The World of Work Project

The ABCDE Coaching Model

The ABCDE coaching model is a behavioral therapy model with five stages: Activating event or situation, Beliefs, Consequences, Disputation of the beliefs and Effective new approach to dealing with the problem.

Summary by The World of Work Project


Coaching is a hugely helpful skill for leaders and managers in the world of work. It’s a great way to help team members develop or for behavior change. It’s particularly when combined with feedback and reinforcement. You can learn more about how to coach and the benefits of coaching in this podcast.

The ABCDE Coaching Model

The ABCDE model has five stages: Activating event or situation, Beliefs, Consequences, Disputation of the beliefs and Effective new approach to dealing with the problem. It is a logical build on the ABC Technique.

Rational-emotional coaching models, like the ABCDE model, are more complex and difficult to use effectively than simpler, solution focused coaching models. They are also less frequently used in the work place by typical line managers, and really shouldn’t be used by line managers as they require some training and experience to be used effectively.

Models of this nature seek to challenge an individual’s negative or unhelpful beliefs and replace them with new, helpful ways of thinking. Where solution-focused coaching helps individuals achieve specific goals, coaching models of this type can help change an individual’s way of being and thinking.

We look at each of the five stages of this model below.

A – Activating event or situation

The first stage of this model is all about the coach helping the individual to identify specific events or situations that cause the individual to experience negative thought patterns. We can think of this stage as a search for the triggers of negativity.

Questions that a coach might use at this stage include: What is the event or situation that causes you distress? What is it that triggers you? Why did you start to feel that way? What was the starting point of your negative thinking pattern? Who was involved?

Interviews are a common activating event or trigger.

B – Beliefs

The second stage of this model is to help the individual being coached to understand their underlying belief structures and systems that come in to play when the triggering event or situation takes place. To some extent this part of the coaching process is about helping the individual recognize the lens through which they are seeing the world and the situations they find themselves in.

Questions that a coach might use at this stage include: What was your line of thought after the event? What were you saying to yourself (self-talk)? How did you feel? Why did you feel that way? What did you think would happen next? What was running through your mind?

C – Consequences

The third stage of this model involves the coach helping the individual understand the impacts that their believes have on them. A starting point at this stage may be to simply help the individual understand that the beliefs that they hold do have an impact, after which is might be possible to explore what those impacts actually are.

The decisions we make, good or bad, are often a function of our beliefs.

Questions that a coach might use at this stage include: What are the consequences of your beliefs? How did your beliefs lead you to act? How did each emotion you felt lead you to act? Did you have knock on thoughts? What did you do that you don’t normally do as a result of your beliefs and emotions?

D – Disputation of Beliefs

By this stage the individual should have an understanding of what triggers them, the lens through which they see the event (their beliefs) and the consequence of their beliefs on how they act and respond to the situation.

The next stage of this model is for the coach to help the individual challenge their belief structure, with the ultimate goal of helping them replace it with a more helpful set of beliefs, beliefs that serve them better. This process may start with an exploration of the usefulness of the individual’s current beliefs.

Questions that a coach might use at this stage include: How are your beliefs serving you? Do your beliefs help you? What would happen if you had different beliefs? How would having different beliefs lead to different outcomes?

E – Effective New Approach

The last stage of this coaching model involves the coach working with the individual to replace their unhelpful beliefs with a new set of more helpful beliefs.

Questions that a coach may use at this stage could include: What’s the rational truth in this situation? What would those you trust tell you? What other beliefs would be more helpful for you? What does logic say to you?

A new set of beliefs can help an individual onto a better path in life.

Learning More About Coaching

In other posts we have written briefly about the ACHIEVE, CLEAR, GROW, OSKAR and POSITIVE coaching models. In addition, we’ve written about coaching wheels that can be helpful in personal and executive coaching.

If you’d like to learn what it’s like being or becoming a coach, you might enjoy this podcast:

The World of Work Project View

Coaching models of this type can be powerful, but we wouldn’t recommend anyone new to coaching looking to coach this way in the workplace. We would, though, recommend having discussions about the relationship between triggering events, personal beliefs and consequences to help people understand that their underlying beliefs affect how they think about and respond to events.

Replacing unhelpful beliefs with helpful ones though this type of coaching is much more transformative and longer-lasting than solution focused coaching, but it takes more skill to deliver. It also requires coachees who are ready and willing to change.

Knowledge of this type of coaching is helpful from a self-awareness perspective, but we recommend using a professional coach if you wish to explore your beliefs.

It’s worth noting that this model is very closely related to the “ABC Model“, which explores the relationship between Activating Events, Beliefs and Consequences, as well as to the “ETC Self Coaching Model“.

Sources and further reading

Where possible we always recommend that people read up on the original sources of information and ideas.

This post is based on original work by Albert Ellis. Though we have no specific further references to support it, you can learn more about the model and Albert Ellis on the internet. If you are aware of a specific reference for this content, please let us know.


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