Recovery coaching

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Recovery coaching is a form of strengths-based support for persons with addictions or in recovery from alcohol, other drugs, codependency, or other addictive behaviors.[1] Recovery coaches work with persons with active addictions as well as persons already in recovery. Recovery coaches are helpful for making decisions about what to do with one's life and the part addiction or recovery plays in it. Recovery coaches help clients find ways to stop addiction (abstinence), or reduce harm associated with addictive behaviors. Recovery coaches can help a client find resources for harm reduction, detox, treatment, family support and education, local or online support groups; or help a client create a change plan to recover on their own.

Recovery coaches do not offer primary treatment for addiction, do not diagnose, and are not associated with any particular method or means of recovery. Recovery coaches support any positive change, helping persons coming home from treatment to avoid relapse, build community support for recovery, or work on life goals not related to addiction such as relationships, work, education etc. Recovery coaching is action oriented with an emphasis on improving present life and reaching goals for the future.

Recovery coaching is unlike most therapy because coaches do not address the past, do not work to heal trauma, and there is little emphasis on feelings. Recovery coaches are unlike licensed addiction counselors in that coaches are non-clinical and do not diagnose or treat addiction or any mental health issues.

Relationship to life coaching[edit]

Similar to life and business coaching, recovery coaching use a partnership model wherein the client is considered to be the expert on his or her life, the one who decides what is worth doing, and the coach provides expertise in supporting successful change. Recovery coaching focuses on achieving any goals important to the client—not just recovery-related goals. The coach asks questions and offers reflections to help the client reach clarity and decide what steps to take. Recovery coaching emphasizes honoring values and making principle-based decisions, creating a clear plan of action, and using current strengths to reach future goals. The coach provides accountability to help the client stay on track.

Other similar terms[edit]

The moniker "recovery coach" is used for a variety specific addiction support roles. The main distinction is between the professional or highly compensated Recovery Coach and the volunteer or agency employed Peer Recovery Support Specialist. Recovery support roles include the following:

Sober escort-a paid sober travel companion or travel escort that accompanies a client to an event, to treatment, to court and insures sobriety.Transportation can be a significant challenge to a newly abstinent person. Whether the client is interested in maintaining an ongoing recovery or just needs to stay abstinent for a period of time, getting from point A to point B can be difficult. Commonly called Travel Escorts or Sober Escorts, this version of a recovery coach may be required to transport a person in recovery across town, across the state, or across the county.

Many clients are introduced to a Travel or Sober Escort after an intervention, when immediate transportation to a treatment center is required. In the event a client is in a treatment center and a death in the family occurs, or they must appear in court, a Travel or Sober Escort will safely transport the client to and from the specific event safely. When a client is ready to leave a treatment center and return home, a Travel or Sober Escort will safely transport the client home.[2]

Sober companion or sober coach. A sober companion works "full-time" with the client: full work days, nights, weekends or extended periods where the coach is by the client's side 24 hours a day. Some recovery coach roles have evolved from a travel or sober escort to a Long Term Recovery Coach or Sober Companion. A Long Term Recovery Coach or Sober Companion works "full-time" with the client: full work days, nights, weekends or extended periods where the coach is by the client's side 24 hours a day. This long term option can begin with treatment discharge, the client's first day or weekend home and may develop into a coaching relationship that continues for several weeks, months or longer.

Returning home from treatment, the client trades a secure, drug-free environment for a situation where they know there are problems. A Long Term Recovery Coach or Sober Companion will provide the symbolic and functional safety of the treatment center. A Long Term Recovery Coach or Sober Companion will introduce the client to 12 step meetings; guide them past former triggers (e.g. liquor stores or strip clubs) and support the client in developing their recovery plan. A Long Term Recovery Coach or Sober Companion will help the client to make lifestyle changes in order to experience a better quality of life in the first crucial days after discharge from a treatment center. Sometimes a recovery coach is necessary to keep a client sober in order to regain custody of their child.[3]

Recovery support specialist (RSS) – a recovery support specialist(RSS) or a peer recovery support specialist (PRSS) is a non-clinical person who meets with clients in a recovery community organization, or goes off sight to visit a client. The Recovery Support Specialist may volunteer for these coaching services or be employed by a recovery community organization at minimum wage or slightly higher. The recovery support specialist ensures there is a contract for engagement, called a personal recovery plan. A key component of the Recovery Management model that all RSS follow, is this personal recovery plan. Peer Recovery support specialists (PRSS) are sometimes called "recovery coaches". William L. White long standing researcher and original author of the recovery management model, uses the term "recovery support specialist" and this is referenced in the paper entitled: Recovery Oriented System of Care (ROSC) Substance Use Disorder (SUD) Glossary of Terms, compiled by the Bureau of Substance Abuse and Addiction Services (BSAAS).[4] Other terms used to describe peer recovery support specialist is a peer mentor.[5]

Family Recovery Coach – The family plays such an important role for a person in recovery, yet is so often neglected by traditional models of recovery. Specially trained Family Recovery Coaches strive to create a calm, objective, non-judgmental environment for the family of a recovering addict. These coaches are knowledgeable in specific models that aid the family coping with the changes that they have gone through living with an active addict or living with a recovering addict. Regardless of an addict's choices, working with a Family Recovery Coach helps a spouse; partner; or loved ones avoid the mental obsession that plagues so many families affected by addiction and learn to lead sane and productive lives (Buncher, 2012).

Telephone or Virtual Recovery Coach – A Telephone or Virtual Recovery Coaching relationship may be established to continue beyond the face to face meeting of a client and a recovery coach, sober escort or a sober companion coach. The prior face to face coaching relationship was built on trust and re-established honesty for the client, so the Telephone or Virtual Recovery Coach relationship can continue in the same light, with daily or weekly telephone or web based conversations (Bronfman, Fisher, Gilbert & Valentine 2006).

Today, many treatment centers are embracing virtual recovery coaching and linking Telephone or Virtual Recovery Coaches to clients prior to leaving treatment as a way to continue the connection to the treatment center, as well as meeting guidelines of an 'aftercare' program. On line virtual coaching programs has also sprung up recently, either fee based or for free, that will help anyone apply the methods of recovery (e.g. developing a recovery plan and building recovery capital) whether the person has departed from a 30-day stay at a treatment center or relapsed many months after treatment.

Legal Support Specialist – Recovery Coach – Recently, lawyers dealing with criminal drug cases or drug courts have been requesting a type of recovery coaching to ensure a client, (perhaps under house arrest, enrolled in a drug court outpatient program or pending trial) stays sober as per the law's mandate. Recovery Coaches with the required certification and legal knowledge are contracted for this purpose. Coaches licensed as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker or Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor with training in assessments can perform these tasks. The courts request them to perform a client assessment. The coach will then draft a letter to the court and offer suggested placement in a residential alcohol/drug treatment center, an outpatient treatment program and/or a sober living facility. A Legal Support Specialist – Recovery Coach can also appear in court with the client and provide transportation to or from courthouse, Bob Timmins acted as a legal support specialist/recovery coach for many clients in his capacity in the California Drug Court system.

Brief history[edit]

In 1984, the rock group Aerosmith was attempting a comeback; but it was not working, just as their newest album Back in the Saddle was not climbing the charts. There were a lot of things that were not working for Aerosmith, Joe Perry and Steven Tyler, front men for the group, are referred to as the "Toxic Twins" for their heroin habits and other behaviors on and off the stage.[6] In fact, the entire band was heavily drinking or taking drugs.

That summer, while touring for the new album, co-manager, David Krebs, hired a psychiatrist to tour with the band. After a month, the doctor claimed the band was "unfixable". Krebs left the band. Aerosmith denied drugs were dragging down the tour and the album sales. (Aerosmith and Davis, 1997). The band pointed their fingers outward, blaming everyone else for their problems. The band changed record labels from CBS Records to Arista Records, and hired Tim Collins to manage the band[7]

Tim Collins, told the group that in order to survive they had to get sober, claiming that if they stopped using alcohol and drugs, he could take them "platinum" again.[8] Band members Joey Kramer and Tom Hamilton both became sober and by the fall of 1986. Steven Tyler went to an in-treatment drug rehabilitation center, followed by Joe Perry. By the end of 1986, the final band member Brad Whitford had accepted sobriety. Even so, Aerosmith’s sobriety commitment to Tim Collins was only partially completed. Collins still had to get these heavy metal rockers on the road, with roadies, groupies, opening acts and exposure to more drugs and alcohol, in order to promote their newest album, Permanent Vacation. Tim was able to help the group, maintain sobriety throughout the tour by contracting a recovery coach, Bob Timmins to stay with the band through the tour. A new era in recovery coaching had begun.[9]

Recovery Coaching became more developed and professional in 2003 as a professional life-coaching niche. Alida Schuyler, a coach credentialed by the International Coach Federation (ICF) and a woman in recovery from addiction wrote the first recovery coach certification training program specifically aimed at training students to coach persons with addictions. She also created the first special interest group for recovery coaches, and she co-founded the nonprofit Recovery Coaches International with Andrew Susskind.[10]

William L. White used the term "recovery coach" in his 2006 paper Sponsor, Recovery Coach, Addiction Counselor but later changed adopted the term "Peer Recovery Support Specialist" to emphasize a community-based peer model of addiction support. Many recovery coaches use different recovery approaches adapted from the Minnesota Model. White's Recovery Management model adapted from the Minnesota Model includes recovery coaching (peer recovery support specialist) and was developed by William White in 2006.[11] Alida Schuyler developed a professional model of life coaching for addiction recovery by blending the Minnesota Model and Harm Reduction model with the core competencies of the International Coach Federation (ICF).

Through the research completed by William White, David Loveland, Ernest Kurtz, Mark Saunders and the efforts funded through Faces and Voices of Recovery, the Fayette Companies, Great Lakes Addiction Technology Transfer Center, the Chestnut Health Systems and many other universities, research on recovery coaching is multiplying at a very rapid rate. Two research papers were published in 2009 and 2011 by Melissa Killeen and is housed at the University of Pennsylvania (PA) Library.[12] Through this research the theory has been developed that recovery coaching reduces relapse by providing the recovering individual ongoing support developing healthy problem-solving skills and self efficacy (reaching worthwhile goals) as well as connecting with the local recovery community for additional support. In other words, recovery coaching helps the client develop the cognitive skills necessary for considering options and consequences, making clear choices, planning and taking actions toward healthier life and recovery goals.[13] Recovery coaching is currently offered by such notable 12-step treatment centers as Hazelden through their MORE program.[14]

In 2013, the first self-help book to offer readers Recovery Coaching techniques to help them rebuild their lives after addiction was published. The Happy Addict: How to be Happy in Recovery from Alcoholism or Drug Addiction (ISBN 978-0957321717), authored by Recovery Coach Beth Burgess, was released by Eightball Publishing in July 2013.[15]

Addiction recovery support groups[edit]

Recovery coaches encourage (but most do not require) participation in groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), Al-Anon or non 12-step groups such as LifeRing Secular Recovery, SMART Recovery, Moderation Management (MM), and Women for Sobriety. Recovery coaches do work with individuals who dislike groups to help them find their own path to recovery.

Niches within recovery coaching[edit]

Recovery coaches may work with any type of addict, an alcoholic, a drug addict, a gambler, a sex addict, a kleptomaniac, an over spender, absolutely any form of addiction.[16] There are also niches within recovery coaching such as the coach that works exclusively with families of recovering individuals, or the financial coach that works on rebuilding an over spender's credit rating. There is a strong emphasis with peer recovery support specialists working with individuals that have left the prison system and are attempting to rebuild their lives, and there are recovery coaches who specialize in emotional and financial recovery from divorce.

There are also those few that specialize in essentially merging the characteristics of recovery coaching within a life coaching framework as described by Alexandra Birenbaum, MA, CAP, Life Coach & CSAT Candidate. The concept takes into account the often overlooked reality that those in early recovery tend to have unique difficulties in applying the realities of day-to-day living within their new sober lifestyle. Such unique coaching styles are able to span far beyond the recovery component and properly introduce outside influencers such as; family relations, work/employment, schooling, relationships, etc.

For those requiring a higher level of care, such as medical detoxification for heroin or opiate withdrawal for instance, or 24/7 sober companion and oversight services, there exists recovery coaching firms which specialize in providing what could often be described as an alternative to inpatient our outpatient treatment. Companies like The Addictions Coach and others which have nationwide credentials are able to essentially bring the addiction treatment component to the client, no matter where he or she may be located.

What recovery coaches do[edit]

Recovery coaches support the client in achieving and maintaining a solid foundation in recovery, and building upon recovery to achieve other life goals that make recovery worthwhile. David Loveland and Michael Boyle wrote a lengthy manual on Recovery Coaching and how to guide an individual through creating their recovery plan[17] William White, preeminent scholar on addictions, worked closely with the Philadelphia community based recovery center, PRO-ACT, to prepare a document outlining the "Ethical Guidelines for the Delivery of Peer-Based Recovery Support Services", (Faces and Voices of, 2007). These documents provide a discussion of what a recovery coach does. Also included in these guidelines are the definition of coaching roles as they relate to others in the realm of personal conduct and conduct in service relationships with the community service provider or treatment team. This document presents a simple statement of core competencies (Faces and Voices of, 2007).[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Recovery Coaching: A Guide to Coaching People in Recovery from Addiction, Melissa H Killeen, Amazon Books, 2013,
  3. ^ Recovery Coaching: A Guide to Coaching People in Recovery from Addiction, Melissa H Killeen, Amazon Books, 2013,
  4. ^ − 75.0kb
  5. ^
  6. ^ George-Warren, Holly, Romanowski, Patricia and editor Jon Pareless, Rollingstone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, NYC. NY, Simon and Schuster, 2001
  7. ^ Aerosmith and Davis, Stephen, Walk this Way, NYC, NY Avon Publishing, 1999
  8. ^ George-Warren, Holly, Romanowski, Patricia and editor Jon Pareless, Rollingstone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, NYC. NY, Simon and Schuster, 2001
  9. ^ Recovery Coaching: Guide to Coaching People in Recovery from Addiction, Melissa H Killeen, Amazon Books, 2013,
  10. ^ [1]’’Early History of RCI’’ by Doreen Cardwell, ‘’’Recovery Coaching Times’’’ Winter 2010
  11. ^ White, William, Kurtz, Ernest, & Sanders, Mark(2006) Recovery Management, Behavioral Health and Mental Retardation Services, and the Great Lakes Addiction Technology Transfer Center, Chicago Il
  12. ^
  13. ^ White, William, Kurtz, Ernest, & Sanders, Mark(2006) Recovery Management, Behavioral Health and Mental Retardation Services, and the Great Lakes Addiction Technology Transfer Center, Chicago Il
  14. ^ ’’’Hazelden Voice’’’ Vol 11, Issue 1 Winter 2006
  15. ^ Amazon
  16. ^
  17. ^ Loveland, David, PhD, Boyle, Michael, MA., Manual for Recovery Coaching and Personal Recovery Plan Development, Chicago, IL, Fayette Companies working on a grant from the Illinois Department of Human Services, Department of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, June 6, 2005
  18. ^ White, William, (2007). Ethical Guidelines for the Delivery of Peer Based Support Services Faces and Voices of