Adam Schilling: Using Positive Psychology to Help Others Overcome Addiction

Positive psychology and relationship coach Adam Schilling has been in private practice since 2017. He has a doctoral degree in higher education and social change, a master’s degree in marital and family therapy, and a bachelor’s degree in psychology, as well as six years of experience working in an addiction treatment center.

Adam coaches his clients online and in person to help them better understand their minds and bodies, overcome addictive behaviors, and develop healthier relationships with themselves.

They all have unique challenges and backgrounds, but Adam’s clients share a common curiosity:

“Many are curious about learning how to think, feel, and act more in alignment with their values and away from limiting paradigms and environments. A commonality is their eagerness to learn how to optimize their perspectives and a desire to develop goals for moving in whatever unique direction that takes them.”

Adam uses positive psychology theory and tools to help his clients understand their behavior, emotions, and thoughts then explore how they can control their own reality (forming an acronym — BETR — that guides his signature coaching approach).

Interview Highlights

Away From Pain and Struggle

In the addiction treatment center, Adam’s work primarily involved applying traditional therapeutic practices. Although they were effective, he noticed that the conventional, problem-focused model had its shortcomings.

Specifically, he didn’t completely relate to some of the messages that his tools were conveying:

“I was noticing that people were really looking for different kinds of tools, specifically tools that didn’t tell them things like they’re defective or that there’s a problem with them.”

He also felt that the conventional interventions used in the treatment center only helped his clients up to a certain point in their journeys:

“I’m not saying, ‘Don’t go back, look at someone’s past, and try to identify trauma.’ All of that is incredibly beneficial. But there’s only so much you can do with that information.”

Feeling like he had “run out of tools,” Adam began looking for more solution-focused resources to help his clients move forward and thrive. He started a positive psychology certification course and discovered

“It was so different from any kind of addiction treatment stuff I had been taught. […] It was such a different feeling with clients. It was so much more optimistic, loving. and compassionate. I realized that as a clinician, this was absolutely the direction I wanted to go in, professionally and personally.”

Now, much of his practice is based on helping clients understand the nuances of optimism, shame, strengths, weaknesses, and other important positive psychology concepts. His daily work is also his passion: helping others come unstuck from limiting beliefs and move toward flourishing and wellbeing.

Toward a Healthier Self-Relationship

The idea of using positive psychology theories such as compassion, empathy, happiness, and integrity to support clients overcoming addiction was completely new to Adam at first. But he quickly saw “transformative” potential in even very simple mindfulness tools from the Positive Psychology Toolkit©:

“The idea that they could just stop, be present, and be happy with where they’re at and what they can see — that’s a remarkable shift in and of itself.”

Adam also uses positive psychology tools to help clients develop new relationships with their shame and guilt, which can be major obstacles to changing their behavior:

“That also helps people see that they are not the end result of their behaviors. Many of the skills and tools that has created assist with this process, which is a radical transformation for people to be able to make in their lives.”

The more he helps his clients reframe feelings of guilt and shame, the easier it is for them to cultivate new, healthier relationships with themselves, Adam has noticed. He feels his new tools have helped him highlight the importance of negative, as well as positive feelings, and uses tools to illustrate that “shame and guilt actually mean that you care; otherwise, you wouldn’t feel so bad about what you’ve done.

“If you can identify that you actually care deeply about what you’ve done and about the consequences that you caused — that there’s goodness inside of you — that’s transformation.”

Adam’s positive psychology approaches also play a fundamental role in his relationship coaching work, where he believes the main relationship we have is with ourselves.

By guiding his clients to relate to their inner critic in a healthier way, he helps them gain even more from his sessions: “When a client can understand more of their relationship to that voice, they can start to really implement tools like strategies.”

An example is the Wheel of Life, which allows Adam and his clients to explore their focus areas. He uses the Strengths Wheel, another favorite, to help them create plans to increase their strengths usage.

“I See Paths Moving Forward”

Looking back at his initial introduction to positive psychology in the addiction treatment center, Adam is glad he took the leap of faith:

“I felt like I was helping people, and there was a clinical bond that was being formed. But I felt like I overly identified with the pain and the struggle. I believed that if I felt the pain and struggle as much as my clients were, I was being as [helpful] as I could.”

The shift away from an overly identifying clinical perspective has considerably changed Adam’s approach:

“It felt lighter using these tools and moving this direction. It felt more optimistic, more hopeful,” he recalls. “I am certain that these tools were helping me in my own thinking.”

The fact that he’s grown his client base is a very welcome bonus.

Now, Adam doesn’t just help people move away from addiction; he also helps clients who want to work on their internal voices. He’s become a go-to practitioner for people who want “to learn how to engineer a life of wellbeing.”

Adam has learned so many positive psychology skills and tools over the years that he has recently authored a book. Be Your Advocate: Learn to Accept the Experience of Addiction as a Path to Uncover Your Potential is one way he’s giving back to the field that has given him so much.

“I want to express my gratitude to for helping me get to this point. This book is essentially tons of lessons on how to use the worst things that people have been through, such as addiction, to become better, wiser, kinder, stronger versions of themselves and identify with the light inside of them.”

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