This week’s blog’s post is a tad late. Having decided to write about neuroplasticity I became somewhat entranced in my research, basically because I love learning about the brain and neuroscience.


The human brain is likely the most complex structure in the universe and we are still in our infancy of understanding it.  One field of brain research that’s been underway since the 1970’s is:-

neuroplasticity – the brain’s ability to adapt and change its structure and function in “negative or positive directions in response to intrinsic and extrinsic influences” (Schaffer, 2012).

This means the brain can change itself physically and functionally at any age to compensate for injury and disease and to adapt to new situations or changes in the environment. There are of course limits to how much the brain can change, reorganize and heal, but these limits are not as imposing as might be assumed. Indeed, thanks to the power of neuroplasticity people are able to experience quite remarkable changes such as: recovery from strokes, overcoming learning disabilities and erasing pain.

We can use our mind to change our brain

“We can actually use the mind to change the brain. The simple truth is that how we focus our attention, how we intentionally direct the flow of energy and information through our neural circuits, can directly alter the brain’s activity and its structure.”
~ Rick Hanson, neuropsychologist


One area of interest for neuroscience researchers is the brain’s ability to create new neural pathways and synapses.  These changes in the brain occur from changes in behavior, the environment, learning, and even from physical injury.  Like all change, it can be for the better or for the worse:
Positive neuroplasticity is “the physiological ability of the brain to form and strengthen dendritic connections, produce beneficial morphological changes, and increase cognitive reserve” (Vance, Roberson, McGuinness, & Fazeli, 2010).

Conversely, negative neuroplasticity is the “ability of the brain to atrophy and weaken dendritic connections, produce detrimental morphological changes, and decrease cognitive reserve” (Vance et al., 2010).


Neuroplasticity and coaching

“All coaching involves the brain. All coaches, irrespective of theoretical orientation ‘coach the brain’!”
~ Anthony M. Grant, psychologist
Currently, there’s little empirical data that directly links neuroscience research to coaching-specific outcomes. However, neuroscience has the potential to offer great insights into how coaching helps create the changes it does. And it’s those insights that interest and excite me. Insights that inform and augment the existing approaches to coaching I use.


Behavioral science and coaching

“We now have good evidence that solution-focused cognitive-behavioural (SF-CB) coaching can reliably enhance goal attainment and induce behavioural change as well as positively impacting on a range of psychological variables including capacity for self-regulation, self-insight and solution-focused thinking (Theeboom, Beersma & van Vianen, 2013).”
~ Anthony M. Grant, psychologist


Anthony Grant (in his paper Coaching the brain: Neuro-science or neuro-nonsense? The Coaching Psychologist, Vol. 11, No. 1, June 2015 ) makes the point that the majority of the insights into coaching currently purported to be delivered by neuroscience are in fact long-established within the behavioural sciences. He notes that there are large amounts of data in the behavioural sciences from the 1990s onwards indicating that coaching can help facilitate behavioural change and enhance goal attainment and well-being in a wide range of domains including life coaching, leadership coaching and in response to stress (e.g. Grant, 2003;MacKie, 2014; Peterson, 1993; Wissbrun, 1984).


My solution-focused cognitive-behavioural approach (SF-CB)

My SF-CB approach combines co-active coaching, hypnosis, neuro linguistic programming (NLP) with elements of cognitive behavioural therapy. Through experience working with many clients, I’ve found this approach delivers rapid, effective long lasting changes in thinking and behaviour that enable people to achieve success and/or overcome problems. Of course none of the wonderful, life enhancing changes my clients achieve would be possible were it not for their brain’s plasticity.

Have a great brain changing, plastic week.

Go well


Tony Yuile is a Personal Development Coach & hypnosis professional based in Wellington NZ, where he specialises in helping people achieve their goals and overcome the barriers that stop them from enjoying life to the full. Tony’s solution focused approach to coaching uses a range of techniques drawn from the fields of co-active coaching, hypnosis and neuro-linguistic programming (NLP). Contact Tony today to discuss how he can help you, or if you think Tony could help someone you know, you might like to encourage them to get in touch with him.

This article contains the personal views and opinions of the author, which may change over time. It is intended to be for information only and does not constitute medical advice. For medical and health advice, always consult a qualified medical professional.