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How to Make the Most of Working with a Recovery Coach

Dual-diagnosis treatment - recovery coach concept - Addiction Treatment Servicers in Arlington VA | DC Area

Paying attention to our mental, emotional, and physical health is rule #1 for our lives in recovery, whether we are just starting out in recovery or facing unexpected challenges in our lives. Having someone who has lived recovery experience as a supportive guide is a strong foundation for maintaining a life in recovery. Narcotics Anonymous describes the importance of peer support, saying “the therapeutic value of one addict helping another is without parallel. We feel that our way is practical, for one addict can best understand and help another addict.” This defines the value of recovery coaching as well.

At Encore, the recovery coaches are specially trained, and work in collaboration with the primary therapist and clinical team. Using both our lived experience and our training, we help our patients build a solid foundation for maintaining their recovery, and help them learn how to enjoy this new life.

Many patients starting a treatment program have likely never worked with a recovery coach and may not even know they exist, so it’s important to understand the recovery coach-patient relationship and learn more about how to get the most out of it.

First, Know What to Expect

This is not a therapeutic relationship. A therapist treats patients for issues that affect their health and well-being, from depression and anxiety to trauma and addiction. The focus is often on looking at a patient’s past experiences to unravel what happened so the patient has a clear path to healing.

A recovery coach, on the other hand, is something like a sports coach —  someone who understands where you are in life and where you hope to go because they have been there and done that. They want you to win. That is, they focus on support and guidance to help you resolve current issues and create a healthy and enjoyable life in recovery. They are also trained to ask you hard questions and hold you accountable to the goals that you have set for yourself and your recovery.

It’s a good idea to figure out how much support you need and discuss this with your recovery coach. Will you meet with the coach every week? For how long? Do you need to meet more often? Is the coach available at other times for calls or text messages?

Before You Go, Set Your Recovery Goals

What is it that you need to create the kind of life in recovery you hope to have? Think about your professional and/or educational goals. Take time to think through the issues that may arise in your workplace or school now that you are in recovery. What kind of support do you need for navigating these changes and challenges? Consider what your social life will look like and think about what you want to do and enjoy.

Based on your needs and goals, determine what your primary needs are from the coaching relationship. This will take some self-understanding, and you may also want to talk to a therapist, trusted friend, or family member for their input. Most people who work with a recovery coach have a variety of goals for the support they need, including accountability, emotional support, guidance, and recommendations (like where and what kind of recovery groups to attend, how to find fun sober events and friends, etc.).

Keep in mind that coaches are people who have lived through the recovery experience so they will have empathy and knowledge of what you are going through. A recovery coach does not blame or accuse you when you make a mistake; rather, a coach helps you look at the situation so you can recover from it and move forward. They are also willing to share their own experiences to help you learn about recovery.

Be Open and Honest

Part of what contributes to people struggling with addiction is the unwillingness to get help and be honest about the difficulties and issues they face. That needs to change in order to build a healthy and happy life in recovery. Be willing to accept help and to understand that you need support and guidance in this phase of your life. Be open to what your recovery coach recommends and tells you.

Find a Recovery Coach Who Meets Your Needs

  • Look for a recovery coach who will understand who you are and what you have experienced. Having things in common matters.
  • Make sure the coach can help you move toward meeting the goals you have for your life.
  • Find a recovery coach who has connections and experience with the recovery community in your area. You want a coach who can help you feel connected and less isolated.
  • Make sure the recovery coach has training, credentials, and experience.
  • Is the coach state-certified?
  • What kind of training and education has the coach received? There are training and education programs for recovery coaches and substance abuse counselors.
  • How long has the coach been in recovery? Look for someone who has at least two years of recovery.
  • Is the recovery coach in supervision under a licensed mental health professional? That supervision is an added layer of support and provides confidence that the coach is able to meet your needs.

As someone who has been a recovery coach for almost 18 years, I have walked in my clients’ shoes. Nothing they say or have experienced surprises me. Chances are I have had similar experiences. I can cry with them, laugh with them, and tell them the hard truths they need to hear. I’m also going to be cheering and celebrating when they tell me their successes. Having someone who has lived through recovery themselves is an invaluable support for building your life in recovery.

Addiction is hard

Getting help shouldn’t be.

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