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Four Questions with Independence Coach, Marshall McDonald

April 04, 2016

How would you describe your role as an independence coach?

My role at Skyland Trail is to support clients as they reintegrate back into society. Transitioning from a residential treatment community to independent living can be challenging. I work with clients during this process to develop skills that will enable them to thrive independently. In addition to this, I help clients identify and accomplish several short and long-term recovery goals.

What kinds of challenges do individuals face as they return to independent living? How do you help them address those challenges?

The return to independent living can be an overwhelming experience. Clients are tasked with being self-directed, and inevitable obstacles can feel like major setbacks.  I encourage clients to remain resilient as they navigate their road to recovery and help them to problem solve perceived barriers.  I offer my support in helping clients establish meaningful activities that will allow them to cultivate a stronger sense of purpose.

How do you know when you’re making a difference?

When a client is managing their illness to the best of their ability and working towards pursuing meaningful life goals, I know that we as a treatment team have made a difference. Mental illness disrupts several aspects of people’s lives causing them to put long term goals on hold. Supporting clients as they gain the skills needed to pursue these goals is very rewarding. You can see the true benefits of Skyland Trail’s recovery model when clients have successfully completed treatment and are living fulfilling lives.

What kind of support can families and friends provide?

Many people feel isolated as they transition back into the community. Unfortunately, the stigma of mental illness can contribute to the feeling of isolation. Family and friends should work towards reconnecting with their loved one and be willing to participate in their recovery. Be mindful of the courage that it took for them to seek treatment for their mental illness. Any time that you spend with a loved one can be a very meaningful experience.


Marshall McDonald is a Independence Coach at Skyland Trail. Sometimes, our clients and other individuals recovering from mental illness need a little extra support as they make the transition from residential treatment to independent living. Through weekly in-home visits and assistance with practical  matters like paying bills and meal planning, our Independence Coaching program provides that support.