The practice of Recovery & Wellness Coaching rests on 4 principles.
Principle Number 1 is “Recovery and Wellness always comes from the person”. Recovery and Wellness Coaches work with their clients to support them in changing themselves and their lives in pursuit of the person they are coaching’s idea and vision of their lives lived in recovery and wellness.
We see Recovery as a process and individually created context that starts from the moment a person makes a statement of intent to themselves to Recover from something. In working with many people over the years there always seems to be, or have been, a moment that when they decided that something important had to change in their lives around a health or behaviour challenge, that they wanted something to be different.
These moments, usually remembered by people, often vividly, signal a wish for something important to be different for them. It surfaces from the person as a result of their life force and awareness of their current circumstance. This moment of awareness is often stimulated to occur. It may be diagnosis by a medical practitioner, a crisis resulting in an extreme shift in circumstance (getting arrested for example, losing use of a limb or faculty, homelessness, loss, poverty, divorce) or a shift in emotion, the experience of loneliness over time, communication with another human being.
It seems many many people experience a moment of personal epiphany, an often described ‘moment of clarity which they will mark as the time in their lives they started to think about and start a recovery to wellness journey. Sometimes there will be a few moments of clarity, of realisation that something needs to change, sometimes over many weeks, months or years. Once this spark has become present then the potential exists for it to become a context and experiential process for their lives. How successful it will be for them will depend on many factors.
There is a profound reason why this principle is such a powerful guide to working with people searching for or in recovery and wellness and is a primary basis for our work. It reminds coaches (and Recovery Orientated practitioners) that they do not know what recovery and wellness actually is for a person and cannot also say exactly how it may be initiated, developed and maintained. The coach may have ideas or opinions on how it may be done, based on other peoples or their own experience, but they cannot actually generate recovery for someone from these ideas and opinions.
If one human being could, without fail, know how to create recovery and wellness in another person then I would not be writing this blog and people would not have any healthcare challenges that lasted more than the time it would take to get them seated in front of such an expert.
What coaches do, using the skills, experience and resources they have, is generate, with the agreement and active participation of their client, a Recovery and Wellness Coaching relationship. This relationship is full of possibility but a key focus is creating hope for their clients; that the change the client seeks may well be possible; that others have done it and that they too can find a way.
Where the coach holds the line is in holding back from telling their clients what the actual detail of the path is for their client. This is not to mean that coaches don’t talk with their clients about pathways to recovery and wellness, options for treatment, how to manage the process, how to develop support structures, how to manage employment issues and so on. They do. But they do it within the idea that the defining and final decisions about how to delve into all the options are selected and chosen by the client. This is their process and journey and they are going to be the experts in its development because they are experts on themselves.
For the actual process of recovery and wellness creation belongs to and is the clients to design and investigate with the support of their coach. It may well involve seeking treatment or treatments. It may not. This comes as a surprise to many people. The idea that a treatment is not necessarily the part or indeed a key component of a person’s recovery. But across the recovery and wellness coaching specialities there are many contexts where treatment was not primary to recovery.
Very few treatments for challenging healthcare conditions are 100% successful. They can be successful if certain conditions occur. And certainly some conditions are so routinely successfully treated that we don’t consider being diagnosed with them as a big deal. If we think of the 6 main Recovery and Wellness Coaching healthcare challenges that coaches work with (Substance & Behaviour Misuse / Addiction, Diabetes, Cancer, Veteran/PTSD, Mental Health, Gambling) we know that in some cases people are successfully treated within a recovery process but the likelihood of that success being ongoing is influenced by the person themselves through a wide variety of personal characteristics and behaviours. Attitudes, resources, both physical and human, their community and their network of support.
For fulfilling lives to be experienced more than a treatment or treatments is required. In the case of many of the areas of speciality mentioned above recovery is started, developed and maintained without any treatment. What people can do is seek treatment for a condition within a recovery context. Treatment may be successful in so far as it solves the healthcare challenge and the recovery process can mature quickly after a successful treatment but this does not take away from the idea that they are still in their own process. Thinking about this for a moment raises a few questions.
First is how does this apply to people who receive treatments for illness such as diabetes or cancer. Isn’t the recovery coming from the treatment? And in the case of complex behavioural challenges like gambling and substance misuse isn’t the recovery being generated by perhaps medical treatment involving drugs or perhaps therapies such as CBT or Psychotherapy? The answer lies in the language. Treatment is not recovery. It is a part of a recovery to wellness continuum or process.
Treatment, while often close to the beginning of a recovery process can occur at any point in the continuum of recovery to wellness. Of course people receive treatments that don’t resolve the condition they are intended to resolve but this lack of efficacy does not necessarily mean a recovery to wellness process has ended for someone.
It means that other options can be explored with the client, that other ways of considering their idea of recovery can be investigated and generated. So coaches focus on environment; creating a relationship space with their clients where the recovery and wellness process is more likely to emerge, grow and deepen from the person they are coaching.
How a coach does that is part of the art and skill of coaching which I will write about in other blogs at www.recoveryandwellnessblog.com.
Anthony Eldridge-Rogers and Gladeana McMahon will be facilitating Integrating Human Health within the Executive Coaching Role - Introduction to Executive Recovery and Wellness Coaching Workshop on 21 November 2016.