As clients move from the basecamp, or the start of their upward journey to real and sustainable recovery, the coaching interventions and self-discovery exercises must move with them. The strategies and guidance will take on new navigational targets. The coach leads the journey to each new waypoint in the client’s improved conditioning, thinking, and emotional status.
Let’s start here:
The Early Phase
At the beginning, clients are hurting and they feel a sense of urgency to get going with their recovery, they want improvement quickly and often feel pressure from family, loved-ones, or others to produce a “magical turnaround”. This is most often caused by stress produced inside the substance user’s head. Reasonable people are not expecting overnight results.
Early on, even driven by their best intentions, many clients tend to be ambivalent about ending substance use all together. I’ve been doing this work for a very long time and fully expect clients to be rigid in their thinking and limited in their ability to solve problems at this early stage. Resistance is a challenge for an effective course of recovery coaching at this time. I’ve learned that the art of coaching clients in the early phase is the defeat of denial and resistance. Sharing collective emotional experiences are especially effective at this time. People with substance-use dependencies have often had adversarial relationships with people in authority.
My approach in the process of guiding movement through these challenges is sharing my own experiences. I remind clients that alcoholics and addicts are more alike in their histories and thought processes than they are different. Thus, understanding and self-assessment exercises are more easily accepted than general agreements about addiction in group therapy settings. Treatment center programs tend to lump all clients into a single category and use what I call “scatter gun” therapy to address everyone at the same time. Not effective.
The Middle Phase
People with addictions remain vulnerable during the middle phase of the recovery journey. Though cognitive capacity usually begins to return to normal, the mind can still play tricks. At times, clients may remember or even “romance” the familiar comfort of their past substance use. In many cases the brain disease of addiction can cause temporary “amnesia” about just how badly the consequences of substance use affected their lives and their families. Consequently, the temptation to relapse remains a concern.
An effective coaching program addresses triggers, urges, and cravings throughout the journey. Most importantly, clients must discover how to stop those cognitive distortions. People in their addictions spend a substantial amount of time isolated from healthy social groups. An effective coaching program guides clients to understand and appreciate a “culture of recovery”. An effective coach or “navigator” draws attention to positive developments. Providing structured waypoints along the journey for the client to access his or her own change is encouraging, empowering, and effective. Recognizing just how far they will have traveled by a certain waypoint in the journey to freedom affirms the possibility of increased connection with a new today, a new future, and new sources of satisfaction.
The Late Phase
In the late phase of a successful and well formed coaching program, clients often become stable enough to face situations that involve some conflict and facing emotional issues. In practice, process-oriented exercises and experienced guidance become critical for clients to finally confront painful realities without a drink or drug. An effective and thorough coaching program should include exercises and educational interventions. Step by step progress helps clients build a healthier marriage, communicate more effectively, and become better parents. As a result, real recovery helps clients develop new outlooks, attitudes, and behaviors that increase productivity in their vocations, become more accountable, grateful, and dedicated to family and community.
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The solution to the problem that likely landed you on this page is a simple one. However, full recovery requires a journey, one marked by some difficult twists and turns on the trail of self-discovery, honesty, and open-mindedness. The journey requires an experienced navigator. A guide that knows the landscape and the footholds along the way. The destination is what I call the “summit of recovery”, a place only reachable by a willing explorer with the appropriate tools and provisions for the journey.
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I will present more of what I know to be critical information for your consideration in the next blog. Stay tuned.
Next Week: “The “Musts” in Overcoming Alcoholism and Addiction.
Be safe and care for one another.
As a trained professional in the field of substance-use recovery, a practicing recovery coach, and more importantly, a person in successful recovery from addiction for over 26 years, I have some knowledge to share and lots of hope for anyone who’s ready for change.
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Asking for Medical Help
If you or someone you know exhibits withdrawal symptoms, psychological problems, or any signs of self-harming behavior, contact your medical professional, call 911, or reach out to SAMHSA’s National Helpline – 1-800-662-HELP (4357)