Coaching and mentoring

Jeya Balakrishna, the Associate Registrar for Coaching and Mentoring in our College, is leading initiatives over the next few years in relation to peer support and professional development for all psychiatrists.

A Working Group has been established, recognising the benefit of coaching and mentoring in relation to Retention, Resilience and the StayWell initiative of our College.


Coaching and mentoring are beneficial for all doctors at all stages of their careers, whether in transition, at times of change or simply seeking to develop in an ongoing job and role. For the benefit of our College membership, initiatives in coaching and mentoring shall focus on professional development. Members are of course welcome to include personal, social and educational goals in their development plans.

Over the next few months, the Working Group for Coaching and Mentoring will be developing and adding content to this website to help you to access support and resources for self-development, plus information about local initiatives in regions and organisations, in specialty, career-grade and other groupings with College.

In the meantime. if you have an interest in this work or have a query as to resources and assistance, please contact us at

College staff will ensure the Associate Registrar is informed and able to revert with advice accordingly.

Much is said about coaching and mentoring being different, in terms of goals and approaches (and indeed what qualifies a person to train or deliver), but in fact there are many similarities; someone who coaches or mentors another will use a similar skill set in these interventions. Coaching and mentoring ultimately help us to learn, reflect and grow.

  • Coaching and mentoring rely on relationship-building (communication and compatibility are key to this).
  • Both seek to enhance a person’s skills and knowledge.
  • Both require self-discipline and awareness.
  • Both require empathy, active listening, intuitive thinking, and constructive challenge.
  • Both require certain objectives, criteria, or goals to be identified and worked towards (the framework for this will likely be more structured with coaching, less time-limited with mentoring).
  • Both can use ‘checking-in’ to chart progress (coaching will structure set check-in times; mentoring may require checking in ‘as and when’, the mentor stepping back when less needed).
  • Good coaches and mentors have creative thinking, adaptability, and problem-solving skills (neither will seek to solve problems but rather facilitate an individual’s learning and growth).
  • Both coaching and mentoring require a commitment from all parties to succeed (a person cannot be successfully coached or mentored if they are unwilling to engage).

So, what are the differences between coaching and mentoring?

The table below lays out the main differences:

Mentoring(Executive) coaching
Ongoing relationship – typically 18-24 monthsGenerally time-limited
More informalGenerally structured and scheduled
Mentor usually more experienced, often in same organisation/fieldCoach often does not have direct experience of client's role
Mentoring revolves more around developing mentee professionallyCoaching revolves more around specific development areas/issues

The significant difference is that the mentor shares their knowledge, skills and experience that are relevant to the professional development of the individual. The coach does not usually need knowledge or experience of the individual’s field of expertise, when engaging the individual in an identified area of development.

Notwithstanding this, and for the purpose of our College, it would be good to recognise the common skill set in coaching and mentoring…

Thinking about what we each would do as a coach or mentor:

  • Create a trusted space.
  • Promote honesty and openness.
  • Be an active listener.
  • Encourage confidence and self-reliance.
  • Gently guide and advise in a non-judgmental manner.
  • Help realise potential.
  • Act in the best interest of the others.
  • Learn something about ourselves in the process.

All this is familiar territory for a psychiatrist! We know how to ‘listen’ – make eye contact, ask questions that promote discovery and insight, observe non-verbal cues, empathise, help to see things in a different light and make suggestions tactfully. And of course, this works both ways, for the coach/mentor and the individual.

Which begs the question: Is the conventional distinction that is made between ‘coaching’ and ‘mentoring’ relevant to our College requirement?

Please click on the next two sub-headings to learn more.

We invite psychiatrists to realise their ‘inner mentor’… or ‘inner coach’!

Psychiatrists are peers in the same field of professional expertise, so in terms of mentoring, it should become second nature to be able to share knowledge and experience to assist our peers who are preparing for a new role or a future role, new to an organisation, learning ‘how to get things done’ or understanding the ‘language and culture’ of mental healthcare working environments.

As peers, we can introduce key contacts in clinical, academic and management settings and advise on ‘macro’ matters such as organisational strategy, policies and clinical governance. Seniority should only matter in terms of knowledge and experience, not necessarily age or job status in the organisation. Rather than rigid and labour-intensive mentor-mentee matching schemes (that do operate in many healthcare organisations), some have learned to shift towards adapting existing groupings:

  • Informal departmental or sector/catchment peer groupings ensure that newbie consultants are ‘shown the ropes’! Help learning about ‘how to get things done’.
  • Trainee peer mentoring groups, where more experienced trainees share what they are learning on the job with trainees starting out in the profession.
  • Some consultants and SAS psychiatrists have learned to shift towards harnessing our mandatory CPD peer groups for mutual peer support.

As to coaching in our profession – in terms of what special training is required, there is more practical utility in building on the relational skills-set that College members – as psychiatrists – already have (or are developing, in the case of early-stage trainees and SAS doctors). Coaching skills are already in general use across our profession:

  • How to give evidence at First-Tier Tribunal
  • Induction of new colleague – ‘show and tell’ IT
  • Consultants coaching their SAS doctor colleagues about CESR portfolio submission
  • Interview preparation for Consultant job
  • Coaching trainees for mock OSCEs.

Typical of coaching in all these examples is the structured and time-limited support for a psychiatrist who is facing a specific challenge or has a development goal relating to immediate skills acquisition or their performance in their current role. The psychiatrist is capable, but may need support to reflect and learn, to improve in their current role.

Dr Carol Quinn (MRCPsych, PhD, BA (Hons)

Dr Carol Quinn is a consultant old age psychiatrist working in NHS Scotland and member of the RCPsych Scottish Workforce and Careers Committee. Carol sits on the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) Guideline Development Working Group on Assessment, diagnosis, care and support for people with Dementia and their Carers, due for publication in late 2023.

Prior to a career in medicine, Carol was a lecturer at the University of Glasgow in the School of Business and Management. Carol has a PhD (2001) in Human Resource Management, and she has published internationally in the areas of work organisation, working practices, workplace wellbeing, emotional labour and violence at work (nee Boyd).

Carol joined the RCPsych Coaching and Mentoring group because of her specialist interest in raising the profile, accessibility and inclusivity of coaching and mentoring for psychiatrists at all grades and at any stage of their careers.

Find out more about Carol on Orcid

Dr Hasanen Al-Taiar (MBChB MRCPsych SFHEA)

Dr Hasanen Al-Taiar is a consultant forensic psychiatrist in Oxford Health NHS Trust and is a senior member of the Higher Education Academy (SFHEA). He is a RCPsych CASC examiner. He chairs the England South Section 12 Approvals Panel. He works in a secure unit in Oxford providing specialist mental health care for forensic inpatients.

Hasanen is a clinical tutor at Oxford University Department of Psychiatry and is an Associate Oxford University Medical Education Fellow. His work has been cited on the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

Hasanen is a member of the RCPsych Forensic Faculty and a medical member of the Mental Health Tribunal service. Hasanen is keen on raising the morale of the medical body and advocate their views in the organisation.

Dr Joan Rutherford (FRCPsych)

Joan Rutherford was appointed as Chief Medical Member for the Mental Health Tribunal in the Ministry of Justice in 2010, a full-time post combining management with sitting as Medical Member of Tribunal hearings in England.

She is also an Honorary Consultant Psychiatrist with South London and the Maudsley NHS Trust, with a training role to improve experience of patients, clinicians and trainees at Tribunal hearings.

Joan was one of 25 women nominated to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Women and Mental Health SIG.

She has a longstanding interest in mentoring. Joan is an elected Member on the Adult Faculty Executive. Prior to 2010 she was Consultant Psychiatrist and Associate Medical Director at SW London & St George’s Trust.

Dr Gwen Collin (BSc, MBChB, MRCP, MRCPsych)

Dr Gwen Collin is a Higher Trainee in Adult Psychiatry in North, East, West Yorkshire. She is currently working in Leeds and York Partnership NHS Trust and is regional rep on the College Psychiatrists Trainee Committee.

She is keen on mentoring and coaching, having benefitted considerably from both herself; she currently coordinates a regional peer mentoring scheme for new higher trainees.

Gwen co-leads a Balint Group for Foundation Doctors in Leeds. She works part time, spending the rest of her time running after her small children, but when she gets the chance loves reading, singing and walking in beautiful Yorkshire.

Dr Jeeano Paul (MBBS, BSc (Hons), MRCPsych)

Dr Jeeano Paul

Dr Jeeano Paul is a Specialty Doctor working in Adult and Old Age Liaison Psychiatry in East London, and is soon to pursue dual training in General and Older Adult Psychiatry in North East London.

He advocates for coaching and mentoring both within the medical profession and also outside of it, with particular interest in BAME inclusion within coaching and mentoring initiatives. He has benefited from being mentored and is keen to further develop his own coaching and mentorship skills, as well as to improve its accessibility.

Jeeano can often be found travelling in various countries around the world when he is not at work, though if he is back in England, he is likely cheering on his football team, having a go at some gardening and taste-testing his wife’s baking.

Dr Jeya Balakrishna (MBBS, FRCPsych, LLM)

A clinician of 36 years, Jeya is a consultant forensic psychiatrist in Defence Primary Healthcare, Ministry of Defence, looking after British Forces since 2013.

An infantry medical officer prior to psychiatric training at St George’s, SW London, Jeya has been clinical director of NHS forensic services, medical director in the independent sector, delivered team coaching in the National Clinical Governance Support Team (headed by the Deputy CMO NHS England) across many NHS trusts, and worked in corporate management consultancy.

Teaching trainees on S12 courses at Springfield Hospital, London keeps him on his CPD toes, while sitting on the Executives of the Adult and Child and Adolescent Faculties plus the Leadership and Management Committee keeps him grounded in clinical care. Wife and three grown-up children encourage him to exercise briskly, but he prefers yoga to walking!

Dr Emily Jackson (MB Bch Bao, MRCPsych)

Dr Emily Jackson is a Higher Trainee in Adult Psychiatry in the Northern Deanery. She is currently working in Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Trust and is a regional representative on the College Psychiatrists Trainee Committee.

She has a particular interest in widening access to mentoring and coaching for psychiatrists in any career stage.

When not at work, you can find her out walking her springer spaniel Maple or reading a good book. 


Gwen Collin, ST6 in Leeds training in General Adult Psychiatry, shares her positive experience of peer mentoring amongst trainees in Leeds. Whether 1-2-1 or in groups, this is a simple and effective model for trainees with experience and knowledge to share insights with fellow trainees arriving in the training scheme. Dr Collin presented this to the Divisional Coaching & Mentoring conference ‘Doing do-able jobs’ on 11 Oct 2023. Hosted online by the West Midlands and the Northern & Yorkshire Divisions. 

Associate Registrar Jeya Balakrishna chats with Billy Boland, College Trustee and Executive Medical Director of SW London & St George’s NHS Trust. In a warm exchange of ideas and experiences, much wisdom and insight flows from two former work colleagues in community psychiatry who also sat together on the General Adult Faculty Executive.

Read more to receive further information regarding a career in psychiatry