Why psychosocial recovery coaching works

Posted: July 29, 2022
Last updated: November 10, 2023
Table of Contents

Life at the end of the tunnel – and how recovery coaching can get you there quicker

Years ago, after almost a decade of studying and working in mental health-related jobs, I was introduced to the idea of recovery from mental health conditions. I had never even imagined that recovery from mental health experiences, which for some people can be extremely debilitating, was even possible. You see, no one teaches in university that people recover from chronic and major depression, severe anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or similar conditions. No one ever bothered to mention that there was life, real living, after the diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder had taken up residence in the body and mind. It was shocking, enlightening, and inspiring all at once, when I realise that recovery from my own lived experience of mental health was not just possible, the evidence showed it was probable.  

Yes, recovery is probable

When I arrived in Australia in 2013, I took a job as a peer support worker with an organisation that said they used a ‘personal recovery model’ of practice to support people living with persistent mental health conditions to recover. Like many who first hear about personal recovery, I assumed that this was similar to the 12-step programs, and honestly, I wasn’t sure this approach was for me. Soon, I discovered how wrong this assumption was. Personal recovery was a completely new way of assisting people to break free from the mental health prison that often forms as a result of a diagnosis, treatment, and social isolation, but for many service providers. Along the way, I discovered that when clinicians and services help people with mental health conditions to explore and prioritise personal recovery, recovering from the disabling impacts of our conditions is not just possible, it’s entirely probable and recovery coaching gets us there quicker.  

What is personal recovery?

How do you know when you have achieved recovery and what does coaching have to do with supporting people with mental health? It seems there is no clear, consistent, and agreed-upon definition for Personal Recovery. Many organisations and services talk about the elements that help create environments for recovery to flourish, but if you were to survey a dozen organisations, you will find a dozen different statements. In fact, defining recovery has been such as challenge that many organisations haven’t even published on their websites or in their annual reports what they believe recovery involves. The most widely references definition of recovery was put forward in the 1990s by the service user movement. For the purpose of this article, I will use that summary: “[Recovery] is a way of living a satisfying, hopeful, and contributing life even with the limitations caused by illness. Recovery involves the development of new meaning and purpose in one’s life as one grows beyond the catastrophic effects of mental illness.” (Anthony, 1993) As you may be starting to see, mental health recovery is not a cure as much as it is reflecting on life post-diagnosis, with the outlook that people experiencing mental health conditions can make sense of their experience. That as the individual is on their recovery journey, they are seeking to create a life that is full of possibility, and is rewarding, while continuing to manage the day-to-day self-care.  

What does coaching involve?

Coaching isn’t a new method of helping people to grow and develop. Coaching has been around informally probably since humans first began roaming the Earth. More formal coaching has been underway as early as the 1940s, for example:
  • Executive coaching
  • Life coaching
  • Career coaching
  • Sports coaching
But coaching as we know it today really began in the 1960s and 1970s with the Human Potential Movement, which also brought about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs theory, and gave the world a new way of being in a client–clinician relationship with the Person-Centered Approach developed by Carl Rogers. Coaching is best defined as: “Unlocking people’s potential to maximise their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.” (Whitmore 2017).  

Recovery + Coaching

If we compare the definitions of recovery and coaching, we find that the two fit together beautifully. Recovery is concerned with people developing new meaning and purpose in order to live more ‘satisfying, hopeful and contributing lives’ while managing the impacts of their condition. Coaching seeks to assist people to develop ways (meaning and purpose) to access their inner potential (strengths and characteristics) to increase performance (contributing, satisfying, and hopeful lives).  

Vision, hope, control, and accountability

Recovery coaches, like any other coach, don’t teach coachees (people accessing coaching). Recovery coaches guide coachees on their own personal recovery journey of exploration of making meaning, changing meaning, understanding meaning, and shaping their life’s purpose. Recovery coaches facilitate healthy and positive environments where the coachee can safely explore their vision for their future, generate hope, exercise control, ownership, and accountability for the direction of their recovery journey.

If you want to find out more about Goal Coach’s recovery coaching can support you live a life beyond a mental health condition, book a free 15-minute chat with one of our friendly coaches

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