The Ten Biggest Mistakes Made by Recovery and Life Coaches

“My client is at a standstill and cannot move forward. What shall I do?”

How many times have you heard this phrase? There are many reasons why clients can’t move forward with the goals they have set for themselves: fear, unrealistic plans, goals set to high, and one hundred other reasons. But the main reasons may be right in front of a coach’s nose.

Experienced colleagues in the field of recovery and life coaching have contributed common mistakes they once made when first starting their coaching careers; mistakes that can be happening to you today, or will happen as you grow in your profession.

This does not mean that you are a poor coach, but that you must constantly be on the lookout for simple mistakes or unproductive behaviors that may get in the way of a client moving forward on the agenda he has set for himself.

I have listed ten of the most common unproductive behaviors to look out for:

  1. Not using the 80/20 rule of coaching – 80% listening and 20% talking. This was my greatest mistake in that I thought I had read the client accurately and quickly launched into a lengthy assessment of a client’s situation. Wrong! If your voice is all you hear when coaching, you’re talking too much. It is the job of the coach to guide their clients to find their own answers. Listen 80% of the time; talk 20% of the time. That’s how good coaching happens.
  2. Interrupting the client – New coaches tend to interrupt their clients with a strong intent to assist or to meet their professional time schedule. Interrupting can only be therapeutically beneficial  when trying to get deeper clarification or when there is a clear discrepancy between what a client is saying and the exhibited behavior (“Wait, hold on. Last week you said…now this week you’re saying…explain to me what has transpired in one week?”) Other than that, interrupting the client blocks the coaching by not allowing the client to talk about particular issues that may be personally important to the client. Allowing clients to empty out their feelings is important in that it may allow the perceived problem to lose its power over them. Also, clients sometimes have few people in their lives that they can really talk to. Be one of those people for your client.
  3. Listening with judgment or an agenda – When coaches label or judge a client’s problem, they have lost their objectivity. Labeling a problem or judging on the coach’s part will undermine the trust that they have established and destroy the safe space they have created for their clients to share their true feelings.
  4. Giving advice – Your client often just needs to be heard. Remember the 80/20 rule. All coaching is an interactive process and you are a collaborative partner in that process. New coaches often feel that they have the perfectly logical and realistic answers for their client so they will give them advice by telling them what they think is best. A word of caution is warranted here. If you give advice or suggestions in any form, and if they don’t produce the results the client expected, you will be the one the client will blame for his or her dilemma.
  5. Not managing the ‘fixer’ in you –We may think we have the answers, but the answers must come from the client, not the coach. A cornerstone of coaching is that clients need to be active participants in their own recovery. To this end, a coach’s main job is to guide a client to success. Clients become participants in their own recovery when they are given the tools needed to challenge their thinking errors and beliefs, develop their own personalized paths or action plans, and seek out the appropriated resources in their community that can move their recovery in a forward motion. You are merely the collaborator…facilitator. Change is hard for everyone, but the changes will not be long-lasting if they are not initiated by the client.
  6. Not putting yourself in your client’s world – Seeing your clients’ lives from their perspective is the best way you can help them. Forcing your clients to adopt your perception of life, principles or beliefs is not an effective way of expressing empathy. Remember – you must take off your own shoes before you can walk in someone else’s shoes, sandals or flip-flops.
  7. Not watching or listening for subtle clues – Not listening intently or watching for small clues given by clients in their coaching sessions as to the changes they really want to make can prevent you from helping the client make any positive changes. Effective listening and observance will help the coach determine what feelings are really behind their client’s words.
  8. Not knowing the right questions to ask – Asking the right questions is key to any coaching and one reason why coach training is so important. Asking appropriate questions at the right time is critical to guiding your client to success. Coaches are guides and collaborators in helping their clients achieve their goals. If the clients want advice, they can talk to their best friend or their mother; they surely don’t need you!
  9. Imposes a diagnostic label to a problem – New coaches tend to want to put a problem neatly into a box by placing a diagnostic label to a client’s problem. Diagnostic labels are not always valid and for sure not useful in coaching. The use of diagnostic labeling increases stigma and does not aid in the coaching process and, in fact, has little or no impact on positive outcomes.
  10. Fear of failure as a professional coach – There are some fears common to beginning coaches: “How do I get clients? Will I know enough to be able to help them? Will I get enough clients to make enough money? What does it take to set up a practice?” Common fears such as these can be addressed through learning effective coaching strategies.

Addiction is a complex issue. There are experts around the nation debating whether addiction is physiological, mental, spiritual or even a social problem. And all are arguing that their solutions are the best.

I have news for them: the problems are all of the above. The issue here is that addictive behaviors are hard to overcome, but it is twice as hard to make it through recovery. It is the mental struggle of recovery that is the most difficult and is something that recovering clients cannot do on their own without a little self-examination, appropriate training, and support. That is what recovery coaches do.

Finding success as a coach doesn’t just happen…it is learned. Life transformation requires proven skills, materials and evidence-based content that will quickly jump-start your confidence in your ability to coach persons recovering from any addictive disorders.

Learn to transform lives by becoming a Certified Recovery Coach today!