The work of recovery coaches is a very important part of the addiction recovery process and their role is vital in the recovery community. To use the description from the Recovery Coach Academy:
“A Recovery Coach promotes recovery and removes barriers and obstacles to recovery, serving as a personal guide and mentor for people seeking or already in recovery from an addiction to alcohol and or other drugs”.
“Recovery Coach” is one of many titles that are used for people who provide coaching in the field of recovery. Other titles could be Sober Companion, Sober Coach, Peer Support Specialist, or Peer Mentor. Titles aside, their role is to prevent the losses caused by substance abuse, by intervening before the addiction spirals into full-blown crisis or death, and by reinforcing the experience of recovery for those who are already on their journey to sobriety and wellness. They are there to provide positive guidance by helping people reconnect to their own inner strengths, capacities, resilience, and sense of wellbeing.
Since there are very personal levels of interaction with patients, which carries with it a high level of confidentiality, trust, and moral responsibility, ethics are a very important part of Recovery Coach training.
What is an Ethically Responsible Coach?
The factors that are part of ethical responsibility are changing and evolving but there are some basic codes of conduct all recovery coaches are expected to follow which include:
- Managing their own recovery (if needed)
- Acting in accordance with the law
- Respecting dignity and privacy
- Never harassing or engaging in verbal or physical abuse
- Never entering a sexual or intimate relationship
- Never accepting or giving gifts of significant value
- Never lending or borrowing money
- Always telling the truth
Examples of Ethical Responsibility
Beyond the basic codes of conduct, there are more specific ethical considerations that can be summarized as:
- Taking responsibility for the recoveree – The recovery coach sees the person they are serving as someone who is still in recovery, so they closely monitor them and check in with them frequently.
- Respecting the recoveree’s autonomy – Even though a person is in recovery, they still have the right to be informed and make their own decisions. A recovery coach does not make decisions on their behalf or without their knowledge.
- Staying in their professional lane – This is very important because in many cases, recovery coaches work as part of a team. A recovery coach is not a Sponsor (i.e.12-step mentor in the AA or NA program), therapist or counselor, nurse or physician, or priest. It would be unethical to cross the boundary into any of these roles since a recovery coach is typically not trained or qualified in these areas.
- Maintaining trust – Trust is a very important part of recovery coach work. This includes not sharing the patient’s information with others outside the professional community and not sharing too much about oneself. Coaches are there to talk about their patient’s journeys, not their own journeys.
- Self-Care – In order to avoid compassion fatigue, recovery coaches are required to commit to a regimen of regular self-care. The reason being, if they are overtired or overworked, they can’t serve others or make sound decisions.
Last but not least, another sign of an ethical recovery coach is someone who continues to develop personally, professionally, and spiritually. When considering the level of knowledge, emotional intelligence, and ethical responsibility this work entails, keeping in touch with recovery coaching best practices is essential. By attending regular training programs, their work will continue to bring about successful, long-term recovery in the people they serve.