Time to Embrace the Future
I never realized how opposed some people in the recovery community are to both peer and professional recovery coaches. In listening to the hours and hours of debates the only conclusion that I could come to is a lack of understanding my some members of the recovery community as to what a recovery coach really is.
The conversations always seemed to go back to a comparison of a twelve-step sponsor. To clarify and understand we will need to define what each position represents. A twelve-step sponsor is a guide to the twelve steps. That is their job. They are not advisors, bankers, counselors, relationship advisors, loan officers, or therapists. In some meetings they require that a sponsor have at least a year clean and sober to sponsor newcomers. In other groups members are allowed to sponsor others as soon as they complete the twelve steps, that could be in one or two months or longer. The problem that I have always seen here is a lack of consistency. A sponsor almost always takes a person through the steps the way that their sponsor took them through the steps. Different sponsors have different techniques. Again these leads to a lack of consistency. Wisdom comes with time and experience, not by racing through the steps. Sponsors have a valuable role in the twelve-step process.
A peer recovery coach is not a guide to the steps. The peer recovery coach has training, skills and tools to help the person suffering from addiction maintain sobriety. The coach may attend events with the client that are challenging to the client’s sobriety. The coach will use skills to help the client break through roadblocks to recovery. The coach may even live with the client for a period of time if things are severe. A peer coach may be volunteer or paid depending on them.
A Professional Recovery Coach is highly trained and skilled with many tools to help the client suffering from addiction. The Professional Recovery Coach is trained on ethics and core competencies, action planning, powerful questions, active listening, legal issues and forms, body language, tones, and inflections, pharmacology, emerging street drugs, models of addiction, models of treatment, styles of treatment, identifying key qualities, values, and principles, disengagement, cultural perceptions, responsibilities, confidentiality, building life skills, qualifying clients, personalities vs. mental health, life skills, stress reduction, activities and coping skills, family dynamics and systems, defense mechanisms, community resources, engagement, and helping the client break through road blocks and reach solution. The Professional Recovery Coach is so much more, continually learning and staying informed of the latest laws, techniques, and modalities. They are there to help all those suffering from addiction to be successful long term. These are paid individuals, that usually meet with the client in person, on the telephone, or on the internet. These coaches may or may not be in recovery themselves.
The big debate has been that sponsors are free in twelve-step programs, so why should people have to pay for a recovery coach. The other argument that I have heard is that these people are taking advantage of people that need help by taking money from them. That’s just simply not true. There is a tremendous difference between a Professional Recovery Coach and a sponsor. If your teeth hurt you wouldn’t go to the neighbor to extract your tooth, you would go to the dentist. If you broke your leg, you wouldn’t go to the office and have your secretary take care of it, you would go to an orthopedic surgeon. It’s the same concept here! The Professional Recovery Coach is a well trained professional that deserves to get paid for their career.
In the Basic Text of Alcoholics Anonymous, (The Big Book) at the end of the chapter “Spiritual Experience” there is a wonderful quote by a man named Herbert Spencer. “There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance- that principle is contempt prior to investigation.”
The bottom line is that recovery coaches are helping to save lives! Statistics have shown that the process works. I know that people in general don’t like change very much, but if change doesn’t come a whole lot of people are going to continue to die. Professional Recovery Coaches have business expenses like all other professionals and work hard for their pay. Do you get paid for your job? How would you feel if someone said that you didn’t deserve to get paid or that you’re taking advantage of people? People need to think before they say some of the things that they say. Those in recovery what about spirituality and live and let live? We simply can’t afford to fear change.
©2015 Rev. K. T. Coughlin PhD