You’ve made the commitment to your recovery—which is a major accomplishment. Whether you are leaving a detox facility or residential program, returning home can be nerve-wracking if you don’t have a structured recovery plan in place. Exploring the possibility of working with a recovery coach is one option that can help you smoothly transition back into the real world. Learn about the benefits of recovery coaching and see if this support service is right for you.
What is a Recovery Coach?
A recovery coach is almost like a cheerleader that motivates you and pushes you to stay on track in your recovery journey. They help with the often gritty, day-to-day process of overcoming addiction. Many coaches have their own personal experiences with substance use which allows them to relate more to you as the client. Depending on your preferences, they may communicate with you every day or multiple times a week to check in and offer guidance.
Becoming a certified addiction recovery coach requires a high school diploma or GED certificate and volunteer experience in the recovery support field, such as in peer recovery. These individuals also need to obtain state certification or licenses to practice coaching. Certain states may have additional qualifications for recovery coaches as well.
Unlike addiction therapists who focus largely on your past trauma, coaches meet you where you are at in recovery, identify obstacles or triggers hindering your progress, and create a solid plan of action for the future. One of the key differences is that coaches do not have a clinical background, so they don’t provide counseling or give diagnoses. Rather, they serve as a mentor and spiritual guide to navigating your own pathway to recovery.
While research is still underway, there are studies that show recovery coaching is a highly valuable tool in addiction treatment programs and increases the chances for a strong, long-lasting recovery.
What Services Can Recovery Coaching Programs Offer?
Peer-to-peer relationship – Recovery coaching focuses heavily on building a relationship through trust and compassion. Oftentimes, in your past addiction, you may have dealt with feelings of shame and guilt. Coaches create a warm, positive environment and listen intently to develop a close, personal relationship. An important benefit of recovery coaches is that most of them have their own experience in recovery so the bond you develop is different from the one you would typically form with a psychiatrist or therapist. And with daily communication, coaches will be able to quickly call out negative behaviors or early signs of a relapse.
Family support – Having a strong family dynamic is important to being successful in recovery. Family recovery coaching programs can provide education on addiction and recovery so everyone at home is on the same page. Coaches will share your successes and areas of improvement with your family members. Addiction affects the entire family, so while you focus on healing, your loved ones need their own care too. Coaches offer advice on how to rebuild a trusting relationship so both sides can properly heal.
Connected care network – Throughout your recovery journey, you may need additional clinical, medical, psychiatric, wellness, and legal services. Coaches can refer you to the appropriate service providers. If you’re nervous or unsure of where to start, coaches will be in your corner, cheering you on and pushing you to pick up the phone to make a call or send an email. Furthermore, recovery coaches will keep in contact with different providers to get updates on your progress.
Practical life skills – A huge part of getting back on your feet in recovery is figuring out what you want to pursue in life. Whether you plan on going back to school or getting a job, recovery coaches can put you on the right track. Some recovery coaching programs offer guidance with the college search process, techniques for balancing a school workload, as well as referrals to tutors and peer educators. Or, if you are interested in starting a new career, coaches can look for jobs with you, and teach you resume writing and how to refine your interview skills. In conjunction with this, you will also learn how to manage money through budgeting and financial education.
Recovery resources – Coaches have connections to many different recovery organizations. Building a strong support system to lean on during tough times is crucial to being successful in recovery. Therefore, coaches often encourage clients to go to different events, gatherings, or support groups to meet new people with similar experiences.
Toxicology screenings – Most recovery coaching programs give random toxicology screenings to hold you accountable in sobriety. If there is an instance where substances are present in your system, then you and your coach will figure out the next best steps.
What Are the Benefits of a Recovery Coach?
Accessible and flexible – You will meet your recovery coach at their office or speak with them virtually. If you are someone who has a busy professional career and a family, some coaches will even meet you out in public where it’s most convenient. For example, before your commute to work, you could ask your coach to meet you at a local coffee shop. Or if you have more availability on the weekends, you could meet them at a park. Our Mountainside recovery coaches may even take it a step further by going to sober outings with their clients. Some have even gone kayaking and to Broadway shows together too.
Practice setting goals – Many mental health professionals, recovery coaches included, stress the importance of setting SMART goals which are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound goals. For example, you wouldn’t just say “I want to better manage my mental health in recovery.” As much as this is an important goal, it is too broad and can be overwhelming to start with. Instead, you can tweak this to say, “I will practice yoga or meditation each morning to ground myself and prepare me for the day.” Recovery coaches will assist you in the goal-setting process and check in to see what is working and what needs to be improved.
Helpful tip: studies have found that writing down goals can make you 42 percent more likely to achieve your goals.
Become comfortable setting boundaries – When you set boundaries, you delineate what you will and will not accept in your life. Boundaries can empower people in recovery to become attuned to their own needs and stand up for themselves. You can create boundaries for yourself or with others. Although it may be uncomfortable to set them with your loved ones, recovery coaches will remind you that you are not doing it to hurt them, rather, you are doing it to protect your own well-being.
Frequent communication – With daily communication, recovery coaches can better understand your personality, your habits, and how to best connect with you. Sometimes, you may be hesitant to reach out to your loved ones in fear that you are “bothering them.” It might make you feel uneasy that you seem to be the one always calling with problems (which is probably not the case at all). However, recovery coaches expect you to talk to them at all times of the day. Whether you want to share a win or let them know you are dealing with a stressful time, a coach is there to support you.
Held accountable – Especially for recovery coaches who are in recovery themselves, they have been in your exact position at one point. You might be able to lie to friends, family, or coworkers and get away with it. An effective recovery coach, on the other hand, is well-skilled at detecting dishonesty and immediately knows when you’re avoiding the truth or making excuses for your actions. Coaches will hold you accountable and act as the driving force behind making difficult lifestyle changes to strengthen your recovery.
Implement self-care in your daily routine – Consistent self-care is an essential part of early recovery. If you’re having trouble finding ways to relax or deal with triggers, a recovery coach can help you uncover new hobbies and passions. You might find that you feel most at peace going for a walk outdoors, listening to music, or even taking a bubble bath at the end of the day. Being kind to yourself nurtures your mind, body, and spirit so you can feel more grounded and ultimately be available for yourself and others.
Sticking to a recovery plan, staying positive, and bouncing back from setbacks are much easier with the support of another person. Most importantly, you might be learning how to regain your sense of self that is often lost during addiction. Whether you have 4 months or 4 years of sobriety under your belt, a coach is a constant pillar of support, identifying strengths and helping you achieve your goals for a long-lasting recovery.