What is the Role of a Recovery Coach?

Nov 13, 2022
Alex Cable

Addiction treatment options are constantly changing. The field of Recovery Coaching is growing rapidly and is part of the peer-to-peer model of addiction treatment.

While residential or inpatient treatment can make a huge difference in early recovery from substance abuse disorders, there are some gaps which recovery coaches can fill.  The disease of addiction is often more than just a chemical dependency—it can be a flawed coping mechanism for dealing with difficult emotions. Either before or after inpatient treatment, or without any treatment, having the encouraging and stabilizing presence of a coach can be a tremendous help. At Surrender Consulting, our staff have not only had first-hand experience battling and recovering from their own addictions, but hold extensive training and experience in helping others recover as well.

What does a recovery coach do?

The goal of a recovery coach is to support an individual in setting and achieving their own recovery-based goals. Whereas a counselor or a therapist diagnoses addictive behavior and prescribes treatment, a coach will offer strategies and encouragement needed to stay on the chosen path of recovery. The services a coach can include are:

  • Assisting individuals and families form a plan of action
  • Connecting them with appropriate resources
  • Helping to navigate treatment options
  • Providing support and accountability 
  • Offering reinforcement of positive behaviors
  • Helping them view their progress objectively
  • Assisting in harm reduction for addictive behaviors

Essentially, a recovery coach guides families and individuals through the day-to-day process of overcoming addiction. 

What does coaching look like?

We believe that there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to the process of recovery, so we tailor our process to the situation and circumstances of each individual.

We meet clients in person and virtually via video chat. In some cases, recovery coaches act as “sober companions” to help avoid relapse in difficult situations. Others might provide support to the family of a person in recovery. A coach’s involvement can vary from 24/7 support, to more casual weekly check-ins.

Recovery coaches typically begin by getting to know a person’s individual story, and their history with substances. The next step involves setting clear goals, and outlining the steps it will take to reach them. Coaches will then provide additional support and motivation to take daily steps toward their goals. As time goes on, the coach helps assess what is  and isn’t working, so continued forward progress can be made.

Active listening and encouragement are two key strategies used by recovery coaches in an effort to keep clients positive and engaged. Coaches encourage self-care, and point clients toward helpful practices including mindfulness, and finding new, enjoyable activities like going to the gym. This serves clients by showing them that life can be very rewarding without substances.

How has recovery coaching helped people?

Anecdotally, there is a widespread feeling in the industry that using additional support services like coaching humanizes the recovery process. Coaches serve as an objective, rational voice that offers both accountability and encouragement. In early recovery, it is sometimes very difficult to be objective about what is going well, and what still needs work. Maintaining a positive attitude, sticking to the plan, and learning from mistakes is easier with the support of a recovery coach. 

Research is still in progress, but there are studies2 that suggest an important role for recovery coaches in treatment programs. There is also evidence that general behavioral therapy works well in combination with medications like naltrexone.

Where can I find a recovery coach?

Recovery coaching has expanded rapidly over the past few years, due to changes in the healthcare system. This is a very positive development as access to recovery coaches is becoming more widespread, and treatment programs are increasingly involving recovery coaches in their programming. Unfortunately, there is no national licensing program for recovery coaches, and requirements vary from state to state, so it is hard to know the quality of a coach if you go looking for one on your own. At Surrender Consulting, all of our coaches hold multiple certifications, and participate in continued trainings to ensure they are providing the best possible care.