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Ruth Ann Harnisch

Ruth Ann Harnisch, president of the Harnisch Foundation and a certified professional coach.

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$2 Million Gift Launches First-Ever Institute of Coaching at McLean
(from Horizons, Fall 2009 Issue)

With an extraordinary $2 million gift from the Harnisch Foundation, McLean Hospital recently launched the Institute of Coaching, the first-of-its-kind center for coaching research, practice and education. Coaching is a professional practice designed to optimize human potential by helping individuals achieve personal and professional goals and enhance their quality of life.

Rooted in the theories of positive psychology—a field that is founded on the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves, and to enhance their experiences in life—coaching is receiving increasing recognition in the mental health arena. According to Philip Levendusky, PhD, McLean’s senior vice president for business development and marketing, evidence shows that coaching can positively impact a person’s ability to make healthy lifestyle changes.  Since nearly 75 percent of healthcare dollars are spent on lifestyle-related illnesses, such as those connected to smoking, obesity and stress, coaching can have a powerful effect on individual health. 

“Coaching may help patients with mental illness be more successful with medication compliance, weight loss, exercise and vocational pursuits,” Levendusky says.

The Institute of Coaching will advance the field of coaching through five centers of excellence: research, education, applied positive psychology, health coaching and leadership coaching. The $2 million gift to McLean from the Harnisch Foundation will be used specifically to support the Institute’s research center, which will award coaching research grants and disseminate peer-reviewed coaching studies.

The Institute’s director Carol Kauffman, PhD, a McLean psychologist and professional coach, says the Institute will inspire doctoral candidates and others to conduct coaching research that will help build a solid foundation for the practice of coaching. “Coaching is a remarkable change process that has often been thought of as a self-help method without established best practices,” she says. “Our goal is to provide a solid scientific foundation of coaching based on good science, good research and good practice.”

Ruth Ann Harnisch, trustee of the Harnisch Foundation and a certified professional coach, chose to fund coaching research at McLean after listening to the stories of researchers at a 2008 international gathering of coaching researchers organized by Kauffman and funded by the Harnisch Foundation. The Harnisch Foundation is a pioneer in coaching-related philanthropy and has previously funded other coaching initiatives. At the conference, “researchers talked about the challenges they faced as serious academics attempting to do peer-reviewed, respected coaching research,” Harnisch says. “It became clear to me that a respectable academic home for coaching would be a game-changer for the field.”

Establishing the Institute at Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital was a good fit, according to Harnisch. Known for its cutting-edge psychiatric research and world-class professionals, McLean has been studying and practicing positive psychology and coaching-related disciplines for years.

McLean President and Psychiatrist in Chief Scott L. Rauch, MD, acknowledges that while coaching is not a substitute for medication and therapies that are essential for treating major psychiatric disorders, it has a place in the continuum of McLean’s broad mission to support mental health.  “Coaching offers the potential to tap into positive traits that individuals need in order to thrive—both in illness and health,” he says. “This new institute at McLean will help explore the scientific basis by which coaching can support health and well being.” 

Levendusky says that Harnisch’s vision for the Institute, combined with Kauffman’s significant coaching and academic expertise, will in the long term reap big rewards both for patients and the healthcare system as a whole. “In her gift to McLean, Ms. Harnisch has made a significant commitment to the coaching profession and to improving the well-being of individuals in the McLean community and beyond.”

If you would like to learn more about the Institute of Coaching and opportunities for donor involvement, please contact the Development Office at 617-855-3415 or mcleandevelopment@partners.org  or visit www.instituteofcoaching.org.  

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