Read an Excerpt
Empowering Youth with ADHD
Your Guide to Coaching Adolescents and Young Adults for Coaches, Parents, and Professionals
By Jodi Sleeper-Triplett
Specialty Press, Inc.Copyright © 2010 Jodi Sleeper-Triplett
All rights reserved.
Why Coaching for Adolescents and Young Adults?
When I meet people for the first time and tell them about coaching for adolescents, I sometimes get "the look." The look can consist of a crinkled nose, wide eyes, a furrowed brow, or a tilted head — any combination of facial expressions that convey a person's complete confusion, maybe even bewilderment. Sometimes the look is quickly followed by a "huh?" or the more polite, "That sounds nice. Um, remind me again — what is coaching?" As a relatively new field, coaching is still unknown to a fair number of people. In fact, many of the parents who speak with me say that they have heard of sports coaching but know nothing about this thing called life coaching. Those who do know of life coaching have only heard of it being used with adults. Coaching youth? That's a whole new idea to most people.
Thus, this chapter is dedicated to defining coaching for young people. It describes coaching for youth in a general sense, as well as within a context of supporting young people with ADHD. For readers who are keen on learning more about the coaching process and how it can be helpful to young people, this chapter offers definitions, insight, and clarification. For readers who know of coaching but are skeptical about its value for young people, this chapter reveals why and how coaching can be so useful to adolescents and young adults. For coaches already working with young people, this chapter provides information for self-education as well as for educating readers' current and future clients.
Coaching Young People — What a Concept!
The what, why, and how of coaching have been tossed around, discussed, and debated for many years. As just touched on, parents often know what athletic coaching is and sometimes executive coaching, too — they may have even heard of life coaching for adults — but they often don't know about life coaching for youth. The idea of putting young people in the driver's seats of their own lives — before they are adults — is a foreign concept to many people. There are also understandably confused professionals, who may have heard of coaching but who often see it as doing the work of therapists and thus hesitate to refer. They may think, Why refer someone to a coach when he or she can be referred to an actual therapist? As discussed in this chapter, coaching is different from therapy. Finally, those parents and professionals who do know about coaching for young people often don't know how to find a qualified coach or are unaware of what "qualified" really means in the field of coaching. The confusion, despite coaching's 20-year history — not even taking into account the years before it was called coaching — still outweighs the understanding of coaching as a valuable tool for effecting positive change in adolescents and young adults.
The coaching of young people is built on the same core principles as the coaching of adults. So let's begin with an exploration of what coaching is, in general. The leading professional association for individuals in the coaching profession, the International Coach Federation, defines coaching as "partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential." This definition applies regardless of type of coaching (executive coaching, life coaching, or ADHD coaching) or age (adults, young adults, and adolescents).
Although the focus of the present book is on coaching youth with ADHD, a clear understanding of the multiple kinds of coaching in existence can be useful because there is some overlap among these types. Under the larger umbrella of coaching are executive coaching and life coaching. Executive coaching typically refers to an engagement between coach and client regarding issues in the work setting or professional domain. Life coaching generally relates to clients who seek support and partnership in achieving goals outside of work or inclusive of all of the life domains: personal, professional, and otherwise. And, of course, there is some overlap between executive and life coaching, because people are rarely able to completely separate work from life.
Distinctions between executive and life coaching are often made to highlight the key focus of the client and coach's work together — largely professional goals versus personal goals — or the context in which the coaching is taking place (e.g., sometimes sponsored by one's workplace vs. initiated on one's own). Although executive coaching is provided only to an adult audience given its relationship to the professional domain, life coaching can be provided to both adults and young people.
In addition to executive and life coaching, there is ADHD coaching, which can be offered to both adults and young people. ADHD coaching is built on the core fundamentals of life coaching but also involves some differences from life coaching, such as a higher level of accountability and a greater focus on building skills and strategies. Figure 1 depicts some of the most common forms of coaching available today.
As shown in Figure 1, coaching can be provided to both young people and adults; applied to the work or the personal context; and used to manage ADHD, academics, or one's holistic life goals.
The Nuts and Bolts of Coaching
Now let's look at the nitty-gritty of what coaching is, regardless of age of client or context, because as I mentioned earlier, there is common ground among all types of coaching. Coaching consists of a collaboration between client and coach to help the client move forward with his or her agenda, whether it be general (e.g., feel more satisfied with life, fit in better at school, enjoy work more, experience less daily stress) or specific (e.g., find more time for family, earn a job promotion, get accepted into college, or develop a healthy lifestyle). Coaching involves a free-flowing, creative process driven by the client and supported by the coach. Ultimately, a trained coach will use his or her skill to evoke thought in the client and encourage the client to identify goals, as well as the actions that need to be taken to reach those goals.
Thus, the coaching process offers a useful time and space for brainstorming options, exploring next steps, and engaging in simple coaching exercises to help the client become more confident and motivated to achieve goals. In addition, coaching may involve accountability check-ins that provide the client with an opportunity to receive support, report progress, and share successes along the way. The sum experience for the client is a supportive environment in which he or she can explore new options and have a partner on the journey toward developing the life he or she wants. Figure 2 below outlines the core phases in coaching and provides a visual overview of the coaching process.
The exploration process that helps a client verbalize his or her agenda and identify supportive goals (i.e., exploration and goal-setting phases) can be done using a variety of coaching tools, such as storytelling, generating a vision, or identifying one's values. For example, in the case of storytelling, the coach might request, "Describe the happiest you've ever been" or "Tell me about your best vacation." In the realm of creating a vision, the coach might ask, "Where do you see yourself in five years?" or the coach might invite the client to "create a vision of yourself being healthy and happy." To engage in values exploration, the coach might ask the client, "What's really important to you?" Regardless of the tool, the coach provides the client with an opportunity to explore his or her wishes for life so that the client can move forward in a way that is truly reflective of his or her unique desires, personality, and needs. This approach applies to the many types of coaching, whether
in executive coaching, where a client might be prompted to identify a vision for the effective leader he or she hopes to become
in life coaching, where a client might discover that he or she wants to explore a new career path
in ADHD coaching, where a client might set a goal of learning skills required to succeed in the workplace.
Regardless of the type of coaching or the age of the client, the coaching process is designed to put the client at the center of his or her own experience: to empower the client to find a path to an agenda reflective of his or her own needs, desires, and interests and then to design a plan for achieving that agenda in a way that feels and works best for the client.
The What, Why, and How of Coaching for Young People
In reality, there is very little difference between coaching young people and coaching adults. In both cases, the coach works with the individual to help him or her make progress toward designing a "picture" of that person's wishes and then developing and achieving goals in support of that picture. An adult in life coaching might discover that she wants to join a women's group, spend more quality time with her spouse, and spend less time in the office. A teenager in life coaching might discover he wants to try out for a sports team, get a part-time job, and make new friends. In each case, the issues differ, but the overall coaching process will be similar, following along the lines described earlier in the chapter.
The "Aha" That Young People Can Lead the Way
The biggest difference between coaching for young people and coaching for adults is that for most young people, the coaching process may represent their first experience making independent life choices. In coaching, the young person really does get to be the one in charge. Parents of clients may have trouble accepting this reality because, as parents, they are used to making decisions for their children and telling them what to do. The young person, too, may find it hard to believe that an adult — the coach — would really let him or her take the lead. It's the job of the coach to help the young person understand that the process isn't about the coach giving advice to the young person or pushing mom or dad's agenda but instead about providing the young person with an opportunity to discern answers to questions like "What do you want to do now and in the future?" and "What are your visions and dreams?"
When I ask questions like these to young clients for the first time, they often look at me with an expression of shock on their faces. "What do you mean I get to decide?" they seem to wonder or outright ask. "I get to choose?" Most young people are so used to their parents or other adults telling them what to do, when to do it, and how to do it — or at least giving plenty of directive support and feedback — that they find it hard to believe an adult would sincerely be leaving decisions up to them.
It takes time, but eventually young people discover that the coaching relationship is different from what they've known until now. The coach is not the parent; the coach is not the teacher, the advisor, or the band director. The coach does not have a predetermined agenda for the client or hidden goals. Instead, the coach is there entirely to support the client in pursuit of whatever unique goals the client selects for him or herself. Here is an example of a conversation between coach and client that reveals how a coach directs the young person to consider his or her own goals, rather than those of the parents.
The coach helps the client ask what the client really wants so he or she can move beyond the "should's" of the adult world toward a life that is reflective of the client's own needs and desires. Over time, the client becomes used to this process of being asked to formulate his or her own ideas and plans and grows comfortable with it. The client's trust in the coach is likely to increase,
and the client's own ability to start reflecting on what the client wants for him or herself tends to deepen as well. Meanwhile, parents adjust to their new, less directive role and learn to communicate with their maturing children more effectively.
The Fundamentals of Coaching Young People
Coaches work with young people to help them identify their own goals, dreams, and vision for the future. Counter to some parents' or even young clients' expectations, the coach does not control the coaching plan. Instead, the coach supports and monitors the success of the plan. Coaching is an inquiry-based process such that the coach doesn't decide the agenda or the action items. Whatever agenda emerges from the client's responses, the coach stands behind the client and that agenda.
Most often the coaching process begins with an initial two-hour intake session, which is similar to the intake session in adult coaching with the exception of parents being present. During the intake, the coach asks background questions to learn more about the client and offers powerful, open-ended questions to get to the heart of the client's values, goals, and desires. As the process unfolds, the coach and client create a personal coaching agreement, which contains the client's goal/s and lays out client-generated action steps for success. Oftentimes, young clients want to focus on specific short-term goals during coaching (e.g., get a B in history or sign up for football tryouts). These goals may help the client to become more confident and develop the readiness for loftier, long-term goals that may not have seemed possible at the start of the coaching relationship. As the client progresses, he or she is likely to expand goals, achieve more success, get a feel for independent thinking, and develop a comfortable, trusting relationship with a coach.
As in coaching with adults, the young client sets the agenda for the coaching process, while the coach elicits information to clarify and identify the details of the client's agenda and the plan for how to reach the client's goals. Thus, when working with the young client, the coach is careful not to redirect the coaching toward an agenda that has been predetermined by the parents or one that the coach views as a better alternative for the client.
It is also up to the coach to listen carefully to questions, concerns, and feelings that might get in the way of the client's path toward the agreed-upon goals. For example, the client may set a goal to learn how to ski, only to find out that skiing is cost prohibitive at this time in his or her life. (Note that questions related to the feasibility of the clients' goals are posed during the coaching process.) The client chooses instead to put the goal of learning to ski on the back burner and to find a more affordable option (e.g., taking up tennis or running). In addition, the coach will listen for any hesitation that might be coming from the young client due to lack of skill or knowledge of how to go after the selected goal and then respond by encouraging the client to explore what it might take to increase skill or knowledge in order to accomplish the goal.
Imagine a young person interested in pursuing a career in graphic design. What might that career look like? What type of work does this particular young person envision doing each day? What excites the young person about the field of graphic design? How might he or she move forward toward this goal starting today? What might stop the young person from pursuing this goal? These are the kind of questions that the coaching process will help the client ask and answer.
A useful way for coaches to structure their questioning for clients would be to follow the sequence posed by Sir John Whitmore in Coaching for Performance, which he calls the GROW model:
GOAL-setting for the session as well as short and long term
REALITY checking to explore the current situation
OPTIONS and alternative strategies or courses of action
WHAT is to be done, WHEN, by WHOM, and the WILL to do it.
The GROW model is easy to use and draws upon basic coaching principles in a structured manner that is useful for adolescents and young adults. The goal when using this model in coaching is to provide an opportunity for clients to discuss and consider their options, as well as to explore the risks, the benefits, and the ensuing questions that come up through powerful questioning by the coach and increased learning and self-awareness in the client.
As mentioned previously, most young people are accustomed to being told what to do by adults. The coaching partnership opens up a door to a new kind of relationship that offers support and encouragement without pressure and that, in turn, fosters the growth of the client. When parents and allied professionals understand the core of coaching and allow the coaching process to unfold, these parents and professionals typically report an increased level of communication with and self-satisfaction within the young person. This does not negate the benefits of good parenting or therapeutic intervention when warranted. Rather, it is an opportunity to consider expanding the choices available for an adolescent who has a desire and a readiness to move forward in a manner that is more independent and goal oriented than is currently the case. By engaging a coach, the young person attains a new outlet for self-growth — one that doesn't focus on emotional issues as therapy would do and one that doesn't focus solely on academic issues as would be the case with tutoring.
Excerpted from Empowering Youth with ADHD by Jodi Sleeper-Triplett. Copyright © 2010 Jodi Sleeper-Triplett. Excerpted by permission of Specialty Press, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.