Although recovery coaching seems to be emerging only recently, it has been developing round the world since the millennium. It can expand the skill sets offered by provider organisations and individual practitioners, explains Anthony Eldridge-Rogers who gives an introduction and an exercise.
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“Recovery coaching was birthed to provide experience-based support for individuals and families across the stages of long-term recovery – spanning pre-recovery priming, recovery initiation and stabilisation, recovery maintenance, and enhanced quality of personal and family life in long-term recovery. No other existing helping role offers that type and span of support.” Bill White, July 2012
Recovery coaching seems to be only now emerging as a contributing force, as the field revises its approach to developing recovery. But it has been developing in places round the world since about 2000.
It has been discovered that, when coaching approaches are introduced to recovering people looking to build and develop change in their lives, they work. This should be no surprise. It is widely accepted and known that coaching as a relationship technology and approach works when proficiently practiced.
As White indicates in “experienced based support”, the main emergence of recovery coaching has been in the peer-to-peer support environment and movement which has existed for some time in mutual-aid organisations, as well as in developing recovery communities.
This is not the only place where recovery coaching has been developing. People who take coach training and who are either in recovery themselves or who are existing practitioners in the field have recognised the potential which coaching offers recovery. The development of recovery coaching skills and approaches sprang from these different contexts, but what has emerged is a clear common ground shared by all the key recovery coaching approaches.
RECOVERY COACHING OVERVIEW
The recovery coach’s primary focus is on coaching individuals and communities of people to develop and live meaningful, purposeful and fulfilling lives while initiating, building and developing recovery. The recovery coach and the person receiving coaching – the coachee – enter into a collaborative and designed relationship where the coach uses foundational and advanced coaching skills, principles and contexts to facilitate the coachee’s empowerment, transformation and development.
As this coaching occurs, the recovery coach does not promote or endorse a particular pathway or methodology that might lead to recovery. While there exists an active recovery coaching relationship, the coach is a partner in the person’s life journey, facilitating access to the person’s own inner human resources, as defined by the person themselves. The person receiving coaching is in charge of and provides the agenda for the coaching and they are seen as the experts in their own life.
The coachees’ progress in their lives and recovery is supported by developing awareness of their current choices, actions and responsibilities. The coaching always grounds in agreed actions with agreed accountability.
Recovery coaches do not work in isolation but develop and maintain relationships with other practitioners, peers and volunteers in the field and their community as referral and support resources for their coachees.
KEY CONCEPTS AND APPROACHES
Recovery comes from the person recovering. The key principle on which recovery coaches rest their practice is that recovery is something that is generated by the person looking for, or in recovery. This deep respect for an individual’s ability and resourcefulness in finding their own path to recovery lies at the heart of recovery coaching.
Recovery coaching is systemic. Recovery coaching recognises that recovery develops and takes place in series of relationships in a system or network. The coach works with their coachee to develop the coachee’s understanding of this system, its assets and debits and the risks it poses to their recovery.
Recovery Coaching always grounds in action and accountability. All recovery coaching sessions ground in agreed action that the coachee will take. The coach creates agreed accountability feedback with their coachees so that they have an external process by which to evaluate the consequences of actions taken, or not taken, on their own lives.
The agenda for a recovery coaching session always flows from the coachee.
Accessing resources. Recovery coaches can be an invaluable gateway to resources that may be practical – such as local meetings – or more general, conceptual, philosophical or educational. The emphasis is on coaching the coachee as they develop a relationship to and interact with these resources.
The recovery-coach relationship is consciously designed between coach and coachee. The emphasis is on the coachee’s needs and requirements. The solid and clear design of the relationship provides a strong container which, adjusted as and when the coachee and coach agree provides a robust and powerful place for the coachee to be present.
Recovery coaching is applicable across all models and approaches to recovery. As recovery coaches have no agenda other than to assist and support others to find and develop recovery, whatever that might be to the coachee, they work with whatever particular recovery pathway a coachee is developing at any given time.
Recovery Coaches are not experts in treatment nor are they offering it. Recovery coaching is an addition to the existing environment and should be seen as new combination of tools which performs a particular role and function outside of medical or therapeutic treatments but often in alliance with them.
What is its impact? People receiving recovery coaching report increased feelings of confidence in their approach to and experience of recovery, a deepening of their belief in their own existing and future capabilities and positive actions. Also reported are feelings of being respected and individuated, of not being cogs in a system or recipients of a programme of treatment. There is also an the increased sense of the possibility of self determination. The process and experience of being a recovery coach and receiving recovery coach training also instigates a ‘self coaching’ facility which impacts as much on the personal development of the recovery coaches as it does on the people they support.
FACTORS ENCOURAGING GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT OF RECOVERY COACHING
Widening the road to recovery. Recovery coaching offers a particular pathway of engagement for many people unable, unready and/or unwilling at a given time to engage with other pathways to recovery such as 12-step programmes, treatment programmes, spiritual pathways and so on. Significantly, recovery coaches are proving to be excellent first lines of engagement for people presenting with problems with misuse of substances or behaviours but who are far away from accepting an engagement with an addiction professional.
Recovery coaching is ‘sticky’ and ‘attractive’. Coaching skills and ways of approaching relationships rub off on other people. The non-judgment and acceptance which recovery coaches offer tends to be attractive to others as well.
Low barriers to entry. The ability to acquire and use recovery coaching skills requires no prior or particular educational or academic experience. Almost anyone can learn and practice them.
Immediate returns. As the skills and approaches which form foundational recovery coaching skills and principles are essentially already aligned to existing innate human behavioural tendencies, they are easily understood from almost the beginning of training. There is an almost immediate return on the investment made in learning them.
As many of us working to support recovery look for new and more effective ways forward, recovery coaching offers support for the further empowerment of people and communities at grassroots level. In addition, it can expand the skill sets being offered by service provision organisations and individual practitioners.
OCTOBER 2013 CONFERENCE
The first International Recovery Coaching Conference – IRCC – will take place in London on 1-2 October this year. Organised by the Foundation for Recovery Coaching CIC, details are at www.ircconference.com.
TWO RECOVERY COACHING EXERCISES TO START WITH
Relationship design. Ask you your client how happy they feel with the way your sessions go. Ask them if there is anything they would like more of in the session from you. If they cannot come up with anything, ask them if it is OK for you to make suggestions to get things going. If they say yes, offer some – such as more positive talk, more humour, more or less silence, more relaxation from you the practitioner or maybe they want you to encourage them more. See if they come up with more. Whatever they ask for or seem to want, providing you feel it is in your power, agree to give it to them. Tell them that at any time they want to change these things they can, simply by telling you. Tell them that, if they agree, you will check in with them from time to time about it.
Environment design. Do the same with the design of the environment in which you usually have your sessions as well as how you your and your client use it. Maybe stand, put chairs in different places, make it lighter/darker etc.
As a practitioner, notice what shifts in the session and in your client. Note what comes up from them and be curious about it. Revisit the designs as often as your client wants.
MEET THE AUTHOR – he plans to present on recovery coaching at the 10th UK/European Symposium on Addictive Disorders in London, 9-11 May 2013.
ANTHONY ELDRIDGE-ROGERS is the founder of Foundation for Recovery Coaching (FRC) and the IRCC conference. He is a recovery coach and trainer as well as a social entrepreneur. He has over 30 years’ experience of addiction recovery and runs a private executive recovery coaching practice as well as consulting in the US and Europe to support and develop recovery coaching. He will soon publish An Introduction to Recovery Coaching. He is a fellow of the RSA, a board member of Recovery Coaches International and lives in the UK and Italy.