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Why the Certified Positive Psychology Coach® Credential is Trademarked

Posted by Julia Stewart

CPPC Header

Recently, I've had to tell a few coaches and coach training schools that are claiming the credential, "Certified Positive Psychology Coach", that they need to stop, because it is trademarked.

Most are great about it and make the necessary changes right away. But one school, which I suspect has knowingly used our trademark for some time (maybe I'm wrong), is giving us push-back. This violates virtually every code of ethics in the profession of coaching and is a disservice to the students they are certifying. If you are one of those graduates, this is not great.

The usual protocol for notifying colleagues you believe are infringing on your copyrights or trademarks is to have your attorney send a letter and escalate from there if there is no response, but coaching works best when we treat each other with courtesy and respect, so often we begin with a nice personal note and only escalate if it is ignored. The second step is to notify the ICF, because this is an ethics violation, and the final step is to turn it over to attorneys.

[UPDATE] This post has been updated, because I realized I was feeling insulted when I first wrote it and that's not where I want to be coming from. The response of that one school was inappropriate and a comment on their website actually claims other positive psychology coaching programs are just selling information they got freely off the internet. I don't know anyone who is doing that and that comment reflects poorly on the writer.

I can't speak for other schools, or teachers, but for the record, I've spent years formally researching positive psychology, coaching, and related topics for my dissertation. But yes, tons of information on positive psychology is freely available on the internet and if you want to read the latest research that's been published, you can join the Institute of Coaching, at McLean Hospital, Harvard University, which subscribes to expensive research journals for its members and even reviews pertinent papers, which helps members select which papers they want to include in their own research. Members of the Certified Positive Psychology Coach® Program can join the IOC at a discount (currently only $100 per year), because I'm a Founding Fellow and my school is a Sponsor of IOC.

That last perq is helpful to our students, because they are required to do a little research of their own to graduate. A few are PhDs, who are already seasoned researchers, but those who aren't get an introduction to qualitative research and discover that it's not so hard and that they can feel confident about their work and knowledge and never need feel intimidated by well-known researchers or academics. Other requirements for graduation include coaching at the proficient-to-masterful range, which helps make this program unique.

The main reason the Certified Positive Psychology Coach® credential is trademarked...

The main reason I trademarked it is to establish a standard of excellence. Read below for why I thought that was necessary. A secondary reason was that our coach training program was named after that certification. So if ever someone else trademarked the name, I would have to go to court to defend it and if I lost, would have to change much more than my certification. So the reasons were primarily professional, but also business-based.

What is actually trademarked are those four words, in that order, capitalized or not. We neither challenge whether other positive psychology coach training programs have merit nor whether they have a right to certify their graduates. In fact, I think a few other programs are great, but we all have different strengths. That’s how it should be. It makes us distinct to potential students who need to decide which school to join.

That said, our graduates jump through several hoops and need to coach at a higher level by the time they get certified, which is one of the reasons they do so well after graduation, so we want to keep their certification distinct in the marketplace.

Here’s a bit about my background that may explain this point of view: After teaching in academia during the 80’s and 90’s, I trained with Thomas Leonard, the founder of the coaching profession (also the founder of both the ICF and IAC), and I quickly moved into training and mentoring coaches at, what was then, the largest coach training school in the world. I was their lead certifier. That gave me an early opportunity to train thousands of coaches in advanced skills and get them certified and on to successful careers. I quickly developed expertise and became known as a go-to person for advanced training and certifications. I launched my own coaching school (School of Coaching Mastery) a couple of years later.

I’ve studied positive psychology, both formally and informally, for about twenty years. Like most lifelong learners, I take advantage of a variety of sources of education, whether graduate school or even a free MOOC, now and then. Right now, I’m back at school for yet another degree and my dissertation, which I’m still writing, is on an aspect of positive psychology coaching that has been neglected.

Several years ago, I noticed positive psychology programs proliferating. Many included some basic coach training, but not enough to support professional coaching. People registered for the programs, thinking they would become professional coaches, but discovered they weren’t well prepared. I think that’s unfair to the students.

I knew what they needed to know and I knew how to teach it to them.

I was already teaching positive psychology to coaches and my students were asking for more. I was ready to teach advanced positive psychology coaching, as the demand began to rise. So I researched what else was available, at the time, and was shocked that there was no certification in positive psychology coaching, because in my opinion, positive psychology and coaching are made for each other. A legal team did a further exhaustive search, as did the US Patent and Trademark Office. The phrase, Certified Positive Psychology Coach, was available and I registered it.

A major difference between academia and coach training: is that academia has hundreds of years of rules, customs, and protocols, not to mention accreditation, that helps keep standards where they need to be. It’s an imperfect system, but generally, it works. Otherwise, everyone could have a PhD and those letters would mean nothing.

Coaching was still in its infancy when I joined it and it had none of that infrastructure. It was the wild west. The freedom and creativity helped it grow and develop exponentially, but there’s a dark underbelly and people get hurt. I’ve known people who went bankrupt or lost their homes because of unscrupulous “coaches”. Overtime, organizations, like the ICF, began developing standards, ethics, and certifications.

The ICF has registered trademarks for the names of their certifications, because they are challenging credentials to earn and represent high standards. Plus trademarking protects certified coaches and helps establish reliable brands that clients trust. Otherwise, people could sell the "ICF MCC" on Udemy for $12, with no effort, and ICF certification would be meaningless.


So although I’m all for creativity and freedom, I’m also for high standards and ethics. It’s a balancing act. In the absence of hundreds of years of customs and laws, not to mention the US Dept. of Education, coaching uses a different set of tools to establish appropriate boundaries to protect coaches and their clients. Among those tools are copyrights and trademarks. This system is imperfect, but it generally works.

That’s why I registered the trademark for Certified Positive Psychology Coach®, because I know the level of coaching that most coaches need to succeed and I wanted to protect that level of coaching in positive psychology for the sake of my students, who work hard for this credential, and their clients, who deserve high-quality coaches. I'm not saying other coaches aren't good, nor am I saying other training programs aren't good, just that they aren't training at an equivalent level.

Nobody likes getting an email that says they can't use a specific name in their business, but there's no point in casting the owner as the villain. Most of us just make the changes and move on.

I founded the Association of Positive Psychology Coaches, along with my students. And I am considering giving this trademark to the APPC, after it is completely separate from my school, if there are enough equivalent schools to make it worthwhile, and if APPC ever develops that much clout. Why? Many people prefer to hire coaches with certifications from well-known not-for-profit organizations, because schools have widely differing requirements. Then APPC could license qualifying schools. Right now, there are a couple other positive psychology coaching schools that are approved by the ICF for ACC (entry-level certification) training and they are probably great programs. My programs is approved to train coaches at the ACC, PCC, and MCC levels, so in my opinion, it is more advanced, at least when it comes to coaching skills.

If you've received a "Certified Positive Psychology Coach" certification from an organization that doesn't have permission to use it, the bad news is that you can't claim that certification. That sucks. The good news is we will waive some of our requirements for you so you can complete a legitimate Certified Positive Psychology Coach®. Then you can use it proudly and with no worries. Best we can do.

 

Apply to the Certified Positive Psychology Coach® Program here.

 

If you're curious about the Certified Positive Psychology Coach® Program, see below. We can waive some requirements for people who already have training in coaching and/or positive psychology.

 

Explore the Certified Positive Psychology Coach Program 

Topics: Certified Positive Psychology Coach, positive psychology coach, positive psychology coach training, positive psychology certificate, become a positive psychology coach

5 Great Ways to Show Love This Mother's Day That Don't Cost a Thing

Posted by Julia Stewart

Gratitude Asknowledgment Relationship friendship mother daughter dog walking

Here's what NOT to do on Mother's Day:

  • Spend hours waiting for a restaurant table so you can buy Mom an over-priced brunch. I used to live in a neighborhood full of restaurants that were extremely popular on Mother's Day. I remember the carloads of families stuck in traffic with everyone staring straight forward, furious. Nobody wants that.
  • Call her up and talk about trivial stuff like, "How's your water aerobics class going?" Seriously.
  • Send a card. Or flowers. Or an expensive gift. Unless that's what she really wants, you can do better. And you'll feel much better about it when you apply some of the ideas below...

What's the best way to entertain Mom on Mother's Day? 

  1. Ask her. She may not tell you, at first, so keep asking. Or maybe she's been telling you all along and you haven't been listening. When you ask what she wants, does she say, "I just want you." or "I want to spend time with you and the kids?" My son-in-law takes his mother fishing every Mother's Day. That's  something they both like to do and they look forward to it. What's something your mom enjoys doing that you could spend a few hours doing with her? 
  2. Put arguments aside. Every family has its designated disagreements. Mother's Day could be a day of truce. That means frowns, sighs, grumbles and other grumpy habits can be left at home, if you choose. Show up with kindness, instead. Researchers say kindness is one of the most direct pathways to happiness, anyway.
  3. Shift your thinking. What if Mother's Day wasn't an obligation? What if it's something you GET to do? My mother had Alzheimers for years before she passed. I used to take her for drives in the country to get icecream at an antique shop. She would thank me for doing it and I would spend time appreciating that I could do something meaningful for her that was easy and pleasant and that she wouldn't be around forever. Eventually, she couldn't go for rides, anymore, but I could wheel her out to the garden and she would say things like, "Oh, the sun feels so good on my face." Was I bored sometimes? Yes. Do I enjoy reflecting on those moments now, years later? You bet. Older people's lives are often simpler and they tend to appreciate small gestures. As Mother Teresa said, "We can do no great things, only small things with great love."
  4. Practice a little gratitude. As another pathway to happiness, gratitude can shift everything. Literally, people find their lives go better when they spend time appreciating what they already have. As Tal Ben Shahar says, "What you appreciate, appreciates." Your Mom's probably not perfect. (Mine wasn't.) But I'm pretty sure she did a lot for you and saying thanks doesn't have to be awkward. While you're spending some time with her, reminisce about something that happened and how she helped you. End it with, "That made all the difference." She'll know what you mean.
  5. Practice Love 2.0. Western society burdens the word, "love", with too many meanings. And we destroy our relationships by hanging on to disappointments and trying to get people to be different. Love 2.0 is just shared moments of positivity. It can heal broken relationships and enhance good ones. Regard your mom with a little lovingkindness on Mother's Day and anyday, because we change according to what we do regularly and often other people show up differently because we are different. Even if you can only sustain lovingkindness for a couple of seconds, at first, if you practice it regularly, you'll eventually be able to do it for hours and with anyone you choose. Then life will be filled with meaning, instead of empty gestures, because you've filled it with warmth.

Most people who read this blog are interested in positive psychology or in becoming coaches. That's where many of the ideas for this post came from. If you're maybe interested in becoming a positive psychology coach, I invite you to download the free Become a Positive Psychology Coach eBook, below. Or just subscribe to this blog in the upper right corner.

Get the Become a Positive Psychology Coach eBook

Topics: gratitude, Positive Psychology, love 2.0, become a positive psychology coach

Neuroplasticity Coach: How Brain States Become Enduring Traits

Posted by Julia Stewart

neuroplasticity coaching

Lately I've been reading the excellent book, Altered Traits, by Daniel Goleman and Richard J. Davidson, two giants in the fields of emotional intelligence and  neuroplasticity.

If you're a neuroscience geek, like me, you may enjoy reading all about the research, but if you're just curious, here's the lowdown, plus the connection with coaching.

They wanted to set the record straight about research into neuroplasticity, meditation, mindfulness, and how states developed via positive practices can, over time, become enduring traits.They're concerned about the hype that surrounds these popular topics, especially mindfulness, because it's so trendy right now, and they share what science really knows about tools that change the brain instantly, and over time, sustainably, leading to greater happiness, equanimity, resourcefulness, and transformation.

States are temporary changes in the brain that impact how we think, feel, and act. They are an important driver of human experiences, relationships, well-being, and success.

Brain states can be measured in a variety of ways, such as fMRI imaging of blood flow to various parts of the brain, EEG measurements of brainwave patterns, or measurement of neurotransmitters present in the brain; to name three. They also can be measured indirectly via observance of behaviors or via self-reports by subjects, but this is more the realm of psychology, specifically positive psychology.

States are fleeting. We may not always notice when our brains change states, but trained observers, such as coaches, often can witness these changes. States can be positive or negative, which are generally categorized by how pleasant or unpleasant they feel, how likely they are to promote behavior that results in desired outcomes, and how they may promote wellness or pathology.

Many so-called positive states are pleasant, promote desired behavioral outcomes, and can result in greater health.

Skilled coaches help alter their clients' states in virtually every coaching session. Our main objective is to move the client from a less resourceful to more resourceful state and take advantage of that greater resourcefulness to plan strategies and actions that can promote desired change.

It's pretty profound that coaches can alter their client's brain states, but truth is, we all alter the brain states of others' without even knowing it, often with undesirable consequences. Coaching amounts to communication that leads to positive, or desirable, outcomes for the person being coached, because they are, temporarily at least, more open, more solution oriented, more optimistic, more creative, and more resourceful.

How are traits different from states?

Traits develop over time when someone repeats the same thoughts, emotions, memories, habits, and behaviors. The brain actually changes physically as a result, because the neurons involved strengthen their connections every time the thought is repeated.

As the famous saying goes, by neuropsychologist, Donald Hebb, "Neurons that fire together, wire together."

For example, if you live a stressful life, and especially if you worry and ruminate about what stresses you, the neurons in your amygdala, called "the brain's alarm bell" by neuropsychologist, Rick Hanson, will strengthen their bonds and over time, will cause that structure to enlarge. The downstream results could include more stress, more worry and rumination, and perhaps behaviors that make things worse rather than better.

Neuroplasticity can go the other way, too. Positive practices, such as mediation, mindfulness, appreciation, shared warmth, and many others, seem to have a cascading effect on the brain and resulting behaviors, over time. Theoretically, coaching and being coached, as well as following through on many coaching exercises, such as journaling, practicing gratitude or mindfulness, or even following through on resourceful actions and developing new positive habits, can make enduring changes. The new becomes the default.

So there you have the connection between states, traits, and neuroplasticity coaching.

If you'd like to learn much more about these topics, consider taking the Intro to Coaching with Neuroscience course that is coming soon, or even join the new Certified Neuroplasticity Coach Program. 

Check it out here and download the Fact Sheet:

Download Certified Neuroplasticity Coach Fact Sheet

 

Topics: gratitude, Certified Positive Psychology Coach, coaching with neuroscience, mindfulness, Neuroplasticity, positive psychology coach training, become a positive psychology coach

Positive Psychology Coaching: Emotions Are Data [Video]

Posted by Julia Stewart

Positive psychology and positive psychology coaching are associated with positive thinking, but that's erroneous. Positive psychology is about resilience, or the ability to "bounce back" from adversity. You cannot have resilience without adversity and the emotions that go with it: the so-called negative emotions like grief, anger, frustration, etc. Resilience requires flexibility. Rigid positive thinking is a trap that can lead to failure and despair.

This morning, one of the founders of the Institute of Coaching, Susan David, announced that her TED Talk, The Gift and Power of Emotional Courage, just went live. The Institute of Coaching has done perhaps more than any other organization to promote research and education about positive psychology, coaching, and emotional intelligence. The latter goes hand-in-hand with positive psychology coaching, because it teaches that flexibility part: how to identify one's own feelings and those of others and navigate the emotional landscape within ourselves and with others. Coaches, like most leaders, must have emotional intelligence to be fully effective. We teach about that in Emotional Intelligence and Leadership Coaching.

Coaches need emotional intelligence to coach with positive psychology, which is why I became a Founding Fellow of the Institute of Coaching and why School of Coaching Mastery sponsors the organization. As a result, members of our school get a discount on membership at IOC.

So I'm pleased to share with you the wisdom of Emotional Agility via Susan David and TED:

 

 

If you'd like to learn more about positive psychology, coaching, and emotional intelligence, please download the free Become a Positive Psychology Coach eBook:

 

Free Become a Positive Psychology Coach eBook

Topics: Institute of Coaching, video, Positive Psychology, positive psychology coaching, free ebook, emotional intelligence, become a positive psychology coach

Can Positive Psychology Strengths Coaching Actually Weaken You?

Posted by Julia Stewart

positive psychology coaching photo by Denis De Mesmaeker.jpg

Lately, I've read a couple of blog posts, from reliable sites, that attack the effectiveness of positive psychology, positive psychology coaching, and specifically, strengths-based coaching*. I appreciate a well-written contrarian point of view, because it can highlight incongruities and exceptions to rules that we might easily miss, because the accepted wisdom on a particular topic, would rarely address it.

Plus contrarian titles make us curious.

That last point is the real reason you see so many contrarian articles: Angelina Gives Birth to Alien Baby! Man Bites Dog! Stand in line at the grocery store and entertain yourself with contrarian titles in the magazine stand. The good ones make you want to buy the magazine.

I frequently write contrarian articles, myself. My post on why Tony Robbins wouldn't qualify for ICF certification has had nearly 100,000 hits, because it suggests one of the most famous coaches, worldwide, couldn't get certified.

That was pretty cheeky of me.

I've been certifying coaches for nearly 15 years. I know something about coaching standards, but I actually admire Robbins and say so in the post. He doesn't need coach certification, because he's famous, skilled, and has a powerful reputation. My post isn't a condemnation of him, but a nuanced look at coaching and certification, plus a suggestion that there are multiple ways to coach well. I raise points that most coaches don't talk about. Hopefully, that gets them thinking more deeply about a controversial topic.

So lately, when I read a couple of take-downs of positive psychology, I first thought, "Okay, fair game. These posts create curiosity."

But these articles don't just offer contrarian points of view. They are more like beatings and the writers betray a shocking ignorance of their topics, especially considering their platforms. One was from The Atlantic. The other from Harvard Business Review.

Ignorant writing, hiding behind contrarian titles, on well-respected sites, is the academic equivalent of "fake news". It's misleading, creates confusion, and promotes discordant thinking.

To be fair, both HBR and The Atlantic shared multiple sides of the topic via separate posts and that's legitimate. But the writers of these articles (see below) still betrayed an ignorance of positive psychology. They sounded like hacks, who did a quick Google search on the topic, then reacted negatively to their superficial understanding of the material, and then wrote a pounding about it. And if you found the articles via Facebook ads, or Google searches, you might never read the opposing view.

Before we knew about online Russian propaganda, this type of article was known as "click bait." Click bait sites are blogs intended to pull in traffic, with false or misleading material, in the hope that readers will click ads, while on the page, to make money. Has journalism fallen so low that even Harvard has succumbed to this type of cheesy approach? By the way, I found an excellent rebuttal to the HBR article, on a different site, here.

Many people, who left comments on the HBR article, display a stronger understanding of positive psychology than the author. Below, is one concise comment from Peter Peckarsky:

"This is not a HBR-quality piece. It's speculative and published for clicks. An accurate title should read something like "Poorly Applied Strengths-Based Coaching Can Actually Weaken You - Just Like Any Program With No Balance."

I'm going to address the basic misunderstandings displayed by both the author of The Atlantic article, When Grit isn't Enough, and the HBR article, Strengths-Based Coaching Can Actually Weaken You, below.

  1. Positive psychology was never intended to to replace other valid psychology tools or theories. It's intended rather to balance them and fill out gaps in theories that previously fell short of helping people thrive. As with any other theory, when applied ineffectively, it may actually harm. When used appropriately, it can transform lives. The founders of the positive psychology movement set a goal, twenty years ago, to make positive psychology obsolete, because psychology interventions should never be a binary choice between positive vs. negative.
  2. Positive psychology interventions such as strengths, grit, and growth mindset; are descriptive, not prescriptive. They describe what people, who are already flourishing, have been doing, with the suggestion that those who want to flourish, may choose to experiment with similar behaviors. Of course, there are environmental, personality, and other factors that impact outcomes. To turn these tools into dogma, political correctness, judgmentalism, or any other type of rigid thinking; is as wrong-headed in positive psychology as it would be with virtually any other topic.
  3. Thousands of peer-reviewed research studies have been published in the two decades since Martin Seligman declared positive psychology an official field of study, while president of the American Psychological Association, and they continue. In fact, they have since early days, addressed many of the deficits the authors raised, but failed to find in their own research. Apparently, if you were to read even one book by Seligman, you would know more than a writer from Harvard.

My takeaway in this age of fake news, click bait, and Russian propaganda; is that truth still matters and those of us who care about it need to be more vigilant than ever. Reading a blog doesn't make you knowledgeable, not even this blog.

Also, the fantasy that education would become obsolete in the era of Google has proven itself to be a lie. But where will education come from if educational and journalistic institutions lower their standards?

I don't have any easy answers, but I can say that at this school, we're still taking responsibility for the content we publish. We don't run ads on this blog, because we don't think it's wise to put our motives in conflict. So, If you trust us and are curious about becoming a positive psychology coach, you're welcome to download the following eBook.

Free Become a Positive Psychology Coach eBook

 * Thanks to Coach Louise Santiago, PhD, for sending me the HBR post mentioned above.

 

Topics: Free, ICF, Tony Robbins, Positive Psychology, Strengths, Martin Seligman, positive psychology blogs, become a positive psychology coach

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