A Coaching Model Created by Charlene Moynihan
(Ability Coach, UNITED STATES)
According to CDC data from 2017, 61 million adults in the United States live with a disability; that’s 26% or 1 in 4. Affordableinsurance.com states that more than 375,000 Americans become totally disabled every year and 8 million have some disability that limits or prevents them from working. They go on to say that a 35-year-old has a 50 percent chance of becoming disabled for 90 days or longer before age 65. About 30 percent of Americans ages 35-65 will suffer a disability lasting at least 90 days during their working careers. About one in seven people ages 35-65 can expect to become disabled for five years or longer. The figures on disability are daunting. One would think that with this many people experiencing disabilities that the coaching industry would be quite busy with this population.
In the 44 years I spent working with individuals with a wide variety of disabilities, not once did I come across someone who had been offered and accessed coaching services following an acquired disability. There was no shortage of other services such as speech and language therapy, occupational and physical therapies, rehabilitation services, vocational education, psychiatric and psychological services, and medical/pharmacological therapies. All these services are aimed at returning an individual to his/her optimal level of functioning. All of these services, though extremely valuable and necessary, fit into what I (and others) refer to as the required medical/rehabilitative protocol. It is simply a plan for correct conduct and procedures for medical/rehabilitative treatment following an illness or injury. What one should do to achieve the optimal level of functioning. Despite these disciplines having very specific goals and desirable outcomes, these are not self-chosen goals. They are what is dished onto the plate and because we want to be sustained, we eat.
It is quite easy for one who is recovering from illness and/or injury to lose all sense of control over his/her life. In the process of recovering from an injury and/or illness (that at times leaves behind some level of disability), one can become so caught up in that required medical/rehabilitative protocol that one loses sight of the part of us that might want/need to be otherwise focused. The part of us that might be tired of being the “patient” recipient of necessary care who has lost much in the way of self-determination. Why not nurture the self while healing the body? Why not help individuals to return to a balanced life where not all goals are established and actions taken by others on the patient’s behalf?
In search of support for my assertions, I found little evidence. I found but one paper that dealt with coaching and acquired disability. The research was done by Dr. Ivan Traina and the paper was called, “Life Coaching: A Method for Enhancing Patients’ Emancipation.” It presents a case study testing Life Coaching as a means of“fostering emancipation in vulnerable groups”; adult patients with Multiple Sclerosis. What struck me in this research was this, “The lessons learned provides empirical insights on the implications for the implementation of non-medical methods that could allow a shift from a situation of passivity (patient care) to a new one of participation to the definition of new objectives or projects of life (active citizenship).”
The research was conducted in a medical setting with three voluntary participants who had been appropriately screened for their ability to participate and benefit from coaching. Participants demonstrated motivation to reach goals by actions to bring about change that was not directly related to their disease but rather to improve their overall life situation. Outcomes included:
- greater self-determination;
- renewing desire to plan new life objectives;
- facing change with greater self-confidence;
- improved interpersonal relationships;
- enhanced accountability;
- increased emancipation for improving the quality of life.
This is a brief and simplified summary of the research and represents only a small sample of the disabled community. More research must be done to support the use of coaching as a means of helping individuals experiencing acquired disabilities to focus on their new goals and abilities.
Adaptability; an ability or willingness to change to suit different conditions. – Cambridge Dictionary
I am an Ability Coach. I work with those having acquired disability and those who have a similar relationship to acquired disability. I have long known that
the ability to adapt to a world full of change and challenge is of tremendous value. Adjustment to an acquired disability may be challenging but one can arrive at a place where adaptation leads to newfound abilities. It is a journey well worth taking.
I chose to work with the word adaptability because it captures the essence of my coaching process. The acronym A.D.A.P.T. outlines the elements of the coaching session. As clients participate in a self-determined manner, they learn about themselves, their situation, and design a plan(s) to achieve the goals they desire. I take this journey with them for the sole purpose of illuminating that which may not be clear, asking the questions they may not have thought to ask themselves, and challenging each to clarify their thoughts, feelings, values, and intentions. It is they who will determine where this process leads.
Adaptation is a profound process. Means you figure out how to thrive in the world. ~ John Laroche
A = Aim…it all begins with a goal…the aim.
We all have goals we wish to accomplish; some lofty and some smaller yet no less important. Some are easily expressed and others more evasive. If a coaching session is to be meaningful, the coach and client must be clear about the goal, the desired outcome. The role of the coach is to understand (from the client’s perspective) how best to take aim at his/her goal and what it would mean to hit that target. Using archery as an example, the proper aim is the way to hit a target. As we all know targets have a bullseye in the center with color-coded rings radiating from the center allowing a measure of accuracy. Not every client is aiming for the bullseye and each client will address the target differently. It is the coach’s role to keep the target within view and stay the course unless the client elects to change his/her aim.
- What is the aim/goal?
- What is it that makes the goal important now?
- What does the client want the outcome of the session to be?
- How will the coach and client know when the goal has been achieved?
D = Determine…the elements that impact goal achievement.
The aim has been taken toward the targeted goal. The coach must now partner with the client to determine what is needed to hit that target and achieve the goal. This is the inquiry. How the coach comes to understand the client, his/her view of the situation, and what resources he/she brings to it, and, what might yet be needed. Coach and client explore the elements of both the situation and the self that have the potential to impact goal achievement to facilitate learning.
- What are the options/possibilities?
- What are the available resources and how will they be applied?
- What are the challenges/obstacles and how will they be managed?
- What would the client need to know/learn/address/resolve to achieve the goal?
A = Awareness…the knowledge, the insights, and the learning.
When thoughts, feelings, and emotions present, the coach invites the client to pause and explore their meaning. For some, these things can be easily overlooked despite playing an important role in disrupting goal achievement. The question becomes how well are these thoughts, feelings, emotions serving him/her given the situation at hand, can they be reframed, and what can be learned about the self by exploring them?
- What supports the action/inaction?
- What are the feelings/emotions that drive the language/expressions/energy?
- What is the client learning about him/herself?
- What is the client learning about his/her situation?
P = Perception…through what lens does the client look upon him/herself and the world?
Other areas of exploration are the client’s thoughts on how the world works and how he/she fits into it. Thoughts, ideas, and beliefs formed many years ago may be working to unconsciously derail the journey toward goal achievement. It is the coach’s role to partner with the client to examine these underlying beliefs in terms of their current utility; once again, to facilitate the learning.
- What thoughts are brought about by the situation?
- What ideas/values/beliefs are held that might support the thought(s)?
- How do these ideas/values/beliefs support/undermine the achievement of the goal?
- What might need to change to achieve the goal?
T = Target…develop a strategy to hit the target.
This is how one aims for the target/goal. The steps that will be taken; how one addresses the target to hit their chosen mark. As important as discovering the best steps to take, the coach must explore with the client how the self-chosen steps will enable goal achievement. In the absence of this, all-important learning may not be fully realized.
- What action(s) will be taken to achieve the goal and when will they be taken?
- How will the action(s) help move the client towards the goal?
- How will you expect to feel once you’ve taken the action(s)?
- What is the learning and how will it be applied going forward?
- Has the desired outcome been achieved and what will be taken away from the session?
I work with those having acquired disabilities and those who have a similar relationship. This is where my experience and my passion lie. I have often wondered throughout my career what it was that made this community so special to me. It is resilience. Many people living with disabilities have learned to become adept at managing obstacles and adversity. Life has challenged them time and time again and many emerge on the other side of those challenges more resilient for having faced them.
Individuals having acquired disabilities can also learn to manage the challenges they find themselves facing. Truth be known, they can likely do it on their own with time just as those with innate disabilities have done. The value of coaching is to provide that other focus, the chance to shift from the required medical/rehabilitative protocol (whatever that may be) to a much broader focus on self-determined wants, needs, and desires. The transformation from “patient” to participant in their new lives sooner rather than later.