No Coach Is An Island

By Phil Valentine, Rebecca Allen and Jennifer Chadukiewicz

I have noticed a trend in the recovery support field – placing an isolated coach in a hospital or treatment setting.  I like the idea of having recovery coaches in these settings, but I believe there is a better way.  At CCAR, we have learned that the most effective method to tap into the healing power of the recovery community is to have a coach dispatched to the need. The underlying fundamental to this practice is one member of a dynamic, vibrant team.

I think there are some difficulties with the single coach approach.

  1. The recovery coach only knows what the coach knows. Where and how does a coach in this setting continue to professionally develop?
  2. One coach has one connection to the recovery community – their own. It is much more difficult for a single person to be aware of all the recovery support services and recovery resources in their area.
  3. Little to no support from other recovery coaches.
  4. Supervisors in these settings often do not understand the recovery coach role and insist recovery coaches adhere to clinical ethics and boundaries.
  5. Hospitals and providers may put restrictions on who is eligible for employment in the recovery coach role – lived experience, amount of time in recovery, and below average pay.

So here’s a better model.

  1. To enhance recovery outcomes, every state needs a vibrant recovery community organization (RCO).
  2. The RCO develops a team of highly skilled, competent, well paid, professional recovery coaches.
  3. The RCO dispatches recovery coaches to Emergency Departments, Police Stations, Fire Stations, prisons, treatment centers, managed care organizations, etc. wherever there is a request.
  4. The RCO practices a key coaching principle – it treats each coach as a resource giving them the freedom to innovate, adapt and serve. Leadership does not micromanage.
  5. The RCO allows the recovery coach team to grow dynamically and strengthen one another.
  6. The RCO encourages the team to learn from one another. The team develops linkages with all types of community recovery supports that they share with one another. This body of knowledge is a powerful, living entity that the team nurtures.
  7. The RCO will develop a career ladder (for those interested) – from receiving support to volunteering (offering support) to partaking in quality recovery coach training to earning a Recovery Coach Professional (RCP) designation to employment in the recovery support services field.

When a hospital (or other entity) enters into an agreement with CCAR (an RCO), it hires a team of coaches, not just one person. The hospital contracts with an organization with recovery expertise that embraces multiple pathways of recovery.  The RCO manages compensation, benefits, overhead or supervision for the recovery coaches. The RCO is accountable for the recovery outcomes.

At CCAR, we connect people to ongoing care through our established network. The network is vast, comprehensive and dynamic. It continually expands and shifts.  For example, our coaches know who to call and when to call, for nearly all situations they have faced in the Emergency Department.  If they have a question, they have come to rely on one another. Someone on the team will likely know.

How would an isolated recovery coach have this ability?

No coach is an island.

Phil “Right Click” Valentine
Recovery established 12.28.87

Phil Valentine
Phil Valentine

In 2015, I finished a thruhike of the entire Appalachian Trail, a trek of 2,189.2 miles. It took 189 days and 6 pairs of boots. During all that time alone with my Creator, my purpose in life became more precisely defined. I am, simply, to coach recovery. Recovery saved me from an early demise and brought purpose to my tattered life. I have learned that I’m a coach to my very core. I am blessed to put the two together. I started work at the Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery (CCAR) in 1999. I became the Executive Director of this recovery community organization in 2004. I have trained the CCAR Recovery Coach Academy© dozens of times and have a hand in modifying, improving and adapting various recovery coach curricula. I’m old enough now to start considering my legacy. This is a way for me to share things I have learned in my recovery, in my role as Executive Director and a trainer. I find that when I speak I present the same messages over and over. It’s time to write them down.

12 thoughts on “No Coach Is An Island”

  1. Arthur Woodard

    Connecting people to ongoing care! HELPing Recovery by HELPing people turn their lives over to Care – the Connections I’d Care!

  2. No I in TEAM. We grow and learn together. Shared experiences with those we serve. Collaborating on ideas for more effective care and compassionate coaching. Racial, cultural, and economic differentials shared.

  3. Great! In VT we have been involved in this very conversation. We are looking for a vehicle for organizations to fund a pool of coaches. I see you mentioned a “contract” between hospital and RCO. Even more broadly would we, could we have a pool of funding that can be accessed depending on the needs? Have you thought of this?

  4. Jessica Zasadnyj

    Mr. Woodward as well as Mr.Valentine helped pave my way to recovery I would love to be involved Not only was the recovery coach Academy helpful it helps me to help others recovery saved my life

  5. Thank you Philp! I got to hear your story of your journey on the Appalachian Trail first hand when you spoke at church, how you wanted at one point to give up, but did not! How inspiring a life lesson for us all. Thank you for your hard work and leadership with CCAR , the recovery coach program and your advocacy for those on the front lines is commendable! Just like the trail we will always encounter nay sayers, opposition and difficulties, yet God is with you. And if he is for you who can ever be against you!? Never give up!

  6. Stephen Thiele

    Would be interested in putting together an RCO in my area. I am working as a coach and I enjoy my career. I am curious to how to go about starting something like this. I am already enrolled in college trying to gain a degree to start my own recovery coach firm or non profit.

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