Recovery Coach Specialists?

Over the last several years, we have been under pressure to create curriculum for recovery coaching for specific populations. At first, we were enamored with the idea and created two – one for young adults and one for veterans.

Both bombed miserably.

Lately, the push is for Family Recovery Coaches.  The topic surfaced at a recent CCAR Board of Directors meeting. I respect the CCAR Board immensely, their collective wisdom and expertise being a huge factor in CCAR’s growth and reputation.  Over the years, we have engaged in many meaningful conversations. After some back and forth, I posed a question.

“What additional skills would be required for a Family Recovery Coach?”

I talked about the fundamentals of recovery coaching, as we have come to understand and teach them. If a recovery coach can listen actively, ask good questions, manage their own stuff and treat the person as a resource, I believe they can effectively coach anyone.

A board member asked, “What about family dynamics and understanding them?”

Great question, right?

I responded by saying if the Recovery Coach ventures into family dynamics, then they are moving out of their lane and it’s time to refer. Fortunately, the two Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists on the CCAR Board concurred.

Often, I’m asked another question regarding recovery coach specialists centered on a person’s lived experience.

“Don’t you think family members would best work with family members?

Maybe, but I’m not convinced. We have found anyone with an internal fire (see The Fire of Recovery Coaching) can represent recovery coaching at its finest. Another way to understand the recovery coach ability to connect is through the words of Don Coyhis.

“No matter the color of your suit (skin), I can look into your eyes and see you love your children as much as I do.”

When it comes to coaching different audiences, the connection is paramount.  Once the coach establishes the connection, the role that most comes into play with different populations is that of Resource Broker. The other nine roles remain unchanged. Family members would naturally request different resources than a recoveree. If the recovery coach can access proper resources for each unique situation and/or audience, then they are equipped to serve effectively. And if they can’t locate appropriate resources immediately, they have the tools to find and/or develop them (community organizing).

This dynamic surfaces countless times every day within CCAR – volunteers coaching in our recovery community centers and our Emergency Department Recovery Coaches (EDRC) coaching in hospitals. They all work with people “different” from them, with different lived experiences, with different backgrounds, with different ethnicities. As an illustration, our EDRC’s work with family members daily and do so with expertise, compassion, discretion and care. Their practice indicates no need for recovery coaches to specialize with families.

I think my concern over specializing is fragmentation and complication. Once we start specializing, where does it stop? How many categories can you list that would trigger a recovery coach specialist?  What training and certification requirements might emerge from the system for each specialty?

Would this be helpful to the recovery coach profession?

I believe, and the CCAR experience bears this out, that when recovery coaches follow the four fundamentals – listen actively, ask good questions, manage their own stuff and treat the person as a resource – they can effectively coach anyone.

 Let’s keep it simple. Let’s build the recovery coach profession, establish a rock-solid foundation and carefully consider all the ramifications before we start introducing recovery coach specialists.

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 that sacred time, 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 January 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 one way for me to share lessons learned in my recovery, in my role as Executive Director and a trainer. When I engage with others, I present the same messages repeatedly.  It’s time to write them down. 

Phil “Right Click” Valentine
Recovery established 12.28.87

7 thoughts on “Recovery Coach Specialists?”

  1. “A lot of the recovery support focus in terms of funding is tied to the treatment system. The risk with this narrow focus is that recovery support services will be come solely a loosely attached appendage to addiction treatment. If that occurs, the movement to deliver recovery support services across the specturm of problem severity and across the stages of recovery will have failed. Recovery support services will, in that case, have been colonized by the treatment system.” – William White. A prescient summary. Let’s have that conversation about building the recovery coaching profession and safeguarding our model. You know I’m all in!

  2. I can see your vision Phil, sounds like a great opportunity for human growth personally and professionally.

  3. Vicky Pitsirikos

    I agree with you Phil and thank you. I believe the RC profession should be kept simple and holding to its foundation, because if not, like everything else now’a days it will lose its main purpose. It will also make it more complicated foe those who wish to enter this field.

  4. Hi Phil,

    I had a star trainee in one of our RCAs hosted by DCs Department of Behavioral Health–Jeff Walker. Also, he works for DBH and is a trainer for a youth mentoring program.

    I am encouraging him to get with you and see if he can help revive your youth focus coaching. We all know early intervention rules and did I mention he’s a star?

  5. Been in recovery, 12 steps over 30 years. Briefly attended ACOA and Alanon off and on for years. Alcoholism, addiction in family, married someone in recovery, two fabulous children 20 and 23 both affected. Went back to Alanon 4 years ago diligently. After much experience in local, state, national levels, numerous rehabs, illegal activities by rich insurance companies, patient brokering, trauma, crises, overdoses, homlessnes,etc. 20 year old beautiful, talented, smart daughter died last Jan. 11. Family devastation, struggle, grief. Recovery, healing, hope for the future.
    My story and experience is vast and deep. Too much for here. Hope to select best opportunity to help families and individuals in my near future.
    Best Regards,
    Chris Aquino
    240 422 0922

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