As Artificial Intelligence (AI) gains traction, how engaged is the profession and what are the implications for the future of coaching supervision? In its final column, the Association of Coaching Supervisors (AOCS) shares its research findings and invites three responses

By Sam Isaacson, Darren Leech and Jenny Brown


In this issue, we consider the results from the recent survey exploring AOCS members’  thoughts on AI. We also invite the following people to comment on the results: Sam Isaacson, a coaching technology thought leader who actively experiments with cutting-edge technologies, Darren Leech, an initial cynic who has been persuaded by a recent successful programme in the NHS, and the AOCS’ Jenny Brown, who remains undecided.

The AOCS’ survey sought evidence for or against anecdotal reports of low levels of engagement with AI in the coaching supervision profession and of people viewing AI as an inconvenience that at best can be ignored and at worst could be damaging to the experience and ethics of coaching and supervision.


Setting the scene

AI can appear in the coaching supervision relationship in various ways (see Figure 1). The number of coaching clients using AI is rising as people increasingly use it in a range of creative ways, with estimates that 77% of AI users are Millennials and Gen Z (Kastrenakes & Vincent, 2023). Some coaches have already started using AI regularly for everything from content creation to acting as a thinking partner. We’re even starting to see the emergence of AI-powered coaching conversation tools such as
AIcoach.chat, providing clients with on-demand access to transactional coaching conversations and enabling coaches to create digital versions of themselves to enhance their market offering. AI-powered tools are also emerging for coaching supervisors, such as Ovida, which records coaching sessions and provides analysis, including rapid access to view each moment the speaker changes from coach to client, and RaeNotes, which automatically analyses coaching transcripts and tags International Coaching Federation core competencies within it.

Figure 1



The survey responses

 Nearly 80% of respondents thought it was important to understand AI.  Interestingly, the comments provided by those who responded ‘no’ showed this was often a rejection of the principle not an ambivalent position. These respondents presented concerns around ethics (including data retention and access), loss of human connection and validity of any impact. GDPR and data retention was a theme across all the comments.

 More than half the respondents had either never (knowingly) used an AI tool or tried it and not returned. This leaves questions when compared to the response to the previous question. If it’s important to understand it but we’ve never used it ourselves, how do we develop that understanding and support coaches in doing the same?

Some 63% of respondents had heard of coaching or coaching supervision tools but very few of these could provide examples of the tools. Among those who did, some named AI tools with more generic digital platforms of which AI is not a part.

The majority of respondents put themselves in the position of later majority or laggard on the adoption curve. Interestingly, while having not asked their clients (coaches) in a large proportion of cases, respondents mostly considered their clients to be even further behind in their adoption of AI. This may raise the question about whether supervisors are in some cases exploring AI and finding resistance in coaches, moving ahead of their clients’ own adoption, or betraying a lack of awareness of increased appetite among their clients to use more AI in their practices.





  • Sam Isaacson shares his thoughts on the findings and why he sees the adoption of AI and its associated practices as critical to keeping the profession relevant.

As technology develops, societies adopt it in only one direction. It’s hard to imagine a world that in 12 months’ time has chosen to use less, or less capable, technology, despite calls from certain directions for that to be the case. I don’t know a single person who once owned an iPhone and has since chosen to use a Nokia 3210, even though that felt like the height of cool at the turn of the millennium. And if I ever meet a person who’s done that, I’m sure we’d all find them interesting because they’re such an exception to the overall direction of travel.

The coaching industry isn’t immune to this trajectory. Despite some coaches in 2019 making comments about how it’s impossible to develop a coaching relationship without meeting in person, ‘coaching’ now means ‘video coaching’ more often than not. For this reason, a prudent assumption to make would be that emergent technologies such as generative AI will end up being widely adopted within coaching, providing they offer tangible benefits such as efficiency, scaleability and consistency. With some AI coaching providers now claiming a coaching session can be delivered at 1% of the price a human would charge, it shouldn’t surprise us that the idea will enthuse people with responsibility for coaching budgets.

The choice we make as supervisors is ultimately therefore going to be around the role we’ll play as technologies are adopted. Will we be a bystander, watching the profession get taken over by big tech and venture capitalists while we dive into nostalgia about what once was? Will we become a servant to the machine, blindly accepting it and ushering in a new world order of which we’re not a part? Will we become a partner to it, incorporating it into our supervision practice where appropriate and supporting coaches to do so in their coaching in a mature way? For me, the latter approach feels like the only approach most should be considering. If AI can rapidly analyse a coaching transcript in line with coaching competencies we can then use it to facilitate reflective practice (which it can), and the efficiency alone should be attractive to us.

Naturally, there are plenty of reasons to not want technology to develop any further. Some of them are even good reasons, or at least well-intentioned. Regardless, I don’t believe that stance is sustainable. The technologies are developing at pace whether we like it or not. Increasing our awareness of technology helps us continue to project our relevance, protects us from inappropriate external disruption and may bring us opportunities to enhance our own supervision practice and the industry as a whole.

  • Sam Isaacson is a coach, coach supervisor and author. He was the first person in the world to offer coaching in virtual reality, and sits on working groups for the ICF and EMCC Global




  • Darren Leech shares his experience from the recent NHS project and how it addressed some of the challenges surfaced by respondents

Early-stage research conducted by NHS Elect and AIcoach shows that the use of AI-based coaching had a statistically significant impact for users. The use of AI in support of coaching is gaining momentum and that supervisors, coaches and their clients will each be at very different places when it comes to the AI ‘adoption curve’ – the AOCS survey data shown here demonstrates this. 

I admit to approaching this whole area of work with a degree of cynicism; holding questions around the likely effectiveness of AI, along with the practical and psychological aspects of user engagement with an AI coach. Importantly, my questions also meant our early research proposals were subjected to a NHS Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) to ensure that participant data was properly protected and further, the process was reviewed end-to-end by a General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) panel. 

Only after this rigour was applied, was limited testing undertaken. This echoes the concerns raised in the survey.

When I look at our results and contrast them with the recent AOCS survey, I notice that a surprising number of supervisors have not heard about, or explored, AI coaching tools. As we approach the second quarter of the 21st century, I wonder if it is time to reflect on how AI might impact coaching supervision? 

Coaches, their clients and coaching supervisors might all explore and experiment with emerging technologies like AI (see Figure 1) and many would agree that coaching supervision relies on the supervisor having a breadth and depth of experience and understanding when it comes to all aspects of coaching practice. In this case, surely a naivety or resistance to technologies such as AI could impact the overall supervision dynamic? 

There may already be an impact in practice, as the AOCS survey shows that over 50% of the coaching supervisors who responded had not heard of AI coaching tools and one in five, explicitly stated that understanding AI was not important for a coaching supervisor to understand. Given these responses, many supervisors will be unable to relate to or hold a credible conversation about AI use in coaching practice and so, is any claim that the profession works in service of its clients looking a little shaky? 

Speaking personally, this gap in understanding and my own CPD as a coaching supervisor, was one of the drivers behind our recent collaboration and research related to coaching and AI. 

  • Darren Leech works as a director for NHS Elect, a network for NHS organisations that provides a range of improvement and leadership development support. Darren is head of the coaching faculty, which provides coaching for senior clinicians and other leaders, along with coaching supervision.




  • Jenny Brown isn’t sure

Whenever I spend time with people like Sam and Darren I become very enthusiastic about the need to embrace AI. At the same time I feel like I haven’t found my ‘way’ into it…yet. I’ve used ChatGPT a few times and encouraged others to use it, for example to avoid blank page panic when starting a cover letter for a job (I always find it easier to re-write than begin writing).

I’d love, as a supervisor, to talk to my coach clients about how they’re using it but currently I’m not hearing that they are and in terms of peripheral tools such as those that manage diaries and act as co-pilots, I haven’t yet found one that can make sense of my many different responsibilities and rather informal way of working.

What I do know is that once I find that key, that way in, I’ll embrace it, albeit with caution and with a view to ethics, safe practice and using it to help us be better humans, not diminished ones.

  • Jenny Brown is a coach supervisor and coach among a range of other activities that keep her busy. She is an equality, diversity and inclusion specialist facilitating training for a wide range of organisations. She has been treasurer and governance lead at AOCS.