B. Available Treatments and Therapies
Several treatments and therapies used successfully to treat adult children are:
- Psychiatry and Psychology
- 12 Step Recovery
- Al-Anon for friends and families of alcoholics
- ACOA targeted for adult children of alcoholics and dysfunctional families
- CODA for co-dependents
- and coaching
1. Psychiatry and Psychology
Psychiatry and Psychology focus on the symptoms of pathology in personality and conduct. Some examples are: Behavioral Therapy, Rehabilitation, Group Therapy and Psychoanalysis.
2. 12 Step recovery
12 Step Recovery groups are a form of group therapy that emphasizes transpersonal or spiritual values in processes and guidelines. They are very effective as they offer support via fellowship, mentoring, and “a safe place” to share their experience, strength, and hope. These are worldwide organizations that offer meetings and are open to anyone identifying with the symptoms of growing up with addiction and dysfunction.
Coaching is not therapy, counseling or psychology. It is a new profession established less than twenty years ago. According to the International Coaching Federation (ICF), coaching is most prevalent in the U.S.A. followed by the United Kingdom, Japan, Canada, Australia, Singapore and New Zealand. The actual process of coaching should not be mistaken for a therapeutic intervention. Coaching is oriented towards goal setting and encourages the client to move forward. When the client has addressed past issues, is actively working a recovery program and/or receiving therapy, coaching supports them on their journey.
If used successfully, coaching will synthesize skills from other disciplines such as pedagogy, psychology, spirituality, philosophy, business and sports, formulating a distinct process of supporting others to create an ideal life.
A life coach is an advocate, a sounding board, a cheerleader, an accountability partner, a truth teller and a supporter.
Psychoanalysis researcher and author Judith Viorst states in Necessary Losses:
It is true that as long as we live we may keep repeating the patterns established in childhood. It is true that the present is powerfully shaped by the past. But it is also true that insight at any age keeps us from singing the same sad songs again.
This insight reinforces the idea that with the support of the coaching process the adult child can reframe their perspectives in a safe environment and use the tools provided to gain self-awareness and a more positive outlook in order to move forward with their lives.
This is especially important because adult children use survival traits developed in childhood to cope with their dysfunctional homes, and these defense mechanisms become stumbling blocks in their adult relationships. Coaching can provide the tools to help create awareness and support them in making lifechanging decisions, clarify values, give direction, acknowledge and encourage them in moving forward.
II. Reframing Perspectives through Power Tools
Perspective can be described as a point of view, a way of looking at or interpreting a particular set of events. The adult child in denial, for example, has been looking at the world through a particular lens or point of view. The pedagogical model in coaching suggests that the client’s perspective determines their experience in life, not their circumstances, i.e., adult children clients can choose to change their perspective at any time. With new information, adult children can change what they believe.
Thoughts and beliefs impact feelings and, eventually, behavior: if adult children think differently, they can hope to act differently. The quote “Opportunity is nowhere, Opportunity is here…” from How Al-Anon Works is a useful example of how one’s view on life and opportunities are indeed a matter of one’s subjective perspective.
Many coaching strategies, namely, “power tools”, can be applied in the coaching process. They can help the adult child see certain patterns of behavior that may be holding them back in their own recovery process. The following power tools developed by the International Coaching Academy (ICA) can be useful in eliciting adult children’s awareness of how to reframe their own perspectives:
A. Lightness vs. Significance
Significance is best described as a fixed idea and deeply held beliefs about what is right and wrong, true and false. Significance means that an individual may interpret what is happening in terms of his or her background. The adult child weighs him or herself down with all the above mentioned negative or automatic underlying beliefs, and learned behaviors. Adult children lose their perspective easily. Small obstacles can seem like crises to them and major problems can be overlooked.
Lightness is best described as the feeling that results from being unburdened after carrying heavy baggage for a time. Lightness can provide a feeling of freedom to adult children by unburdening them from negative patterns of self-judgment and allowing them to widen their perspective and act more spontaneously.
B. Responsibility vs. Blame
When adult children do not meet their own needs, they begin a pattern of blaming others for these unmet needs. Often the adult child’s legitimate needs or desires were not only unrecognized in their childhood, but many were shamed when expressing these needs. As adults, they remember such interactions and often re-experience the pain of being dismissed; therefore, they may be likely to avoid asking for what they need or accepting the legitimacy of their own needs.
When they stay in this pattern of blaming, they abdicate responsibility for meeting their own needs. When they can accept responsibility for their needs and the fulfillment of same, they choose freedom from blame and experience empowerment. Taking responsibility for their part in addressing these needs is a step toward positive behavior and appropriate self-care. When they find themselves blaming they always have the option to reframe their perspective, to change and alter their truth by choosing responsibility.
C. Responding vs. Reacting
Reacting is best described as an automated response. Because of their background, adult children doubt and blame themselves in a knee-jerk reaction that is predictable and consistent. They react instead of thinking about options and then acting or responding appropriately. To respond appropriately, adult children can learn to check in with themselves before reacting by staying in the present.
Being in the present means they cannot bring the past into that moment nor can they bring the reaction into that moment. By stopping the intrusion of the past into the present, adult children can begin the process of enjoying the present in their lives. This is possible as they learn to practice responding versus reacting as a way to reframe their perspective.
D. Respect vs. Invalidation
Judging is often a psychological projection on others which mirrors and/or invalidates self, and invalidation can be best described as negating expressions of self–respect or respect for others. Adult children are accustomed to judging themselves very harshly, and as a result judge others in the same way. Judging themselves harshly is often learned behavior from abusive and hypercritical parents.
Outer judgment expresses inner judgment. Similarly, real inward respect allows the establishment of real outward respect. The coaching process allows the adult child to view respect in an entirely different way. In Man and His Symbols, Carl Jung states:
Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart … Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.
In this way, reframing the inner perspective helps build self-respect, selfesteem and confidence.
By helping reframe perspectives one can be persuaded that coaching is a valuable support structure to adult children as clients. The process of coaching provides the adult child with a safe space to re-discover and empower themselves to change old patterns and establish healthier ones. Through selfawareness the adult child can take responsibility for their own lives, develop selfrespect, find their own truth, know what is important and learn to respond appropriately.
ACOA World Service Organization, Adult Children Alcoholic / Dysfunctional Families. First Ed. Rev. Torrance: ACOA World Service Organization, 2006.
Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., How Alanon Works for Families and Friends of Alcoholics. Virginia Beach: Alanon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., 1995.
“Coaching- what is it?” International Coach Academy, Pty. Ltd., iE-101-CWIT. 2010: 2.
Jung, C G., M. L. von Franz, J. L. Henderson, et al, Man and His Symbols. Garden City: Doubleday & Co., 1964.
“Lightness vs Significance.” International Coach Academy, Pty. Ltd., Module 305. 2010: 1-6.
“Respect vs Invalidation.” International Coach Academy, Pty. Ltd., Module 304. 2010: 1-4.
“Responding vs Reacting.” International Coach Academy, Pty. Ltd., Module 303. 2010: 1-4.
“Responsibility vs Blame.” International Coach Academy, Pty. Ltd., Module 302. 2010: 1-4.
Woititz, Janet G., Adult Children of Alcoholics., Exp. ed. Deerfield Beach: Health Communications, Inc., 1983.