Executive Coaching and the Recovering Executive “What to do with a client that may have addiction issues”

This is a reprint in six parts of a webinar presented at the Global Coaching Conference on Oct 12.
I am Melissa Killeen, I have been a Recovery Coach for about 5 years. In this specialized field of recovery coaching, I work mostly with executives, entrepreneurs and family business owners that are recovering from addiction. I have two degrees in Organizational Dynamics and Executive Coaching from the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia, PA. I have used my years of training there to develop my book on recovery coaching, which will be published early in 2012.

This seminar will focus on coaching the executive that may have unrecognized addiction issues. Have you ever coached a distracted, uncontainable or procrastinating client? Why aren’t the things that usually work for a client not working for this specific client? Sometimes a client’s behavior is blamed on a boss, or perhaps client never completes their homework assignments because of family issues or perhaps the executive has a bottle in their bottom drawer. As a recovery coach, I hear these ‘reasons’ and a red flag goes up. Maybe the possibility that this client is an addict is something to consider.

What would be the clues? What kinds of things, either ways of behaviors, body language, talking traits, or other signs are evident?

In this presentation I will attempt to expand on these questions. I will cover the following:

1. Identify IF the addict exists
2. Help the addict/executive/coaching client build a plan for recovery
3. If the above has been accomplished, look around the coaching client at his/her surroundings. Is there collateral damage from the addiction?
4. Acknowledging change, conflict and collateral damage
5. Effectively dealing with change, conflict and collateral damage

Prior to starting, let me explain some of my techniques and terminology. When I use the term “addict” I am discussing the alcoholic, the drug addict, the sex addict, the gambler, the over eater, the compulsive spender, anyone that has a compulsive need to adjust their perceptions of reality with a mind altering behavior, or substance. It is easier and simpler to use the word ‘addict’ to describe all of these types of people. Also, I want to further describe the recovering individual. A person in recovery could have one week or twenty years, however, for those individuals in recovery, it is an accepted fact that the addict has just one day, today. I would prefer to work with a client that has some good clean time in recovery, but alas, that is not always possible. So, I will use mouth swab alcohol tests, I will cut hair for analysis and request to have the client take HIV and STD tests and I will request to see the test results. I search hotel rooms, offices and homes, popping up suspended ceilings, emptying dresser drawers, sticking my fingers into jars of hand cream, and emptying aspirin bottles looking for contraband. Why do I do this? Because it works, I have swabbed people that swear they haven’t taken a drink in 10 days, hair tests come back for drugs the person has never used, I have found pot, pills, coke, booze, pornography, cash, just about anything. I will do everything to ensure my client is doing their best at honesty as well as recovery. I know this may seem odd, but in my ‘niche’ of coaching, we see it as saving a life, as much as getting a good return on investment. In order to do this, it takes asking some very difficult questions

I. Identify IF the addict exists
The hardest thing that I have to deal with in recovery coaching is denial in the addict. Usually the denial has been perfected over many years. However, when they finally recognize they are an addict, dealing with the denial was nothing compared to helping them pick up the pieces and rebuild their life. Motivational Interviewing techniques help me to unlock the years of denial, and let the client pick up the pieces he/she chooses to pick up, in order to rebuild their lives.

To begin with the first meeting, as in all executive coaching contracts, an assessment is the first order of business. I use LIFO , Life Orientations Survey, but other recovery coaches may use MBTI, Enneagrams or Disc, whatever works for you. To identify characteristics of an addict, I go one step further. In the interviewing process, either before or after the behavioral or personality assessment, I ask the addict to tell me their story. Everything, from age 1 to the present time, including the first time they used or were abused. I request the story be written before our next meeting, I ask the client to read it to me as well as to forward me a written copy for my files. This story telling process was suggested by Carl Jung to Bill Wilson in 1932, when Bill W was first beginning AA. This concept has been around and working for quite a few years. Telling of one’s story builds trust. As the client reads his/her story I take notes. My familiarity with a multitude of addictions, I compile a series of questions to ask after I hear their story.

Some of my clients come directly from an extended stay at a treatment center, so the assessment for drugs/alcohol/compulsive behaviors and adverse childhood experiences has been made and I am usually privy (with client authorization) to the results. However, if I have been hired by an Employee Assistance Program, or been contracted directly by the client, after hearing their story, I will start with a series of questions. Depending on their answers, I branch out in several directions, drawing from the following assessments:
1. 12-questions from AA, 40 questions SLAA, and/or 20 questions from NA
2. Cognitive distortions survey
3. Annis, Schober and Kelly Interview
4. ACE- Adverse Childhood Experiences
During these questions, I decide whether I will give the entire assessment to the individual or just ask a few clarifying questions from the assessments.

In all assessments, I find there is a bit of overlap between addictions, life experiences and accompanied disorders, this is commonly called co-occurring disorders. One of the most frequent co-occurring disorders is ADD/ADHD. Coaching adults with ADD/ADHD has come into the forefront of life coaching recently. Let me take a moment here to define that I am NOT a coach for adults with ADD/ADHD. If ADD/ADHD presents itself as the most important problem for a client, not addiction, I suggest the individual seek help from a specialist. Often adults with ADD/ADHD will mask, or self medicate with drugs, alcohol or other compulsive behaviors to alleviate the pain of dealing with ADD/ADHD.
So, you might ask, how do I differentiate between addiction and ADD/ADHD?
I ask:
“Do you mask, or self medicate with drugs, alcohol or other compulsive behaviors to alleviate the pain of dealing with:
1. Physical and mental health problems
2. Work and financial difficulties.
3. Emotional difficulties
4. Disorganization and forgetfulness
The client’s answer to these straight forward questions will lead me further to my conclusions about the existence of any addiction.

This entry was posted in Addiction Recovery Posts and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.