The coaching model, originally borrowed from sports, is very popular for all sorts of topics right now. There are coaches available to help you with your weight loss goals, to help you build or grow your business and to guide you to better health and fitness. If you have a deficiency in your life, you can usually find a coach to help you get past it.
Life coaching became popular in the 1970s and has only increased since then. The field sprouted a number of popular niches, like business coaching and executive coaching. Recovery coaching is the latest specialty area in the coaching field. Although recovery coaching has been around for several years, it’s becoming more prominent now as people search for additional tools to support their addiction treatment and help them create lasting abstinence.
What Is Recovery Coaching?
Coaching is a concept that comes from the sports world. If you played a sport in school, you are familiar with the role of a coach. He, or she, is the one who organizes the team, plans the practices, runs the drills, critiques your performance and gives you pointers on how to improve. Without the coach, a sports team would just be a bunch of kids playing ball. The coach makes the proceedings more organized and productive.
You may also have experience with another type of coach in your adult life. If you’ve ever used a personal trainer at the gym, you know about coaching. The trainer designs your workout with your individual goals in mind. They use their knowledge of physical education, bodybuilding, kinesiology and any other related training they have to help you improve.
You could go to the gym and do your workout without the personal trainer, but you know it would not be the same. When they are with you, you push a little harder because you don’t want to disappoint them or yourself. When you have the trainer there motivating you and answering your questions as they come up, you get better results. You don’t skip the last repetition when you know someone is watching. And when your personal trainer tells you you’re capable of one more, you do it.
The same is true for a recovery coach. She brings a lot of knowledge about addiction recovery and helps you through your individual program. She doesn’t do the work for you or even tell you what work you need to do. You steer the process by telling her the outcome you’re looking for. The recovery coach helps you figure out what steps you need to take to reach that outcome.
How Recovery Coaching Works
Recovery coaching is another tool you can use to support your journey to lasting addiction recovery. You know you want to overcome addiction, but you don’t necessarily know how, what to do or where to start. A recovery coach understands the process of recovery and is there to guide you through.
Everything productive starts with a plan. You have a goal for recovery, and the recovery coach helps you develop a plan to reach that goal. You know you want to maintain abstinence, but you are not sure what to do when the cravings start. Your recovery coach will have the answers you need and be accessible to you in that moment.
The recovery coach will help you figure out how to incorporate the various tools available to people recovering from addiction. She knows where the 12 Step meetings are in your area if you’re using the 12 Step approach. She can help you build a support system so you don’t feel all alone as you fight your addiction. She can even recognize the signs of impending relapse and guide you to a program, counselor or meeting that will help.
A recovery coach is like a best friend who wants you to achieve your goals in recovery. The main difference is that this best friend has all the knowledge and information she needs to be really helpful on your journey. She can’t do the work for you, but she’s there to make sure you do the right work.
Is a Recovery Coach Different From a Therapist, Sponsor or Doctor?
A recovery coach is not a therapist, sponsor or a doctor. She is a completely separate professional engaged by you to help with your recovery. Some people engage a recovery coach first to help them figure out what other types of professionals they need. Some get a recovery coach after rehab to help them make the transition home and continue to support their sobriety.
A sponsor is a volunteer who is also in recovery. His role is to be a supportive friend and share with you some of the lessons he has already learned. By helping you through the 12 Step program, your sponsor also learns and reinforces lessons that help him with his own recovery journey.
In contrast, a recovery coach is a trained professional. She may act like a friend in supporting your recovery, but she has all the knowledge and tools you need to be successful. A recovery coach is not someone going through recovery, just like you, and learning as she goes. She has undergone formal training and gets paid for her expertise.
A therapist, of course, is also a paid, trained professional. A therapist uses her expertise to help you dig into your past and process the emotions that lead you to addiction. She guides you through a very vulnerable state and helps you understand your feelings and how they drive your actions. She helps you change your behavior by changing the way you think.
A recovery coach is not concerned with the past and is not trained to deal with deep emotional issues. A recovery coach handles life in the present and helps you make good choices moving forward. She works with you on physical habits that will be part of your healthy future.
A recovery coach is also not a doctor. She has no medical training and cannot prescribe or administer medications. A recovery coach, however, can guide you to the right type of medical treatment. She understands the signs of addiction, relapse triggers, and detox side effects, and can advise you to seek medical attention when necessary.
You may need a doctor for medically supervised detox, depending on the stage and extent of your addiction. It is not advisable to attempt to detox on your own since many drugs have dangerous withdrawal symptoms. Your recovery coach can explain the dangers to you in more detail.
Outside of Rehab, Who Else Uses Recovery Coaching?
People in addiction rehab use recovery coaches to help them stay on their program and make important changes to their habits and lifestyle. Immediately following rehab, relapses rates are high. Of people addicted to heroin, for example, 40-60% relapse in the first year after rehab. Engaging a recovery coach during this time period can greatly reduce your chances of relapse.
In rehab, you learn about certain relapse triggers: Places, people or activities that increase your desire to use drugs again. Some of these relapse triggers are universal, like stress. Stress is a major relapse trigger for everyone. But there are also more personal triggers that you learn about that are unique to your addiction.
Seeing your mother, for example, may remind you of uncomfortable circumstances from the past which bring up emotions that trigger your drug abuse habits. For other people recovering from addiction, seeing your mother would have no effect on them. The personal triggers are just that — personal — and they have to do with your unique addiction experience.
These specialized recovery coaches help people deal with their unique situations:
Travel Recovery Coach
Someone who has been in recovery for a long time may want to engage a recovery coach when they have to face one of their personal triggers. Travel, for instance, can present a challenge to maintaining abstinence for someone whose travel and vacationing habits included drugs and alcohol in the past. Having a recovery coach guide you through your first vacation after rehab would be helpful in maintaining your abstinence and having a good time.
A recovery coach is not just there to find 12 Step meetings for you to attend. She can also guide you toward new recreational habits that do not include drug use. She can help you create the new habits you will need to enjoy a healthy, substance-free life. She can also provide accountability for you while you’re working your program. A recovery coach will show you how to turn your talents and interests into a happy and productive existence.
Family Recovery Coach
For some people recovering from addiction, family intervention is very important. Addiction can run in families, and there can be other connections between the addiction and the immediate family. In some cases, the relationship is not as important as the proximity. People in recovery may be significantly affected by the people they live with, no matter what the familial relationship is.
A family recovery coach works with families to help them through the addiction and recovery, as well. The coach helps them provide a safe and comfortable environment for their addicted loved one who is coming home from rehab. She helps family members cope with the changes in their lives as a result of the addiction, and shows them how to accommodate the changes that recovery can bring.
Companion Recovery Coach
Depending on their situation, some people may want a long-term recovery coach. Someone who lives alone and has struggled to get through rehab may hire a live-in recovery coach to stay with her for a few weeks, months or even longer. A recovery coach is not going to maintain your sobriety for you, but if you need this type of companionship in order to rebuild your life in a healthy way, a recovery coach can help you.
Legal Recovery Coach
Sometimes, people working to overcome addiction are also involved in legal challenges. Addiction pushes people to do things they would not ordinarily do. They take risks with their health and break rules and laws to obtain the substances they need to feed their growing addiction. Sometimes, recovery comes as a result of criminal actions.
When the court is involved in rehab, there are usually extra rules to follow. Other outcomes could be dependent on compliance with a rehab program. Legal recovery coaches are sometimes hired by lawyers to be sure their client is adhering to the rules of the case. These type of recovery coaches have some legal background and can document compliance in a way that the court will acknowledge.
If you are in a legal situation related to your addiction, having a trained professional guiding you can only help your chances of success.
Recovery coaching has a lot of applications outside of rehab. Any area that is related to addiction recovery can be served by a recovery coach. The services of a recovery coach may be discontinued and then reinstated months or years later for an extra boost in your recovery. Recovery coaches can be especially helpful during life changes that might become overwhelming for recovered addicts. When you are moving, changing jobs, getting divorced, having a baby or doing anything new, having a recovery coach could ensure your addiction recovery is maintained.
Remedy Addictive Behaviors With a Recovery Coach
Probably one of the most helpful areas a recovery coach works on is changing addictive behaviors. While your therapist works on discovering the root causes of these behaviors and changing the way you think about certain things to alter those behaviors, a recovery coach is working with you on a daily basis to handle practical matters.
A recovery coach uses plans and strategies to get you through each day with continued abstinence. Once you have recognized your addictive behaviors, she can do a lot to help you make practical changes. It’s one thing to know you should stop doing something, but actually breaking the behavior is a whole other issue.
Recovery coaches help you develop a step-by-step plan to make needed changes in your life. One of your addictive behaviors, for example, might be to stop by the bar on your way home from work. You know, now that you’re in recovery, that you cannot continue this behavior and maintain your abstinence. But habits are hard to break.
The bar not only represented addiction in your life, but it was also a social outlet and a means of relieving work stress. A recovery coach can talk through this with you and make a plan to replace that addictive behavior with another activity. She will help you create habits that provide the social interaction and stress relief you need that will not threaten your abstinence.
Hiring a Recovery Coach
A recovery coach can be instrumental at any stage of recovery. She should be the first professional you hire when you decide you want to end your addiction. Here are some things to know about hiring a recovery coach:
- Recovery coaches are certified by the International Coach Federation (ICF) and may be subject to specific requirements in your state. You want to be sure the recovery coach you hire has attended an accredited training program, is certified as a recovery coach and meets any other local requirements.
- It’s a good idea to get recommendations for a recovery coach from someone who has used her services before, or from an addiction recovery practitioner. You could ask anyone involved in rehab to make some recommendations. Most rehab facilities should be able to offer you resources like recovery coaches they would recommend.
- Organization is a key skill for a recovery coach. You’ll want any recovery coach you consider hiring to demonstrate her ability to remain organized and bring simplification to chaotic situations. Whether she’s on time for your interview, how she is dressed and whether her demeanor seems frantic or relaxed are all good indicators of whether she is organized or not.
- Addiction recovery is very personal, so you’ll want to work with a recovery coach you feel you can connect with. There is no substitute for an in-person meeting to determine this type of compatibility. Explain your situation and ask her a couple of questions to see if she really “gets” you. Some personalities do not work well together. It doesn’t mean she’s not a good recovery coach — she just might not be a good one for you.
- Keep in mind that your recovery will progress better with a recovery coach than it will without one. Don’t waste a lot of time worrying about which recovery coach is best for you. It’s nice to have the right fit, but it’s better to get started with the wrong one than not get started at all.
A recovery coach is just one part of addiction treatment. Your recovery coach may be the first professional you engage to begin your recovery, but you will need others along the way. A recovery coach cannot provide you with all of the therapy and support needed to overcome addiction. She will help you make the most out of the other services you get, however, and fill in the gaps of information and support you’ll need.
Becoming a Recovery Coach
Whether you have experience in the counseling and addiction treatment fields or not, you can become a recovery coach. All levels of training are available through the ICF. Becoming a recovery coach can enhance the work you already do in addiction recovery, or even become a new professional avenue for you.
In addition to ICF, there are other accredited programs where you can get the training you need to become a recovery coach. The World Coach Institute offers a number of different paths to certification depending on your location and pre-requisites. Other training organizations include Recovery Coaches International, International Association of Professional Recovery Coaches and several state-based programs.
As a certified recovery coach, you might work in a number of different settings. You could work for private individuals to help them or their loved ones in recovery. As a companion recovery coach, your employment might including living with the person you’re working for, or you might travel with one or more clients. You could also work as a recovery coach affiliated with a rehab center.
JourneyPure River Recovery Coaching
At JourneyPure River, we incorporate recovery coaching into our aftercare program. We recognize how lonely it can be to go home from rehab. Your thoughts and habits are different, but you still need to rebuild the social fabric of your life. Sometimes, isolation can be the only means of avoiding the triggers you know will cause you to relapse. The first days after rehab can be some of the darkest ones.
We have built a recovery coaching system at JourneyPure River that goes home with every client we treat. Each client is personally matched with a recovery coach and educated on our Rec-Coach system. The system allows for secure messaging and video chats, with your recovery coach, that is HIPPA compliant. There is also a way to check in throughout the day and review your plan goals. Rec-Coach even coordinates with your local healthcare providers to manage your care.
Download the JourneyPure Coaching App
Contact JourneyPure River today to learn more about our approach to recovery coaching. Let us explain to you all the benefits our Rec-Coach system has for a successful and lasting recovery from addiction. Some extra support, especially in the first days and weeks after rehab, can guide you to that healthy, happy lifestyle you seek.
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Chris Clancy is the in-house Content Manager for JourneyPure’s Digital Marketing team, where he gets to explore a wide variety of substance abuse- and mental health-related topics. He has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist and researcher, with strong working knowledge of hospital systems, health insurance, content strategy, and public relations. He lives in Nashville with his wife and two kids.