This fourth principle of Recovery and Wellness Coaching is probably in some ways my favourite if I was asked to choose.
This principle is, in many ways, a paradox. It is a paradox in particular because it requires us to do two things simultaneously that seem to be contradictory.
Imagine you come to see me one day because you have got something going on in your life and you want someone to talk about it with. You arrive in the meeting place wherever that is and we sit down in front of each other, or alongside each other. As we start talking I’m pretty inquisitive and curious about you and I am trying to figure out what’s wrong exactly wrong with you. What’s not working? What can’t you do? What are your limitations? And as I’m looking at you, thinking and evaluating you are chatting and telling me what is going on, how you feel limited, unable to do something that you don’t have the resources for. And I am seeing all this incompleteness and probably my mind is already focusing on possible solutions. And once you stop talking I might just offer them to you.
Now let’s rerun the scenario and imagine the opposite. Imagine we arrive and meet up together and this time I’m not looking for what is incomplete, I’m looking for the opposite. Looking for what your resources are. I am looking for places where you are being successful in your life, looking and listening for the bits of you that have survived, achieved, succeeded and learned. I am looking for your strengths and those parts of you, your resources that you have at your disposal. Those pieces of your personality, character that have allowed you to live so far on this planet.
The first example is based in a deficit based model. This is the medical model. When you go to the doctor he wants to know what’s wrong. What’s not working the way you feel it should. The doctor is trained in this type of looking. Looking for disharmony, symptoms, where you are non-optimal functioning. Once they have been able to locate the causes or the reasons for the non-functioning they will, we hope, offer a solution in the form of a treatment. This treatment will come from them. After all they are the expert.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this. If I have an unexplained pain then or realise something is not working well then I will go to a doctor and expect this approach, even want it. I certainly would not go to the doctor to tell him just how well I am. Let him know that there is nothing wrong. The doctor assumes that because you are not in his office. If you are then he assumes there is a problem to solve.
Most helping professions are rooted in this model. Most of them are looking for the problem. Most of them are looking for the barrier to functioning. Once located, in their opinion, they will offer a solution. This solution may or may not work, much like some treatments from your doctor don’t work. The starting position though is one of looking not for completeness but for incompleteness and then applying a treatment.
Recovery and Wellness Coaching is rooted in an asset based wellness’ model. The essential starting point is that you are complete right now in the present moment. Note it does not say you are well right now in the present moment, nor does it say you do not have any challenges or problems in the present moment. But it says that where you are right now is complete. You may be suffering and you may want things to change but nevertheless the Recovery and Wellness Coach sees you as a complete person. They look for signs and evidence of that completeness. They look for resources and strengths and successes.
This is a profoundly elegant idea that we start looking for what is present. We are focussed on the mechanisms the energies and the abilities of the people we are coaching that are already present and available.
It can be challenging. Most of us accept without thinking that we live in a world where the point of departure is one of problem solving. Our cultures are orientated towards a threat and solution approach. Here is the problem, what can we do about it. This is not wrong but what it does do is generate a certain energy and emotional field. We carry this problem then fix it approach into our relationships. Many of us have a default position on this. Imagine a close friend calls you up and asks if they can urgently come around for a chat about something as they need some support. Most of us will expect them to turn up with a problem. What if they turn up with the opposite? Something really exciting and possibly life changing has happened to them and they want your support to celebrate it! This does happen of course but it is not our default position.
To be able to be with another human being and simply let them be present with you with all their assets can be difficult precisely because we are so attuned to looking for a problem to solve. But in fact coaches do not solve other people’s problems. They do not create Recovery or Wellness in people either. The first Principle tells us that. They do not offer them solutions and do not tell them how to live or what to do. Recovery and Wellness coaches are not the resources for the people they coach.
Recovery Coaches train themselves to hold the wellness, asset based position with their clients. This offers great rewards for both the client and the coach but can be challenging for both. Most people want to believe in their own capacity and strength but in reality are uncertain on how to access and grow it and who to ask them to assist with such a task.
The second part of this principle says that as we contemplate and hold the space for another person as complete in the present moment at the same time we know and are aware that they are changing. People are changing all the time. Who I was yesterday is not necessarily who I am today. At the very least I am one day closer to the end of my life and I will have learned something about myself whether I will realise it or not between yesterday and today.
Coaches need to be able to not fall asleep to their clients changing processes and life. They need to be able to be curious about what is different, what has changed, what is changing and what wants to change.
This fourth principle puts us in that place of seeing people as whole in the present moment but also aware that who they are becoming is happening right now in front of us.