Monday, May 16, 2011

From Lousy to Great: The Territory of Recovery Coaching

Posted on Monday, May 16, 2011 by International Coach Federation

Alida Schuyler
“Beth, ”a 19-year old who relapsed after in-patient treatment for alcohol, pot, and meth, was referred to me by a therapist. Beth was on medications for bi-polar and ADHD, lived with her mother, was unemployed, drinking and smoking pot, and had a history of cutting. Would I be willing to coach her?

Doesn’t sound like an ideal coaching client, does she? I saw a lot of red flags, and I’m a professional Recovery Coach. People call me when they know someone who needs help with recovery from addiction. I coach people to stop alcohol or other drugs using 12-step or other support, or to make a plan to cut back, or to go to treatment or not. I help people coming home from treatment stay on track and in recovery. The first time I talked to Beth she was scraping out a pot pipe, hoping to get a buzz.

We talked about the futility of getting high from pipe scrapings, and about choice and compulsion in regard to drugs, and set a time to talk about coaching. Neither was sure that coaching was a good idea: Beth already had a therapist and a psychiatrist, and I didn’t know if she was coachable.

Coachable or Not
Many coaches assume that those who abuse drugs are not coachable. For them coaching is about helping people get from good to great but not from lousy to great. They forget that addiction affects all levels of society and that there are both high and low functioning people who drink too much. How can a coach know whom to coach? By screening each prospective client.

An Actionable Goal
I asked Beth what she would most like to change about her life. Beth said that if she lived on her own, she’d feel better about her life. I asked what would make that possible. Beth said taking her own meds (without Mom’s help) and getting a job.

Since she was able to name an actionable goal, we discussed what was expected in coaching and she agreed to give it a try. I let her know I couldn’t coach her if she missed calls, came intoxicated, or did not benefit from coaching.

The Potential of Addicts
The ICF defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.” Addiction drastically interferes with potential. Those who resolve their addictions can move from lousy to great. Recovery Coaching helps that happen more quickly.

The Advanced Skills of Recovery Coaching
To coach addiction recovery clients effectively it is important to have advanced skills in increasing motivation and confidence. Low self-esteem is common, and motivation and confidence waver. Recovery Coaches must be effective at finding and leveraging strengths and be patient with those whose self-efficacy varies.

It is also important to be able to coach effectively all the way through change process from “Who me?” (denial) through “Yes, but” (contemplation) on to making a decision, and setting and carrying out recovery goals. Relapse is common in persons trying to change their habits with alcohol and other drugs, yet there is promising clinical evidence that coaching reduces relapse.

Developmental Coaching
Recovery Coaches must also coach to improve general development and awareness. People who lived in active addiction often have gaps. They may be very good on the job but a poor communicator at home. They may have great interpersonal skills but be lousy with money. Recovery Coaches work with clients to leverage their strengths while identifying and resolving struggles. We coach to increase awareness of choice and responsibility, to identify and meet needs, rather than turning to addictive substances when uncomfortable feelings come up.

Beth’s Progress Report
It took Beth a few months to get her on her feet and employed. Early coaching was about waking up and taking showers and going out the door. Within a year she was living on her own. Today Beth is a trusted and reliable employee. She has three years of sobriety in Alcoholics Anonymous. Last year she finished a yearlong massage school program. She still has a psychiatrist and a therapist and me, her Recovery Coach. In the past four years Beth moved from really lousy to pretty darn good, and I look forward to coaching her all the way to great now that she is solidly in addiction recovery.

Professional Recovery Coaches are highly trained coaches. We screen our clients for coachability and work with those who define actionable goals, who co-create the relationship, and benefit from coaching.

Next Steps
Send this article to your fellow coaches, to family members or those suffering from addiction. If you would like to refer to a Recovery Coach or learn more about Crossroads Coaching trainings contact Alida Schuyler at

Alida Schuyler (pronounced AL-ih-duh SKY-luhr) began coaching in 1997, graduated from Academy for Coach Training (now InviteChange) in 1999 and began training Recovery Coaches in 2003. She is co-founder of Recovery Coaches International and has an active practice based in Port Angeles, Washington.

No Response to "From Lousy to Great: The Territory of Recovery Coaching"

Leave A Reply

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.