In Eating Disorder Recovery Coach
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The Emerging Role of the Recovery Coach – How To Choose?

Eating Disorder Coaches are in high demand as the emerging adjunct to recovery is becoming more well-known. It has been so amazing to be a part of and witness. I feel fortunate that I started my practice just as the field was beginning to be recognized (in 2016, ten years after my own recovery). At that time, there was still a steep learning curve and even some aversion to the idea that someone could be fully recovered themselves and now help others with coaching. I had many conversations with parents, therapists, registered dietitians, and even treatment center representatives back then, explaining my role as a coach.

Now that it has caught fire, especially nationally, many therapists recommend that their clients seek out a coach. With this growing recognition, the truth is, I often have a full schedule, sometimes even a waiting list. Being well connected and knowing many certified coaches, even acting as a mentor for some, continues to help me match recovery hopefuls when I am unable to help.

As the landscape of treatment is shifting, which is so promising, how do you know WHOM to choose? As in any field, there are differences in approaches, philosophies, skills, experience, education, business etiquette, and personalities. Today, this blog is dedicated to exploring this more!

First, the coaching industry is not regulated at this time, therefore no specific oversight by any dedicated agency. Second, almost all recovery coaches have struggled themselves with an eating disorder or has loved someone who has or currently is. That is from where much of the passion comes. However, someone could also literally roll out of bed one morning and decide they will be a coach out of pure passion.

If they are technically savvy, highly likable and not shy, they could easily brand themselves, on social media, for example. This is not to say they can’t help others in recovery, yet not having the proper training to work with eating disorders can do unintended harm. Like most mental health challenges, eating disorders are on a continuum. Plus, not everyone is the same. It takes education and skill to navigate each client’s uniqueness. One cannot simply apply what helped them in recovery (or a loved one) and assume that is the right recipe for all.

Please know that I have four recovery coaching certifications, a background in corporate leadership, including many decades of experience in team-building and coaching in varying degrees and capacities with many different kinds of people. I use all of this knowledge and experience in my work with clients, and their families, to help them discover food freedom and peace with their bodies – while embracing their strengths and story. Coaches come with all sorts of different tools and expertise. While I listed mine, others, such as Social Workers, Yoga Teachers, Nutritionists, Fitness Instructors, etc. bring other unique specialties and backgrounds that can also be quite helpful.

Nothing, however, prepared and helped me more to become an effective recovery coach than the Carolyn Costin Institute, especially Carolyn herself. If you don’t know who she is, just Google her. You will be amazed. I strongly recommend that, whether it is someone else or me, you seek out a CCI Certified Coach!! There are so many reasons why, but here are the top five:

  1. Carolyn vets each coach before being accepted into the CCI certification program, which includes ensuring to the best of her ability that the applicants meet a minimum of 2-years recovered, per her definition.
  2. The course is rigorous with educational modules and exams throughout which demand dedication to the program.
  3. There is a required internship with clinical supervision before one can be certified.
  4. To keep your certification active, you must complete ongoing continued education.
  5. Coaches literally learn from one of the best in the field- Carolyn.

Also, don’t be afraid to ask for a coach’s credentials, such as if and how they have been certified, how long they have been recovered, what helped them, what their philosophies are about food and body, and how they intend to help YOU.  You need to know these answers. And unless the coach has a certification from a course that requires months rather than weeks and includes an ongoing clinical supervisor, you should steer clear.

Once you feel comfortable with their background and individual story, the next step is…connection! I cannot emphasize this enough. Sure, it can take a little time to allow yourself to be vulnerable and feel comfortable. But, trust your instincts (part of the recovery journey, too)! Ask yourself, despite any resistance, fear, or ambivalence: Do I feel seen and understood? Can I connect?

A coach’s job, my job, is partially to build a relationship with you. One in which we work in the present – eating together, setting goals together, learning from difficult days together, interacting between sessions, and more. This connection is essential. And with so many coaches emerging, there is a match for you! Someone willing to jump into your story, be a role model, hold your hand and set an example with healthy boundaries.

It is an exciting time for change, embracing the significance of mental health and filling gaps in eating disorder recovery. As the collective, we are making great strides in being more accepting and understanding. However, we must also be wise and not assume preaching HAES (Health At Every Size), engaging in Body Positivity Wars and waving the eat all Food Fears Flag equals freedom for all. There is much more to recovery than just that, so finding the right, skilled, educated coach you can connect with, is important!

With love and light – Sarah Lee