What is a Recovery Coach?

“A recovery coach is a non-clinical person who helps remove personal and environmental obstacles to recovery, links the newly recovering person to the recovery community, and serves as a personal guide and mentor in the management of personal and family recovery. Such supports generated through mobilizing peer based volunteer resources within the recovery community, or provided by the recovery coach where such natural support networks are lacking” (White, 2002).

Today, there is a large industry called ‘coaching’, I am not speaking of just recovery coaching, but the larger field of professional coaching. In 1996, just 1000 coaches were registered members of International Coach Federation, as reported in Newsweek magazine. Over 13,000 registered members of the International Coaching Federation are working as coaches today (ICF, 2012). The coaching field is widening quickly with coaching specialties expanding by the minute, from executive coaching, to career coaching, to life coaching, to financial coaching and now, recovery coaching. It is the purpose of this blog is to focus on this newest member of the professional coaching family: the recovery coach.

A recovery coach works with a high net worth addict, and the peer recovery support specialist works with the addict living on the street. A nominally paid peer recovery support specialist works in community recovery support centers and a highly compensated professional recovery coach works with clients from the Silicon Valley or the beaches of South Hampton.

Two Types of Recovery Coaches
Today, numerous recovery advocacy programs utilize the twenty-first century treatment model called the Recovery Management Model. This model exemplifies the peer recovery support specialist’s work coaching addicts in a recovery community support center. These centers are emerging all over the United States, the most notable and documented recovery community support centers are the Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery in Hartford, CT., PRO-ACT in Philadelphia, PA and the McShin Foundation in Richmond, VA. (White & Kurtz 2003). These centers employ the peer recovery support specialists. These peer specialists work one on one with addicts that arrive at these centers to seek help in the recovery process. The peers (as they are often called) are paid by the centers, but their services are provided free to addicts that come to the center to seek recovery help.

A recovery coach (sometimes referred to as a sober coach, sober companion or personal recovery assistant) are highly compensated, working with high net worth clients able to afford a $75 to $250 per hour fee. Many of these recovery coaches have been associated with movie stars or musicians, like Britney Spears or Lindsay Lohan.
A recovery coach could work with a client 24/7 for a month, have a face to face meeting with a client for one hour a week, or a daily half hour telephone call. A recovery coach may escort the client from a treatment center to their home, or meet them at the recovery support center. A recovery coach can work within a traditional 12-step program like AA, or attend a SMART recovery meeting. They could use Kundalini yoga, Buddhist Recovery or choose to use a Christian recovery model. It is important for the recovery coach to be prepared to use whatever method of recovery that works for the client. A coaching contract is always client centered. A recovery coach can be trained in a recovery coaching certification program, have three college degrees with several initials after their name or have 15 years in recovery from crack cocaine and a criminal record. Either way, there are no prerequisites to being a recovery coach, except your passion to help a person in recovery from addiction.

recovery coaching 101Peer Recovery Support Specialist
The term Peer Recovery Support Specialist is used to reflect the collaborative nature of a peer to peer recovery relationship administered at a community recovery support center. The Peer Recovery Support Specialist’s primary goal is to help people achieve sustained recovery from their addiction. The Peer Recovery Support Specialist often is an individual in recovery themselves, using their experiential knowledge of recovery to help a fellow addict.
The Peer Recovery Support Specialist ensures the client gets involved with the recovery community, writes a personal recovery plan and a relapse prevention plan. The first step is a client centered recovery plan which is instrumental for the client to “buy” into the terms of their recovery. Part of this plan is the stabilization of the client’s recovery capital. Recovery capital is defined as what makes this client more grounded, recovery capital will make their life less stressful, and therefore less prone to acting out. Solving problems with housing stability, their family life, solving transportation problems as well as integrating job seeking or educational goals improves recovery capital. The recovery plan always outlines a time table for coach monitoring, support and re-intervention when needed, to maximize the health, quality of life and level of productivity of the client (Loveland & Boyle, 2005). There are several recovery plans, one of which was written by Michael Boyle MA and David Loveland, PhD called Manual for Recovery Coaching and Personal Recovery Plan Development, and it is available at: http://bha.dhmh.maryland.gov/CLINICAL%20SERVICES/Documents/ROSC/RC_ManualDASAedition7_22_05.pdf

Professional Recovery Coach
The public watches the recovery of a star, whether it be Rob Lowe, Robert Downey Jr. or Eminem with much more anticipation of their defeat than interest or recognition of their success (unless an Oscar or a Grammy is attached to it). I identify Bob Timmins as the first recovery coach. Bob Timmins, an addiction specialist, former heroin addict, and convict was credited with salvaging the lives of a long list of celebrity drug users by steering them onto the path of sobriety and helping them stay there. He died of COPD in 2008, he was 61 (Stewart, 2008). Though little known by the public at large, Timmins was a titan in the world of recovery coaching.
Bob was highly paid to coach rock musicians from bands like Aerosmith and Mötley Crüe, helping them recover from drugs and alcohol. Along the way he formed MusiCares, a not for profit that supports musicians in their twilight years, he ensured that green rooms at entertainment industry events were drug and alcohol free and also started the first association for Drug Court counselors in California. Yet, at the same time he helped many homeless adolescents find treatment, like 19 year old Jeff MacFarlane. Just like a peer recovery support specialist is there for a homeless crack addict at a Detroit recovery support center; Bob was there for many homeless teenagers. Today, Jeff MacFarlane is a lawyer and he runs the Timmins Foundation. The Timmins Foundation (http://timminsfoundation.org/) supports free beds for young addicts in treatment, runs homes for recovering young people and aids with educational funding to assist them along the way to recovery.

No matter what the moniker, peer recovery support specialist or recovery coach, our commitment is to give a client the support they need to fight this chronic disease. My hat is off to Bob Timmins for moving from coaching Steven Tyler to helping a homeless teenager, seamlessly and without a second thought. No matter how long we coach a client or how little we get paid, I think a recovery coach’s commitment to helping another person in recovery is what drives our bus!

Melissa Killeen