Ellen Forney, the Rock Steady Coach.

Ellen Forney

Mental Health Coach

Taking care of yourself and your mental health can mean anything from maintaining an array of routine habits and coping tools, to navigating a disarray of crises, unpredictable setbacks, and inevitable stumbles.

I was diagnosed with Bipolar 1 in 1998, and have been stable for over 17 years. In my coaching, I emphasize an action-oriented, integrated personal care system, detailed in my mental health handbook, Rock Steady: Brilliant Advice From My Bipolar Life.

Let me help you figure out your own path to a stable life.

Please contact me for more information!

Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me, a graphic memoir. Rock Steady Brilliant Advice from my Bipolar Life.


“It was awesome to feel validated and chat with someone who has experience navigating similar issues. Finding Ellen’s books helped me structure a path back to healthy living after a manic crisis. Rock Steady coaching took that framework even further and personalized my connection with the content. I highly recommend Ellen’s work.” C.S., Seattle, WA

“While I’m grateful for psychiatric care, talking with someone who offers practical advice and understands my weirdo brain makes me feel confident, like I’m learning how to keep balance, rather than needing ‘fixing.’ When I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, so much of the available literature was dour, clinical, and frightening. Forney’s SMEDMERTS helped me see a realistic path forward—one with far more of a sense of humor than I’d found on WebMD at 3AM.” L.O., Sacramento, CA

“Ellen has been a great coach for me. She is an inspiration as an artist and as a human being!”  Maria Bamford

“Rock Steady is truly a must-read for anyone who struggles with a mental disorder or someone who finds comfort in daily structure. Forney addresses readers with the tone of a caring friend, and her approach will likely make her fans eager for more grounding advice.”  Booklist

“Forney's second book [Rock Steady] is packed with strategies, tools, and tips for living with mental illness—all presented in the same relatable, comic form that made her first book [Marbles] so beloved.”  Health Magazine

“This nuts-and-bolts coping book manages to transcend its category and become something even non-depressed readers will enjoy.” NPR Books

“Rock Steady is part graphic memoir, part bipolar survival manual, and 100-percent Ellen Forney: creative, smart, funny, and insightful.” Bipolar Magazine

About Me

I’m an award-winning author, teacher, speaker, and mental health advocate. [Watch my TED talk, “Finding balance in bipolar”.]

Diagnosed with Bipolar I shortly before I turned 30, I recount my four-year struggle to find stability in my award-winning graphic memoir, Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, & Me. Marbles became a New York Times bestseller, and has been translated into six foreign languages.

Along with my own story, it was important to me to include practical, personal and clinical tools and techniques, things my readers could use themselves. Its companion book takes that even farther: Rock Steady: Brilliant Advice From My Bipolar Life is a handbook for maintaining mental health, with short- and long-term strategies to get and stay stable. The esteemed Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) featured Rock Steady in “Best Graphic Medicine of 2018”, and both books received a Media Partner Award from NAMI Washington (National Alliance on Mental Illness). Marbles and Rock Steady are now being used by counselors, psychiatrists, patients, and readers all over the world, with and without diagnoses.

I’ve had the profound honor of hearing from a wide range of people who connect with my work - in person and in writing, from patients, therapists, researchers, and readers, young and aged and from around the world. These conversations and questions inspired me to start working as a coach, so I can help people one-on-one. I’m excited that my path has taken me here!

The Rock Steady Program

“Rock” and “steady” are verbs: to rock is to get thrown off balance, to steady is to work to regain balance. Life will throw us off balance, because that’s what life does, and it’s our task to learn how to steady it.

The Rock Steady coaching program is your personalized version of Rock Steady, the mental health handbook. I recommend that you read the book before applying to work with me. It’s a good introduction to me and to the material - plus, the book may be all you need!

My program focuses on helping you integrate a wide range of healthy skills and techniques into your own life in a way that makes sense for you, so you can move forward with a sense of capability, balance, and flexibility. Maintaining stability means maintaining what I call SMEDMERTS (sleep, meds, eating, doctor, mindfulness/meditation, exercise, routine, coping tools, and support system) as well as self-acceptance, self-awareness, and self-compassion.

I am a mentor, co-problem-solver, active listener, cheerleader, and accountability partner. I listen, question, and problem-solve from the point of view of someone who knows what mental illness feels like from the inside. I will keep you company. I will help you:

The Rock Steady program is intended to complement the work you are doing with a therapist. Therapy gives us the bricks to build our mental health. SMEDMERTS is the masonry that keeps the bricks together.

I’m excited to share my personal experience, knowledge, and resources to help you move your own life forward. I am the coach I wish I’d had after I was first diagnosed. I am wholeheartedly dedicated to having a mentally healthy life, and if you are, too, I hope we have the opportunity to work together.

The Process

Basics Program: 4 sessions

We will clarify your goals, map a personalized plan of action, and focus on developing and reinforcing skills and tools for selected areas of SMEDMERTS, including attention to sleep, charting, and routine. I recommend adding a Follow-Up Session after completing this program, for accountability and problem-solving.

4 sessions, once a week. Session #1 is 2 hours; Sessions #2–4 are 90 mins.

Rock Steady Program: 9 sessions

This program offers more time to develop, refine, and reinforce new skills and habits. We start with an overview of your goals, routines, and tools (your SMEDMERTS), and in addition to sleep, charting, and routine, we identify and focus on other long-term maintenance goals, including red flags and flagpoles, effective research, and developing coping tools specific to you. The longer intervals between the last three sessions allow you to practice and problem-solve on your own, with an accountability partner waiting at your next milestone.

9 sessions total: 6 sessions, once a week; plus 3 sessions, individually scheduled (usually at 2- or 3-week intervals). Session #1 is 2 hours; Sessions #2–6 are 90 mins.; Sessions #7–9 are 90-mins. The Rock Steady Program includes a 10% discount from the hourly rate.

Follow-up Sessions:

After completing either of the programs, these 90-min. Follow-Up Sessions are a way to check in, mark a milestone, share a congratulations, do some trouble-shooting, or make adjustments.

90 mins., individually scheduled.

Please download and fill out this application form to help determine if we are a fit to work together right now. Please note that this is not a judgement or pass-fail, and the application does not commit you to signing up for the program. At the end of the form, you can request a free 15-minute consultation. If we set out to work together, you can schedule sessions with a link I send to you.

Payment Policies

My fee is $150 per hour. The full amount of the sessions needs to be paid when scheduling the sessions. Scheduling and payment is via Square or PayPal.

Criteria for us to work together

My coaching complements (but doesn’t replace) your work with a licensed clinician, so you’ll need to be either actively seeing or have an identifiable connection to a therapist and/or psychiatrist. Therapists and psychiatrists typically concentrate on deep-seated issues, medication management, and guidance through crises, and coaching is focused on identifying, integrating, and reinforcing present and future goals for long-term stability.

You need to be 18 or over, and fluent in English.

Technical requirements: we’ll be meeting via Zoom videoconference. You will need a Zoom account (free), your phone or computer with camera and audio, a comfortable, private space, and reliable internet access. (If you have disability issues that impede these, e.g. hard of hearing, please let me know and we can discuss options.)

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