5 Questions for Finding the Right Recovery Coach

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We Help Thousands of Addicts Quit. Who Answers?

In my last post, I introduced the benefits of working with a recovery coach to help with your or your loved one’s substance issue. The right recovery coach can help you navigate the various addiction treatment systems, motivate you to engage in a program, accompany and support you on the path to recovery, and help reduce lapses and relapses, and the harm that comes from them.

In this post, we will learn how to find the best recovery coach to meet your specific needs. Ask yourself these five important questions.

WHO do you want your recovery coach to be?

Peer or Professional?

Remember from my last post that the main differences between peer and professional recovery coaches are: 1) Peer coaches base their approach on what’s worked for them, while professional coaches are trained to use a variety of strategies; 2) Peer coaches usually only do the work of accompaniment and professional coaches do all four of the above recovery coaching activities (i.e., navigation, engagement, accompaniment and reduction of lapses/relapses); and 3) Peer coaches usually only work with the substance-involved individuals whereas professional coaches work with both substance-involved individuals and their concerned significant others.

You need to decide if you want your coach to primarily relate to you from the perspective of his/her own recovery, or if you want someone who has professional coach training in a variety of strategies that have been shown in scientific studies to be effective…-Michael V. Pantalon

You need to decide if you want your coach to primarily relate to you from the perspective of his/her own recovery, or if you want someone who has professional coach training in a variety of strategies that have been shown in scientific studies to be effective for substance-involved individuals. Keep in mind that you may be able to find someone with both lived and professional experience (someone in recovery who has received professional recovery coach training). Also, is the coach for a concerned significant other or a substance-involved individual? If it’s for the former, then a peer coach may not be as relevant to your needs as a professional coach who has learned how to help families navigate treatment systems and motivate their loved ones to seek help.

Please check the appropriate box based on your preference:
[ ] Peer
[ ] Professional

WHAT do you want your recovery coach to help you with?

General Support or Strategic Activities?

There are many professional recovery coaches to be found on the internet who are there to offer support, encouragement and stress reduction for families going through addiction with a loved one. While this is a critical part of taking care of yourself during such a stressful time, it is my opinion that also working with a recovery coach on strategic activities that have a good chance of getting your loved one into and productively engaged in evidence-based (i.e., scientifically-validated) addiction treatment will ultimately remove the stressors that are so negatively affecting you and your family members.

So, you need to decide what you want the coach for – support and temporary stress reduction, or all of that plus strategic activity planning that will help solve the root problem. If you are the substance-involved individual choosing a coach, ask yourself, do I want someone to generally support me through my recovery, or do I want someone to help me figure out how to find and make the best use of evidence-based help? You may find the former online by Google searching “Recovery Coach” but, as far as I know, there is only one place you can find the latter (so far, at least) and that is at my Center for Progressive Recovery, where I train professional recovery coaches in these strategic activities and connect them with clients such as yourselves. Were there another place that did this, I would happily refer you to it, but sadly there isn’t. In fact, that is why I decided to start it, because too many people are trying to find their way through the complexities of the recovery process and because I know coaching works.

Please check the appropriate box based on your preference:
[ ] General Support
[ ] Strategic Activities

WHAT coaching approach do you prefer?

12-Step or Evidence-Based?

You should know that there are generally two types of approaches to working with substance-involved individuals and their family members, the 12-step versus evidence-based approaches. The 12-step approach is based on Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous, which are self-help groups that most treatment programs have adopted as their therapeutic method. The evidence-based approach uses a variety of psychotherapies (e.g., cognitive-behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing, harm reduction) and medications (e.g., naltrexone, suboxone) that have been shown to be effective in scientific studies.

While 12-Step Facilitation is an individual psychotherapy that has been shown to be effective in treating alcohol and drug addiction… the type of 12-step work that is done in most treatment centers has not.-Michael V. Pantalon

While 12-Step Facilitation is an individual psychotherapy that has been shown to be effective in treating alcohol and drug addiction, 12-step meetings and the type of 12-step work that is done in most treatment centers has not. It is clear, however, that 12-step meetings have helped countless people but many are turned off by the religious/spiritual emphasis and its rigid focus on complete abstinence. Still others want to know that what they are doing for their or their loved ones’ addiction has credible scientific evidence to support it, much like we have for the treatment of diabetes, hypertension and asthma.

Please check the appropriate box based on your preference:
[ ] 12-Step
[ ] Evidence-Based

WHERE do you want to work with your recovery coach?

Since most of the recovery coaches or sober companions you will find online focus on accompaniment – escorting you on outings or events where there may be substances in order to help prevent your use of them – their place of work will, by definition, be in those settings. However, most professional coaches (life, health/wellness, executive coaches) work remotely – over the phone, Skype, text or email. That does not preclude in-person meetings, but given how new professional recovery coaching is, they may be difficult to arrange. Also, working remotely has the advantage of having your coach be available virtually at a moment’s notice. Again, my center is one option if you are open to remote work or live in one of the following areas, Greater New York City, Northern Connecticut/Southern Massachusetts, Northern California, Portland, Oregon, Twin Cities, Minnesota or Overland Park, Kansas.

Please check the appropriate box based on your preference:
[ ] Local
[ ] Remote

WHY do I want to work with a recovery coach?

Why do I want to work with a recovery coach at all? What do I want to get out of it? How will it benefit me and my loved ones?-Michael V. Pantalon

As someone who is also a motivation expert, I know that “why?” is perhaps the most important question. Ask yourself, Why do I want to work with a recovery coach at all? What do I want to get out of it? How will it benefit me and my loved ones? Not only will asking why help you sort out all of the above Who, What, Where questions, it is a critical question to talk to your coach about. While some coaches may tell you that the why is simple – because you or your loved one has to stop using, all of my progressive recovery coaches are trained to help you develop, reinforce and most importantly remain mindful of the reasons why you want to engage in this work. Therein lie your motives, your motivation and your drive to change.

This is one of the clearest benefits of working with a professional recovery coach who has training in evidence-based approaches. They learn about effective ways of getting at your whys, such as motivational interviewing and the Community Reinforcement Approach plus Family Training, which happen to be the two best ways to motivate someone with substance issues to seek help, both of which can be done by concerned significant others with the help of a professional recovery coach.

Your Next Step: For peer coaches who provide general support and assistance with 12-step approaches, please consult your local state departments of mental health and addiction services, which often list recovery coaching agencies with which they are affiliated (e.g., in Connecticut, ct.gov/dmhas and ccar.us, respectively). For professional coaches providing support and education around dealing with an addiction, see recoverycoachingfoundation.us or do your own Google search using the phrase “Recovery Coach.” However, if you want a professional recovery coach trained in evidence-based coaching and one that can educate you and/or your loved one about evidence-based treatment, then please contact the Center for Progressive Recovery at centerforprogressiverecovery.com.

As a loved one, another possibility is to become trained as a professional recovery coach yourself. Whether you want only to help your significant other or whether you want to start a new career as a recovery coach, this is a very helpful option that is also provided by our center.

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