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recovery coaches can help with long-term recovery
March 17, 2018

What is Recovery Coaching and How to Find an Addiction Recovery Coach

recovery coaches can help with long-term recovery

If you or your loved one has begun treatment for drug or alcohol addiction, or a dual diagnosis of substance use disorder and mental health issue, or a process addiction, or a combination of addictions, you already know that the recovery journey is now a lifelong one. It isn’t a one-and-done stint at rehab and an effortless path forward. In fact, the first 90 days to six months after receiving treatment is when the newly-sober are the most vulnerable to relapse. Clearly, ongoing encouragement and support is warranted – even beyond what is available at 12-Step and self-help groups, loved ones and family members. Here’s where recovery coaching and an addiction recovery coach can prove not only beneficial but vital in the ability to live a meaningful, purposeful life in recovery.

But what is recovery coaching, and how do you find an addiction recovery coach?


Among the definitions of recovery coaching is one from the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services that says it is “a form of strength-based supports for persons in or seeking recovery from alcohol and other drugs, or other addictions.” Recovery coaching is also referred to as peer mentoring where the recovering addict self-directs his or her recovery while receiving guidance, support and encouragement from the expertise of the trained recovery professional. The International Association of Professional Recovery Coaches (IAPRC) defines an IAPRC professional recovery coach, which is different from a peer recovery coach, as a professional coach with a specialty in addiction recovery who possesses the unique skills and understanding to work with recovering addicts and their families. While recovery coaches do not provide clinical treatment or counseling, they are instrumental in supporting goals and work on recovery already established during treatment for addiction.

Recovery Coaches International says that recovery coaching is “an ongoing professional relationship that supports individuals who are considering (or may be in) recovery from addictions to produce extraordinary results…while advancing their recovery from addiction.


The concept of coaching is probably familiar to most people because of their interest in or experience with sports. A coach helps individual team members achieve personal goals, as well as strategizing and putting together a plan to help guide and motivate the team as a group. The same principles apply to a recovery coach and the benefits that recovery coaching offer.

Beyond the overarching goals of the recovery coach to assist those who desire to achieve and maintain sobriety, however, there are specific characteristics and skills to look for in an addiction recovery coach. An effective recovery coach:

  • Will always be available. A crisis requiring immediate intervention or a phone call for reassurance doesn’t adhere to a timeclock. Often, when the uncontrollable urge to drink or do drugs hits it is nighttime, on the weekend, during a holiday, in the middle of the workday or some other inconvenient and inopportune moment. You want to know that your recovery coach is available to take your call or text and will help you weather this crisis and stay on track with your recovery.
  • Holds you accountable. You may be able to hide things from friends, co-workers, loved ones and family members. In fact, because of your addiction, you’ve likely gotten adept at doing so. An effective recovery coach, on the other hand, is well-skilled at detecting subterfuge and lies and knows instinctively when you’re avoiding the truth or making excuses for your actions. It wouldn’t be in your best interest for the recovery coach to allow you to get by – just this time. That’s why he or she holds you accountable for your actions and reminds you why you said you want to be sober. Sometimes, it’s this accountability partner that serves as a catalyst to make difficult lifestyle changes that enhance and further your recovery.
  • Helps you identify and locate resources. Once you’ve gone through treatment and are making strides achieving initial goals in recovery, you’re likely going to make some substantial changes in your life. This may include getting back on your feet financially, learning new communication and job skills, searching for and obtaining meaningful employment, going back to school, coordinating requests for assistance and other necessary resources. The recovery coach can serve as the first point of contact to help you identify and locate the resources you need as you enter various stages of recovery.
  • Will be in contact with family members. Expect your recovery coach to know how to contact your family members in the event communication with them is required. Since your recovery coach is an active participant with you in helping you achieve your recovery goals, you should want and encourage your addiction recovery coach to interact with your family, again, as appropriate. An effective recovery coach is never intrusive, respects boundaries and your privacy and always works in your best interest.
  • Assists you in goal setting and achievement. With your judgement and decision-making ability improving now that you’re clean and sober, the recommended approach of setting goals and charting a path to achieve them becomes even more important. You’re now beyond the detox and initial stages of sobriety. Still, the future may seem daunting and you might be uncertain what goals to target first or how to get started working on them. Confide your aspirations with your recovery coach and enlist his or her help in setting appropriate goals and a workable timetable that incorporates stages of completion that you agree on. Part of the responsibility of your recovery coach is to remind you what you’ve identified as important and want to succeed at. This dovetails with the recovery coach’s function to hold you accountable, since the tendency to make excuses for not achieving goals will be pointed out.

In real-world terms, how well does recovery coaching fare in helping those in recovery to get and stay sober? Here’s one example. In Massachusetts, Gov. Charlie Baker has outlined a multi-pronged approach to help combat the opioid crisis in the state. He said that an opioid bill he introduced in late 2017 that included an ongoing recovery coach pilot program has already produced encouraging preliminary results. The concept is to learn how to make recovery coaches an embedded part of the health care system in Massachusetts. Gov. Baker wants the federal government to look at Massachusetts’ success with recovery coaching and become more aggressive adopting recovery coaching around the country. According to Gov. Baker, recovery coaching helps “people who get into recovery stay in recovery.”


While both a recovery coach and a substance abuse counselor have the aim of helping you with sobriety goals, and there are nuances and some overlap, there are crucial differences to note as well.

A substance abuse counselor:

  • Is part of the treatment team and interacts with clients during the treatment phase.
  • Facilitates the start of recovery once the client indicates a readiness and willingness to change.
  • Interaction with the client has a beginning, middle and end – during treatment.
  • Creates a professionally-directed treatment plan.
  • Location of interaction is generally in a treatment facility (institution) or office-based.
  • Are formally educated and institutionally credentialed – i.e., licensed and credentialed.

A recovery coach:

  • Generally, enters the picture after treatment has concluded, typically during the aftercare or continuing care part of an overall treatment program.
  • Is actively involved in motivational enhancement strategies to motivate a recommitment to recovery.
  • On an ongoing basis, facilitates a client-centered recovery plan that includes lifestyle changes considered crucial for successful long-term recovery.
  • Uses his or her own recovery story to help connect to the stories of others and recovery’s reality and power.
  • Offers guidance to the newly-recovered on how to live in recovery.
  • Interaction with the recovered individual continues for months and even years after treatment concludes.
  • Interaction occurs in the recovered individual’s environment, generally neighborhood or even home-based service.
  • Experiential knowledge and expertise form the basis of the recovery coach’s legitimacy and credibility.


Not every addiction rehab facility offers recovery coaching on-site or provides this service at all. The best inpatient alcohol rehab treatment facilities do, of course, but the lack of a recovery coach where you or your loved one goes for drug or alcohol rehab shouldn’t deter from the search for a professional licensed and credentialed recovery coach or peer recovery coach. After all, whether during treatment or afterward, during aftercare or continuing care offered by premier treatment facilities, a recovery coach can provide that level of reassurance you need that you’ll have someone you trust helping you as you strive to make progress toward meaningful life goals in sobriety.

Since a recovery coach works with you to help you achieve meaningful life goals in sobriety, finding one who carries appropriate coaching certification is important. So is checking out the recovery coach’s training credentials and background.

Look for recovery coaches with certification credentials including:

  • Associate Certified Coach, Professional Certified Coach, Master Certified Coach, from the International Coach Federation (ICF). Search for an ICF-certified addiction recovery coach using the site’s credentialed coach finder.
  • Peer Recovery Coach, from the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium.
  • National Certified Peer Recovery Support Specialist (NCPRSS) from NAADAC, the National Association for Addiction Professionals
  • National Certified Peer Specialist (NCPS) from MHA, Mental Health America
  • “Certified Recovery Coach Professional Level” and “Certified Recovery Coach Peer Level,” from the International Association of Addiction Professionals



International Association of Addiction Professionals. “Certified Recovery Coach Professional Level.” “Certified Recovery Coach Peer Level.” Retrieved March 1, 2018.

International Association of Professional Recovery Coaches. “Frequently Asked Questions.” March 1, 2018.

International Association of Professional Recovery Coaches. “Spreading love and kindness enhances recovery.” Retrieved February 23, 2018.

International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium. “IC&RC.” Retrieved March 3, 2018.

International Coach Federation (ICF). “About ICF.” Retrieved March 3, 2018.

International Coach Federation (ICF). “Credentialed Coach Finder.” Retrieved March 3, 2018.

Mental Health America. “MHA National Certified Peer Specialist.” Retrieved March 1, 2018.

NAADAC. “National Certified Peer Recovery Support Specialist.” Retrieved March 1, 2018.

Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, New York State. “Recovery Coach.” Retrieved March 1, 2018.

Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Mental Retardation Services. “Sponsor, Recovery Coach, Addiction Counselor: The Importance of Role Clarity and Role Integrity.” Retrieved February 26, 2018.

Recovery Coach. “What is a Recovery Coach?” Retrieved February 23, 2018.

Recovery Coaches International. “What Is Recovery Coaching?” Retrieved March 1, 2018.

Worcester Business Journal. “Gov. Baker wants drug companies to do more to fight opioid addiction.” Retrieved February 24, 2018.