By Phil Valentine
CCAR Recovery Coaches wield two questions that have the power to alter perspectives, to change opinions, and to permanently affect the landscape of recovery coaching. We don't claim to have written them, or have discovered them. They are ancient. We present these questions in all our training offerings, discuss them in our staff meetings and consistently use them with striking effectiveness when coaching recovery. They are fundamental. They are foundational. They are powerful.
Are you curious? Have you guessed what they are? Here you go.
- How can I (we) help you with your recovery today?
- What does recovery look like for you?
I appreciate simplicity. As my sponsor is fond of saying, “simple does not mean shallow”. Let’s delve a little deeper into the two of these.
How can I (we) help you with your recovery today?
I can’t remember (not an uncommon occurrence for me lately) when I first heard or saw this question. I know we talked about it with other recovery community organizations at national meetings in the 2000’s. I first saw it prominently displayed in the Philadelphia Recovery Community Center run by PRO-ACT. That impressed me. I brought the idea to Connecticut. CCAR immediately printed banners for our three recovery community centers. The banner sets the tone and establishes a culture of recovery. When people walk in they know what to expect. When warmly greeted with this question, people respond in a variety of ways. Our purpose is then to follow the person’s lead and help in any way we can.
We don’t ask about current recovery status, drug of choice, physical health, mental health or any other condition… people are simply welcomed. Our focus is not on the pathology; our focus is on recovery from alcohol and other addiction. If the person requests help, we are all in.
When entering treatment for addiction, all kinds of paperwork need to be completed. Detailed, lengthy, comprehensive assessments are required. They concentrate on the past. Do you think this process may have the potential to embarrass and shame?
I’ve heard many times at the CCAR Recovery Coach Academy© that when they shifted their approach with their kids and asked this question, communication improved. Immediately.
When CCAR coaches talk to someone in the Emergency Department, this question is vastly different than what people are usually asked or told. It allows coaches to establish an immediate connection. It fosters trust. The person begins to understand that they are the best resource for their own recovery because we say this is “your” recovery, not mine. We are not going to tell a recoveree what they SHOULD do. We refuse to objectify people. The coach typically fortifies this approach by asking…
What does recovery look like for you?
This is an incredibly empowering notion.
Again, we are not telling a person what recovery SHOULD look like. Yes, we may have our own experience (and opinion), but as a recovery coach, our role is not to create disciples beholden to a particular pathway. We are there to “plant seeds of hope” through conversations that matter. Through our genuine curiosity we embrace where people are and emphasize possibilities and aspirations. We are prepared to respond with many different resources and options. Multiple pathways of recovery is no longer a grandiose idea in the recovery world, it is a reality. People are now experiencing recovery in many different ways.
Potential recoverees usually respond positively, especially when they understand that they won't take these steps alone – a recovery coach will travel alongside them.
Finally, the first questions focuses on the present while the second question centers on future possibility. There is minimal (or no) discussion on the past. They are hope-full. And as one of our CCAR Emergency Department Recovery Coaches likes to say…
“You may be hopeless right now, but you’re not helpless.”