What is Recovery Coaching? | Substance Abuse Treatment and Addiction Recovery by Leigh-Anne Brierley
What is Recovery Coaching?
I am a passionate advocate of the Coaching model as a path towards sustained sobriety and long-term recovery. However, recovery coaching is a new avenue in the aftercare of addiction treatment and many people are unfamiliar with the approach. When I introduce myself as a recovery coach, I often see that people are a little unsure about what it is that I do. So let me take a moment to talk about what recovery coaching is and its empowering approach to long-term abstinence and recovery. Recovery coaching operates within the wellness paradigm, and is not a form of addiction treatment. Addiction treatment generally takes place in treatment centres, under the supervision of medical and health professionals, and normally includes medical detox, therapy and counselling. As coaches we work with people who are well and are seeking alternatives to traditional post-treatment choices. Recovery coaching is not simply a new take on an older system, it is a revolutionary and empowering approach to aiding people in their recovery.
It’s about working in an accountable partnership with a coach to develop a personalised recovery plan. By focusing on long-term goals and developing short-term action plans to get there, clients are encouraged to follow their own truth on the road to recovery. It is not about telling, advising or leading. It’s about creating a safe space where the client can find the answers to their questions and then follow their own authentic road map to recovery. There are no prescribed steps that need to be followed and no right or wrong choices; each person is assisted in finding own way and each plan will vary according to the client who is developing it.
As a Recovery Coaches it is my job to support the choices that a client makes for their own recovery, after all we are the experts on ourselves. By helping identify and overcome internal and external obstacles blocking their path, challenging faulty thinking and assisting the development of new and productive thought and behaviour patterns, the client is supported in their recovery process. It’s a personal growth opportunity and it is undertaken in a forward-focused, solution-orientated way with clients becoming empowered to strive for long-term wellness. By building recovery capital in various areas of life, those in recovery strive for a richer, more balanced and holistic life. It’s an ever-changing, unmapped adventure, shifting and developing as we progress through the various stages of recovery.
What may only seem like a distant possibility in early recovery may become evermore achievable when one moves into middle-stage recovery. And when in late- or maintenance-stage this ideal may be assimilated into the person’s daily life, with focus having shifted to new goals or aspirations. The aim of Recovery Coaching is long-term, sustained abstinence from addictive substances and behaviours, but it does take into account that relapse is a reality in the process. Being aware that this can happen, clients are asked to identify personal triggers, internal and external obstacles and bring these elements into their conscious awareness, as a means to being more prepared and better-equipped to deal with them, and thereby minimise the effects that they will have on a potential relapse situation. Hunger, anger, loneliness and tiredness (H.A.L.T) are also important issues that should be addressed through the coaching process, because they too are potential relapse triggers that should be avoided (or minimised) as much as possible.
But if a lapse or relapse does occur then there is a plan in place to deal with this as effectively and quickly as possible. One that can help us move on, refocus on our long-term goals and get back on the road! It doesn’t advocate any fundamental weakness on the part of the person for relapsing and it doesn’t mean that the person isn’t committed to their recovery. It simply accepts that recovery is an on-going, dynamic process and that compounding on the guilt and shame that already exists does not help get over the relapse event. We are human and if we stumble in everyday life there is every chance that we are going to trip a couple of times in recovery. Rather than reverting back to active addiction, clients can choose to move forward from this point and not spend endless hours reliving the event.
Recovery Coaching is all about moving forward, focusing on what we want to achieve and how to get there. Rather than spending too much time revisiting the past over and over again, caught up in the stories of active addiction, it’s about taking steps to where clients want to go. In my mind it’s far more productive and empowering to look towards the outcome we are trying to achieve than constantly talking about where we went wrong and how terrible life was. Having made the decision to take control of one’s life, there is far more to be gained by putting one foot in front of the other, with our eyes fixed on the horizon. The past cannot be undone, but we can own our truth and become the navigators of our lives.