Double Agent Drama - Are you a Recovery Coach or a Support Coordinator?


Hello to all of us that get to spend another fine day in the world of NDIS……. *insert sarcasm here* 

A picture similar to what I look like every day, working in the NDIS space. 
Today we are going to talk about the roles of NDIS Support Coordinator and Psychosocial Recovery Coach, and why they are very similar roles, which may come as a shock to some. If you are a Recovery Coach, and you think that Support Coordination is not part of your role, you need to keep reading! 
As someone who has been in this space since the very beginning of the NDIS, as a Support Coordinator, and Recovery Coach, business owner with a team of 10 coordinators and coaches, and now, a peer mentor and training/education specialist. I have seen a lot of misinformation, misunderstanding and of course, lack of guidance from the NDIS around these roles.
So, let’s get into some of that, and try to clarify the differences in the two roles.
In the complex landscape of NDIS mental health support, the roles of Support Coordinator and Recovery Coach are often misunderstood. Many perceive the latter as a therapeutic or counselling role, or even a role that is more like a, "specialised support worker", which is a misconception. In reality, a Recovery Coach is essentially a Support Coordinator with specialised knowledge in mental health, and a bit more leeway to provide some more direct support when addressing barriers and challenges. This includes being funded to work outside of normal business hours at times, so crisis events can be managed and supported.
The Role of a Recovery Coach
Although a Recovery Coach does have some flexibility to provide more practical support to individuals under their NDIS funding, the core of their role is akin to that of a Support Coordinator. They need to understand how to support the participant with all of their NDIS supports, including reporting to the NDIS, liaising with NDIS planners and other staff, implementing supports and services, and managing crisis.
This role requires a deep understanding of the NDIS legislation and guidelines, and the ability to navigate the complexities of the system. It's not just about providing emotional support and coaching; it's about being able to effectively coordinate the various supports and services that a participant may need.
So why is it called a Recovery COACH, and how does coaching come into it?
This is where things are interesting for me.
Although anyone taking it by its title alone, would rightfully think this role is about Mental Health recovery “coaching”. So, I would interpret that as supporting a person through the use of coaching, to work on their mental health. This would include helping them move towards their idea of recovery and helping to maintain that recovery so they can live the life they envision for themselves…..Right?  
It is not that simple. The misleading title has seen a stampede of 3 day certified “Life Coaches,” and other individuals who have either innocently, or blatantly misinterpreted the role come out of the woodwork, looking to take a slice of the pie. However, there is little coaching to be done, in the way people think it is.
The coaching that you will be doing in the role is coaching to overcome barries and hurdles to service implementation and the provisionof NDIS and mainstream supports.
This role came into play when it was discovered that people who meet access to the NDIS for psychosocial disability, were utilising their plans and funding the least. And since the NDIS is such a lovely, warm, and fuzzy thing to be part of, they wanted to overcome this issue. And so, Recovery Coaches were born.
The NDIS Recovery Framework
Interestingly, the NDIS has developed its own recovery framework, which differs from the national recovery framework. This divergence raises questions about its necessity and purpose. It seems that the NDIS's framework is designed to ensure that the role of the Recovery Coach fits within the NDIS goal of increased plan utilisation, as its primary goal. Recovery is secondary and feels like the NDIS is hoping some nice outcomes will occur, but where is the data? Who is keeping track? Where are the success stories? 
This decision by the NDIS to create its own framework could be seen as an attempt to redefine the role of the Recovery Coach within its system. However, this redefinition does not align with the traditional understanding of recovery in the mental health field.
The danger of Inexperience
Another commonality between the role of Support Coordinator and Recovery Coaches, is the lack of proper guidance and oversight of the role. Where the role of an SC has no qualifications required according to the (lack of) guidelines. The role of Recovery Coach, states the following:
We recommend that the recovery coaches have a minimum of Certificate 4 in Mental Health or Mental Health Peer work or similar training and/or two years' paid experience in supporting people with mental health challenges.
Well, I recommend you call me Princess Brodie from now on, I also recommend somebody pays all my bills and I recommend all people who have worked within the NDIS for five years or more get 10 years paid mental health leave. Anybody? No?
A recommendation means nothing at the end of the day. Anybody with little to no ethics, or understanding, are going to interpret these guidelines how it fits them, and NOBODY will stop them from doing that.
The danger of allowing inexperienced Recovery Coaches into the field cannot be overstated. (This applies to Support Coordinators too, but just bear with me here, I'm focused)
As someone who has worked in mental health for twenty years, and has personal lived experience of severe and complex mental health illness, and recovery, I find it alarming that the NDIS allows inexperienced Recovery Coaches, who do not understand the role, to expose people who may be very vulnerable to that inexperience without any kind of guidance or support. This lack of oversight creates unsafe outcomes for people with complex mental health issues.
The NDIS needs to ensure that those who take on the role of Recovery Coach are adequately trained and experienced. This is not a role for newcomers to mental health recovery. It requires a deep understanding of the complexities of mental health and the ability to navigate the NDIS system. You can apply everything I said to Support Coordinators in their respective roles, and responsbilities as well. 

I am very shocked, that knowing all the possible negative impacts that can happen, and knowing how vulnerable and prone to trauma that some of these particpants would be, did not prompt anyone at that "round table" to stand up and say something. Why didn't someone say:  "This is not a good idea, we cannot just let anyone take on this role, we need to have clear guidelines, and give the workforce access to proper training and skill building, so people are not harmed." 

I would love to have been a fly on the wall. 
I hear you say: "You said the roles are the almost exactly the same, I don’t think they are because the NDIS said participants can choose to have an SC, or PRC, or both in some circumstances! So how are they the same role?"
Let’s break this down. There are a few key things you need to read, so you can understand why I believe that yes, they are the same role, with some minor differences.
Go and have a read through the following, You might need a cup of tea, or a bottle of vodka, whatever works for you!: 

This document: Psychosocial Recovery Coach Support Item:
This website page:
For your convenience, I have outlined what the NDIS website says about: “What your Support Coordinator should do”. Most of us are pretty up to date on this one, it's been the only guidance the NDIS has given us about the role since day dot. 
  • Help you understand your NDIS plan
  • Plan and Coordinate your support
  • Connect you with supports and services
  • Establish and maintain your supports
  • Coach refine and reflect
  • Report to the NDIS
  • Capacity building for independence
  • Prepare for unexpected events
  • Crisis situation - plan, prevent, mitigate, act
  • Acting in your best interest

Guess what a Recovery Coach is meant to do? Pick me, Pick me! I know the answer!!! Drum Rollllllll................................. You have to do all that too!  

The same face I know some of you are pulling right now.  

When you compare the limited guidance that the NDIS provide us on what each role is responsible for, they are almost identical.
Above you can see that an SC should; “Coach Refine and Reflect." Just like a Recovery Coach, the only difference is that a SC should be able to do this for any person they are working with, not just people on the NDIS for Psychosocial disability. It does kind of go both ways, if that helps? Not really? I tried. 
In the PRC support item link, it will tell you that as a PRC you need to “Collaborate with the broader system of supports” and “Support engagement with the NDIS.” Amongst other many similar responsibilities to Support Coordination.
This includes seeking and implementing services and supports, adjusting plan budgets, initiating plan reviews, supporting service agreements, and monitoring the use of funding. It is right there in black and white my friends. You are not just a Recovery Coach, you are a Support Coordinator too, and you have the same responsibility to provide these actions for participants. 
If you are a Recovery Coach and you do not know how to do Support Coordination, or you are not carrying out the requirements of the role with the people you support, and you could be denying them the kind of support that was intended when this role was put in place. 
If you are a Recovery Coach, you need to be skilled in Support Coordination too. That may not sit well with some providers, but they are the cold, hard facts. Recovery coaching is not overpaid Support Work. It is not a "hands on" support.

You have to help support the particpant to plan and take steps towards their recovery. However that recovery plan is attached to what is available in their NDIS plan, and what services and supports are avaialble outside of the NDIS, such as clinical mental health services if required. If the particpant wants to embark on a recovery journey that includes services and supports that don't fit in what the NDIS wants them to use, such as an Mental Health Care Plan, or having a Support Worker on call for all of lifes needs, then good luck to all. 

I am as mad as anyone else that this potentially amazing, important support, is beholden to the NDIS, and funding restrictions. True recovery, does not have a set of rules and guidelines to adhere too. True recovery happens when a person is FULLY supported to take the path they want to take. True recovery takes time, trust, and consistent involvement from dedicated recovery specialists. True recovery is not acheived when we are obligated to work for the NDIS, before we support the participant. True recovery does not happen when there is a constant and real risk that the relationship will be pulled out from under you at the whim of an uninformed planner. The NDIS has shamed itself, in my opinion, with the way they have executed this role. They had a true opportunity to make a difference, and all I see is a wolf in sheeps clothing. Peel away the layers of what we have, and it ain't cutting it. 

So where do we go from here? Well, I will write angry blogs and continue to raise hell as much as I can. What can you do? You can read them and pass them on to others to read too! Please, and thank you. 

However, for most people, I think the best way forward for us is to ensure that we are providing the most person centred and exceptionally skilled support that we can. The NDIS is meant to be a self regulated market, but it has absolutely no regulation at all. We must be the change, we have to hold ourselves to the highest standards so that participants do not suffer. 
We have an obligation to every person we work with to be competent and skilled BEFORE we take their money.  You wouldn’t pay a mechanic to rebuild your engine if they hadn’t even learned how to change the brakes yet, would you? So, if you are a Recovery Coach and you did not know you also needed to be a Support Coordinator, amongst all your other talents, or you just want to "give it a go" and you don't have a solid background in Mental Health Recovery, or a lived experience with great knowledge of how to help others, then I want you to consider what you are doing and if you might be able to do it better?

I know, you might not like me much right now.  I am sorry, you did not get into the role to do paperwork and experience the pain of dealing with the NDIS on a daily basis, and get told that the role you thought you were in, is not the role you are actually in, did you? 
Never fear, we can help you get the skills you need to understand exactly what you should be doing. So let's achieve excellence together! 
We offer training and expertise in both peer mentoring and online, self-paced courses through our websites.
Mind Grow Training:   - Online, self-paced courses to help you get the skills you need to achieve your career goals.  
Ethical Caring Group: – Peer Mentoring and supervision for everyone!