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James Gavin, PhD

Professor, Applied Human Sciences
Director Centre for Human Relations and Community Service

James Gavin, PhD
Phone: (514) 848-2424 ext. 2272

In his graduate studies at Syracuse University (MA) and New York University (PhD), Dr. Gavin held a U.S. Public Health Service Fellowship in Clinical Psychology, a Ford Foundation Fellowship addressing racial equity in employment testing and hiring processes, and an internship with Life Office Management Association in New York City where he helped develop behavioral science programs and selection processes for the North American life insurance industry. In the final year of his doctoral studies at New York University, he accepted a position as an organizational psychologist with American Airlines, Inc. Within a short time, he was promoted to Director – Behavioral Science Research. In this role he was extensively involved in major organizational change efforts throughout this 35,000-employee company, as well as being responsible for all psychological testing within the company. During this period, he led corporate efforts promoting equity in employment practices for such roles as flight attendants, ground service crews, and reservation agents. 

In 1971 he redirected his career by accepting a position as Assistant Professor of Psychology at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado. While at Colorado State University, Dr. Gavin undertook a respecialization in counseling psychology, involving extensive coursework, practica and a year-long post-doctoral internship at Children’s Psychiatric Center in New Jersey. As a result of this respecialization, he was able to expand his efforts in promoting positive change to multiple levels of human behavior - individual, group and organizational. A strong focus in these years centered on group and team dynamics. He trained in multiple modalities of group development, group therapy, and personal development. 

He became a licensed psychologist in the State of Colorado in 1974. He rose from Assistant to Full Professor in the Department of Psychology over the period of 1971-1980. His research during this time spanned the areas of stress, mental health, motivation, employee selection, organization development, and corporate social responsibility with a focus on such high stress occupations as public safety and underground mining.  In particular, he was responsible for a number of large-scale organizational change projects in Western U.S. mining organizations, based on the methodology of survey-guided feedback. As part of his attempt to understand the experience of underground miners, Dr. Gavin was permitted to work underground as an entry-level miner during parts of 1975 and 1978. The understanding he derived from his large interventions coupled with his personal experience as a laborer in an underground mine allowed him to write his highly acclaimed book, Organization Development in the Mining Industry, published by Praeger Press.

In 1980 he joined the Department of Applied Social Sciences (now Applied Human Sciences) at Concordia University as Full Professor. Here, he served as one of the principal architects of the Human Systems Intervention (HSI) graduate program where he continues to teach and guide the development of future organizational change agents. Over the past 25 years, Dr. Gavin has become keenly involved in studies and professional pursuits related to the new field of professional coaching. He holds certifications as a Master Certified Coach (MCC) from the International Coach Federation and as an Integral Master Coach (IMC) from Integral Coaching Canada. Along with his colleague, Dr. Madeleine Mcbrearty, he developed one of the finest coach certification programs in North America and has expanded the perspective of coaching from individual models to team coaching paradigms. He has published a number of books on professional coaching with his colleague, Dr. Mcbrearty. Most recently he published one of the most comprehensive textbooks on coaching, which extensively details the core elements and skills underlying the International Coach Federation’s 8 Core Coaching Competencies. Foundations of Professional Coaching (Human Kinetics, 2022) is thought to be a classic text in the field.

Dr. Gavin has also devoted considerable attention to the somatic basis for human development and personal change, with a particular focus on how everyday somatic practices can foster personal growth and human flourishing. He developed a unique model for person-activity matching that has been widely adopted across North America as a method for assisting individuals with adherence to active living regimens. In the current context, Dr. Gavin continues to publish in diverse venues with an emphasis on the practice boundaries of professional coaching and models for guiding coach-client processes. As well, his work expresses keen interest in the somatic education of professional coaches. He is a licensed psychologist in the Province of Quebec and a Master Certified Coach in the ICF. and he serves as the Director of the Centre for Human Relations and Community Studies at Concordia University. His long-term interests in the practices of aikido, iaido and yoga inform his professional work and research focus. His most important life project continues to evolve in his role as father of five amazing children. 

Research interests

Dynamics and models of personal and professional coaching

Distinguishing characteristics of counseling and coaching processes
Individual and systems change processes

Facilitation, group dynamics and team coaching

Personal development throughout the lifespan

Somatic bases for education in the helping professions.

Boundaries of practice in professional coaching

Teaching activities


AHSC 351

Basic Counselling Skills and Concepts

AHSC 610
Group Process Intervention

AHSC 685
Coaching Interventions and Processes

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