What is a recovery coach?

woman resting head on another's shoulder while in therapy

A recovery coach is a personal guide for someone in or in need of recovery. It has proven for many people to be invaluable support.

Having a recovery coach is an increasingly popular choice for somebody struggling with addiction or a mental health problem. Recovery coaching is a form of professional support from another person.

A recovery coach can help someone who is still in active addiction – to alcohol, drugs, or a behavioral addiction. Or someone who’s already in recovery from their unhealthy habit.

They act as guides or mentors who the person needing help learns to trust. Then the recovery coach will offer them support and guidance about any significant choices they need to make.

This could be something to do with their addiction and recovery from it. It could be a decision about things such as a relationship, family life, friendships, work or education, a social event, and where to live.

Recovery coaches will aim to keep a client’s mood positive, encourage self-care, and direct them towards healthy plans of action. This could include things like exercising, eating healthily, and meditation.

Reaching goals

Recovery coaches are not generally considered to be the primary treatment for an addiction, and they do not usually diagnose people. Many have their own style and slightly adjust it to whoever they are helping to give them the best support.

Most recovery coaches will encourage someone to attend such as a Twelve Steps group meeting if they believe it will help them. But they will look for the best alternative if that is not for a particular person they are helping.

This could be, for instance, if someone with an addiction problem lives in a remote place or is also suffering from anxiety or depression. It might be that they need some more help with these conditions before they feel like they can attend a group meeting.

Recovery coaches will also encourage other forms of community support for the person they’re helping. There is an emphasis on inspiring their client to take action to improve their feelings, present life situations, and achieve their goals.

A recovery coach aims to stop addiction or mental health relapse by giving ongoing support. This has been seen to allow clients to develop problem-solving skills and learn to live well.

How did recovery coaching develop?

Group therapy support

Recovery coaching has very much been a natural evolution as an increasing number of people find recovery. There was a need among many of them for some sort of additional help that was not strictly therapy or Twelve Steps sponsorship.

Writer William L. White, author of Slaying the Dragon: The History of Addiction Treatment and Recovery in America, perhaps first used the term “recovery coach”. This was in his 2006 paper “Sponsor, Recovery Coach, Addiction Counselor: The Importance of Role Clarity and Role Integrity”.

Many recovery coaches use approaches adapted from the Minnesota Model recovery program. Also known as the “abstinence model, the Minnesota Model was developed from the original AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) Twelve Steps.

It was initially used in a state mental hospital in the 1950s. Its aim was to reach out to more people and increase the effectiveness of the Twelve Steps by including psychiatry and other health care in treatment.

Recovery coaching has grown in popularity because of the proven assistance it gives. There is also perhaps less of a stigma than going to a Twelve Steps meeting or seeing a therapist.

In the past decade, courses have started that teach people how to become recovery coaches. This includes showing them how to develop certain skills they will need.

Who do recovery coaches work with?

Recovery coaches can help anyone suffering from a mental health or emotional problem as well as addicts. This includes someone addicted to alcohol, drugs, gambling, work, shopping, exercise, and the internet.

There could be an immediate aim. This might be to get reinstated at work, allowed a return to live in their home, or to get sufficient sober/clean time in order to regain visitation or custody of a child.

A recovery coach can also work with the families of their clients. In fact, some recovery coaches specialize in this.

It has been shown that family support can prove vital to someone’s recovery. A recovery coach can guide the family as to how they can best support their family member in a non-judgmental and calm way.

Coaching can be face-to-face or using video and phone calls. Recovery coaching even exists today for people needing 24/7 care, plus there are online virtual coaching programs.

What does a recovery coach do?

therapy session

Many recovery coaches have a personal life experience of being in recovery from an addiction, and quite often a mental health problem too. Some recovery coaches will bring in aspects of life coaching and their own experience as Twelve Steps sponsors.

They will listen to their client and guide them. This can be based on their own successes in life as well as other skills they have learned to become a coach.

They can recommend and encourage resources such as AA or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings or book in at a recovery center. Many addicts find and maintain a strong recovery through a combination of coaching, therapy, and attending Twelve Steps meetings.

A recovery coach can:

•   Encourage new healthy behavior patterns. 

•   Develop a step-by-step plan of action for recovery and reaching goals.

•   Assist in harm reduction for addictive behaviors.

•   Guide past former triggers for an addiction or mental health condition.

•   Direct people to the best resources to help them.

•   Travel with a client to an event or place where they might “slip” back into their addiction.

•   Help with any setbacks.

•   Enable their client to be responsible and stay accountable to themselves.

•   Help view progress objectively, assessing what’s working or not working, and how they can move forward.

For someone in or coming through a challenging time in life, it can be extremely difficult to be objective about how they are doing. Recovery coaches offer knowledge, support, and advice that makes it possible for some people to gain and maintain their recovery.

Our team of carefully selected experts has helped people with all emotional issues and all the main types of mental health problems. After carefully listening, we advise what is the best way for a swift and long-lasting recovery.

All our treatment programs are completely personalized for each of our guests. Call us today to discuss how we can help you or someone you know.

David Hurst - Tikvah Lake Recovery

About David Hurst

David Hurst has four books published on mental health recovery, including 12 Steps To 1 Hero, The Anxiety Conversation and Words To Change Your Life. He has written for national newspapers and magazines around the world for 30 years including The Guardian, Psychologies, GQ, Esquire, Marie Claire and The Times. He has been in successful continual recovery since January 2002.

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