Traditionally, the treatment of addictive behaviors involved physicians, therapists, and support groups. The backbone of recovery from a substance use disorder is treatment from trained professionals who help the client develop a plan of abstinence and then implement the plan.
A recent trend in treatment for addictive behaviors is the sober coach, sober companion, sober buddy, or recovery coach. This person may not be a trained professional, though some sober coaches have training in addiction treatment. A sober coach inspires people who are in the early stages of recovery.
Sober coaches are closely related to life coaches, who often motivate people in business. The goals set by sober coaches are similar to the types of goals that life coaches provide for individuals’ careers.
The goals of a sober coach include:
For the most part, sober coaches do not provide formal treatment. The service is sort of a bridge between formal treatment and peer support groups.
One can hire a live-in sober coach to oversee their recovery program. The coach will stay with the client 24 hours a day, providing motivation to attend treatment sessions and helping the individual stay away from substances of abuse.
The sober coach is a motivator, cheerleader, and adviser for those in recovery. Use of a sober coach, particularly a live-in sober coach, can reduce the rates of relapse.
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Some sober coaches or recovery coaches may be therapists or other health care professionals, whereas others may have no formal training at all.
Just as there are life coach training programs that can provide certifications, there are similar training programs available for sober coaches. This is a strictly private certification associated with the completion of the organization’s program.
There are no formal licenses, and there is no statewide licensing exam like the ones that therapists, psychologists, and physicians must pass to practice. Thus, sober coaches may have no certification or training.
People who want to hire sober coaches should ensure that the potential coach has these basic skills. Sober coaches who are licensed in psychology, social work, or counseling would be preferable to those who only go through a training program from one of the private professional coach organizations.
There is an abundance of research on support, motivation building, and companionship in the treatment of numerous types of psychological disorders, including addictive behaviors. However, no formal standardized sober coaching platform has been evaluated by any type of clinical research trial.
While the support an individual receives from a sober coach is most likely going to be positive and helpful, there is no empirically validated evidence that sober coaching adds anything to traditional treatment for substance use disorders.
A sober coach should not be used as a replacement for therapy.
Unlike 12-step sponsors and people in peer support groups who do not charge for their services, sober coaches can come with a hefty price tag. Because it is not an empirically validated service, it is highly doubtful that insurance companies will cover the cost of a sober coach.
The cost of sober coaching services appears to be variable, depending on the coach’s level of expertise, experience, services, and location. Overall, the costs of a sober coach are higher than the costs associated with therapy for substance abuse.
Sober coaches should not be used as substitutes for any part of an empirically validated substance use disorder treatment program.The personal description of one widely known recovery coach is that the person functions similarly to a physical trainer. Sober coaches cannot lift weights for their clients, but they can give them the support to lift the weights themselves.
The financial cost of treatment for substance use disorder is often expensive, even for individuals who have good insurance coverage. The cost of recovery is further compounded by hiring a sober coach.
The decision to get a sober coach is strictly personal. If the benefits outweigh the costs and increase the person’s likelihood of sobriety, it is worth it.
If you answer “yes” to most of these questions, then you most likely do not need the added expense of a sober coach. If you answer “no” to some of these questions, investigate the reasons why you are not getting what you need from your support system.
Sober coaches can be helpful, but they may not add anything significant to a well-rounded recovery program, especially when the cost is factored in.
(2018). Who We Are. LifeCoach.com. Retrieved January 2019 from http://www.lifecoach.com/about
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(2018). Credentialing. International Coaching Federation. Retrieved January 2019 from https://coachfederation.org/icf-credential
(2018). Welcome to the IAPRC. International Association of Professional Recovery Coaches. Retrieved January 2019 from https://www.recoverycoachtraining.com/professional-recovery-coaching-programs/
(August 2013). Is a Sober Coach Necessary to Overcome Addiction? U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved January 2019 from http://health.usnews.com/health-news/health-wellness/articles/2013/08/27/is-a-sober-coach-necessary-to-overcome-addiction
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