barrier that may prevent I/O psychologists from being welcome in organizations as coaches is a
perception among organizations and individuals that I/O psychologists as coaching psychologists
diagnose individuals. If organizations and individuals were familiar with I/O psychology and that they
cannot diagnose mental illnesses, they would not hold negative attitudes towards coaching psychologists
in the I/O field.
Current knowledge is incomplete as to whether most organizations and individuals are familiar with the
work and purposes of I/O psychologists. A search of perceptions of I/O psychologists, attitudes towards
I/O psychologists, and understanding of I/O psychology of EBSCO, Business Source Complete, Google
Scholar, and ABI inforum yielded no results of prior research into the area. In addition, a search of
perceptions of psychologists, attitudes towards psychologists, and public attitudes towards psychologists,
yielded less than five articles on the subject spread over 69 years. The oldest of the articles was the most
relevant to this study (Guest, 1948). However, all of the individuals surveyed would have to be over 89.
A research study that examines how I/O psychologists can differentiate themselves from clinical
psychologists through qualitative and quantitative research with directed action to change perceptions will
solve the problem.


Bozer, G., Sarros, J. C., & Santora, J. C. (2014). Academic background and credibility in executive
coaching effectiveness. Personnel Review, 43(6), 881–897.
Guest, L. (1948). The public’s attitudes toward psychologists. American Psychologist, 3(4), 135–139.
Hartnett, J., Simonetta, L., & Mahoney, J. (1989). Perceptions of nonclinical psychologists toward clinical
psychology and clinical psychologists. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 20(3),
Hart, V., Blattner, J., & Leipsic, S. (2001). Coaching versus therapy: A perspective. Consulting Psychology
Journal: Practice and Research, 53(4), 229–237.
Joo, B.-K. (Brian). (2005). Executive Coaching: A conceptual framework from an Integrative Review of
Practice and Research. Human Resource Development Review, 4(4), 462–488.


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