My First Meeting with a Client

Melissa Killeen

Melissa Killeen

I know every client is nervous, unsure, and very vulnerable when they first meet their recovery coach. A typical client has just been discharged from an inpatient treatment center. It may have been the outpatient coordinator that suggested the client work with a recovery coach. Or maybe it was the therapist that the client employed after discharge. A coach can be there for a client during this incredibly difficult time. Of the clients discharged from rehab, 80% relapse in the first year. Of this number, 30% relapse in the first month. Those are some distressing numbers.

Not every client can walk into an AA or NA meeting and select a sponsor. Many have to wait a week before they even see their therapist for the first time or move into an Intensive Outpatient Program. Wouldn’t it be nice if someone was there to support this client as they move from the safe environment of an inpatient treatment center back to the very scary environment that they may blame for sending them to treatment in the first place.

My first meeting with a client is focused on establishing trust. Yes, hoping the client has trust in me as a coach, but also for me to establish the level of trust I have in that client. I ask the client to tell me the story of when they first picked up a drug or drink. I ask them their first childhood memory. We talk about expectations, and deliverables. How they think coaching will help them, and what I expect of them.

Many of those expectations are the business side of the recovery coaching relationship. For example: Don’t be late for an appointment; if they miss an appointment they pay for it. Other expectations are stated to establish firm boundaries, such as every face-to-face meeting I have with them will include a toxicology screen. The client must email or text me every day and call me when they are scheduled to call since the client has prepaid for this. I also lay out the ramifications if the client slips. I ask them outright what they think will happen if they slip.  Every client thinks I’ll drop them, cold, if they slip. I tell them that a slip is a learning experience and research shows that everyone will slip. But it is the full blown relapse we want to avoid. That’s why I will stick with the client through thick and thin. Asking, what have they learned? How will they change? Next time, what will they do differently?

After the tox screen I give the new client a Life Orientations Survey, which is a behavioral analysis. This is so I have a sense of what kind of behavior the client will display. I also request a spouse or partner take the survey. I request that the spouse take this behavioral survey so I can coach the client on how to deliver messages to the spouse in a way that the spouse can hear them.

After finishing up the negotiations on the monthly schedule and fees, I usually exit within an hour or an hour-and-fifteen minutes with a check for prepayment of next month’s coaching engagement.

If you are interested in purchasing Melissa Killeen’s new book, click below.

Recovery Coaching
A Guide to Coaching People in Recovery from Addictions


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