Even after thirty days in residential rehab or a couple months in intensive outpatient treatment, most newly sober alcoholics and addicts still find it difficult to sustain their sobriety without help. A recovery coach can play a vital role in providing that help, creating a close relationship with the newly sober peer to guide them onto the path of long-term sobriety.
Empathy, experience and empowerment are essential qualities for a recovery coach to possess, and are necessary qualifications for doing the job successfully. The recovery coach supports and guides an individual who has the desire to start or has already begun their journey to recovery.
Recovery coaches receive 46-hours of intensive training at The Council on Recovery and are certified providers, but the role of a recovery coach can often be difficult to define or differentiate from other recovery specialists. Coaches can be role models, resource brokers, support systems, spiritual guides, financial coaches and much more. It is important to note, however, that, while recovery coaches can be many things, they are not licensed clinicians or doctors.
Recovery coaches are ideally in recovery themselves, so they have the shared experience necessary to help individuals battling addiction. They freely share the “recovery capital” they have personally accumulated which includes the same internal and external assets or resources necessary for an individual to obtain and sustain recovery.
By closely assisting individuals in discovering their own personal recovery capital, recovery coaches instill a sense of hope, relationship with a higher power, skills, goals, and self-efficacy. Recovery coaches work as “peers” in recovery helping the newly sober create connections with the recovery community or support groups, social and family networks, jobs, education and housing. Obtaining and improving recovery is a vital component when working with peers in recovery.
Because of the close nature of the relationship between recovery coaches and the people with whom they work, they can empower, encourage, and praise their peers, while helping them set goals and stay motivated to achieve them. This close relationship, however, has some clearly defined personal and ethical boundaries that must be maintained by the recovery coaches in the interests of all parties.
Recovery Coaches are not therapists, counselors, clinicians, or doctors and they do not engage in the diagnosis or treatment of addiction. While they can encourage their peers to attend Twelve Step meetings and read recovery-oriented literature, recovery coaches do not dictate peer behaviors or assign tasks outside the purview of accepted recovery activities. Under no circumstances are recovery coaches supposed to give or lend money to their peers, nor provide food, housing or other resources. They can, however, guide their peers to community resources and social welfare organizations that may be able to help.
In the following interview, Cynthia Branch, Recovery Support Services Coordinator and Recovery Coach Trainer at The Council on Recovery, shed light upon what it means to be a recovery coach.
Q: In your own words, what is a recovery coach?
A: A recovery coach is a person with lived experience of an addiction to substances, alcohol or anything that alters the mind. We help, encourage and empower individuals who want to change their lives and stop using. Coaches are relatable to them, so what we say holds more depth and weight because we have been there, done that. We also help them navigate systems. Recovery coaches are resource brokers meaning we provide individuals with resource referrals.
Q: What are the key differences between a recovery coach and clinicians or sponsors?
A: To my knowledge, clinicians focus on the past and what happened, while acutely getting them to stop using. Sponsors focus on the twelve steps and total abstinence. Recovery coaches meet individuals where they are and are able to assist them on their chosen path to recovery.
Q: Do you have to be in recovery to become a recovery coach?
A: Ideally, yes.
Q: When do you think it is important for a peer to begin working with a recovery coach?
A: Whenever the peers are ready.
Q: How long do peers work with their recovery coaches?
A: It can last up to five years, but with different programs and entities it may be 2-3 years.
Q: What are some challenges that a coach may encounter with their peer?
A: Housing, transportation and beds for treatment.
Q: What advice would you give someone who is interested in becoming a coach?
A: Remain open-minded. Everyone’s path is different. Who am I to negate what works and doesn’t work for someone?
Q: Are recovery coaches possible for individuals with financial concerns?
A: Yes. We are also resource brokers, so we are always able to point them in the right different. Some of us have been trained as financial coaches as well.
If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a recovery coach, The Council on Recovery offers a 46-hour training program, which provides a comprehensive overview of the purpose and roles of Recovery Coaching while giving participants the tools and resources necessary to provide recovery support services to their peers. Addiction is a dark place, but there are ways out. As a recovery coach, you will know how to support and guide your peers on their path to recovery. Join us and help save lives.
The next upcoming training program is July 11-13, 16, & 17. Visit our website for information and how to apply.
This guest blog post was written by Tyler Odom, Marketing & Communications Intern at The Council. She is currently a senior at the University of Houston.