How do you treat people? Where do you fall within the Spectrum of Attitudes?
In the late 1980’s, Bill Lofquist, well known for his work in the prevention field, developed the Spectrum of Attitudes in relation to youth development. He theorized that adults could treat youth in three ways.
- Object – young people have nothing (or little) to contribute.
- Recipient – young people need to be guided through their participation in society.
- Resource – the contributions of young people are vital, welcomed and valued.
The CCAR Recovery Coach Academy© applies this concept for recovery coaches working with people in early recovery. This is foundational to our craft. The more we treat recoverees as resources the more effective we will be.
Let me illustrate. In the spirit of vulnerability I will reveal my personal pathway of recovery. When I’m training I make these statements and take a step sideways with each declaration.
- Abstinence is the foundation on which I have built my recovery.
- I believe in the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.
- I believe in attending recovery meetings (I’d like to go more often than I do).
- I seek my Higher Power every day.
- My Higher Power is my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Then I ask a question.
“As a recovery coach, if I insisted every recoveree follow this precise path, how effective would I be?”
Not very. It might work for a subset of the population. What the success rate would be is up for debate. Plus, if I insisted that people I coached follow this path then how am I treating them?
Like an object.
It means I believe I know best and the recoveree has nothing (or very little) to contribute. Do as I say. Period. It means that I am not open to multiple pathways of recovery (a topic for another blog). It means my thinking and my perspective has become myopic.
People are treated like objects all the time, aren’t they?
I ask people when and where have you been treated like an object? They respond.
“In schools. In doctor’s offices. In prisons. In treatment programs. At church. At work. At home.”
How did it feel? Most people express that being treated like an object does not feel good.
“Controlled. Devalued. Powerless. No choice. Degraded. Abused. Voiceless. Stupid.”
Recovery coaches slip into treating recoverees like objects when they…
- Insist a recoveree remain abstinent.
- Do not believe the idea “you are in recovery when you say you are”.
- Can not support multiple pathways of recovery.
- Talk too much about their personal recovery process.
- Talk too much.
- Tell recoverees what recovery support they should attend.
- Anytime the word “should” spills out.
- Judge recoverees when it comes to lifestyle choices.
There are many other examples, but hopefully you get the idea. On the other end of the continuum, we know what it’s like to be treated like resources. It’s quite empowering, isn’t it? As a recovery coach I believe the recoveree is the best resource on his or her recovery. That is not a popular position, especially within systems of medical and addiction treatment.
I practice this perspective through a few simple skills. I am curious. I listen. I ask good questions. I manage my stuff. I am simply, yet profoundly, present. Often recovery coaches relay to me that our one “go to” question inspires people to pursue recovery. This one question can flip people from feeling discouraged (an object) to hopeful of recovery (resource). What is that question?
“How can I help you with your recovery today?”
Phil “Right Click” Valentine
Recovery established 12.28.87
In 2015, I finished a thruhike of the entire Appalachian Trail, a trek of 2,189.2 miles. It took 189 days and 6 pairs of boots. During all that time alone with my Creator, my purpose in life became more precisely defined. I am, simply, to coach recovery. Recovery saved me from an early demise and brought purpose to my tattered life. I have learned that I’m a coach to my very core. I am blessed to put the two together. I started work at the Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery (CCAR) in 1999. I became the Executive Director of this recovery community organization in 2004. I have trained the CCAR Recovery Coach Academy© dozens of times and have a hand in modifying, improving and adapting various recovery coach curricula. I’m old enough now to start considering my legacy. This is a way for me to share things I have learned in my recovery, in my role as Executive Director and a trainer. I find that when I speak I present the same messages over and over. It’s time to write them down.