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Benefits of Recovery Coaches and Sponsors in Recovery



Friday, 1 September, 2017

Recovery Coach or Sponsor: What’s the Benefit?

Entering treatment for a mental health disorder or addiction can be life altering and a decision that needs support. In treatment, clinicians help you navigate the path to recovery, and as the journey continues, you may choose to have a recovery coach or a sponsor. A recovery coach or a sponsor can be invaluable to someone during and after treatment, as they are there to offer support and guidance as you strive to regain control of your life.

What is the difference between a recovery coach and a sponsor?

You can have both a recovery coach and a sponsor; they are both there to be a mentor to you while in treatment and after treatment, and to offer advice, guidance, and encouragement. A recovery coach is strengths based for those with an addiction and addictive behaviors, there to guide you through the recovery process and help you succeed at life. A recovery coach is like a therapist, but do not need a certification, and do not work in a clinical capacity. They work within the therapy model to assess and encourage positive actions and they understand the tools needed to help achieve recovery. They are typically more accessible when you need them as a preventative measure to avoid relapse.

A recovery coach is more generalized, while a sponsor is more program oriented. They are there to help guide you, the sponsee, through the 12-steps program – whether that be Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, or another 12-step program, and still be free from your addiction. They are typically described as an understanding and sympathetic friend. Unlike a recovery coach who can help with other difficulties in your life, a sponsor focuses on the program and your journey through it.

What is the benefit to having a recovery coach or a sponsor?

A recovery coach is there to help you make decisions in multiple areas of your life in the initial development of recovery and as you begin planning for reintegration into life. They arrange for services such as resources, education, and support groups. A recovery coach, like a therapist, helps to develop a plan to be successful and to avoid a relapse as you recover. Being more generalized, they aid in developing community support, forming goals to return to school or workplace, and in regaining relationships harmed during your addiction.

A sponsor imparts example of their addiction, showing how it affected their life and eventually changed it. They are by your side as you begin the 12-step program, guiding you through the program culture and developing supportive relationships. Within the 12-step program, there is a guiding volume of information that includes the 12-step traditions. A sponsor is there to help steer you through the “how’s” and “why’s” of this information. They give insight on the meaning of each step and emphasize the importance and ways to implement the steps in the sponsee’s life.

Reid Boland is a Case Manager at Lifeskills South Florida and a former client and knows the importance of having that reinforcement while in treatment. Reid was very active in his weekly meetings, but it was his sponsor’s dedication that caused him to reach out for guidance. “It caught my attention the way people stopped and listened when he spoke. I knew I wanted to have what he had, so I asked him to guide me through the steps,” he said. Starting at the beginning of treatment, his sponsor acted as a mentor and role model. Reid says that he felt it was beneficial to just have that extra layer of support from someone that knew his journey.

What is the structure of a recovery meeting?

Each recovery meeting has its own flavor, but all have a general format, where principles and rules are presented at the beginning. During the meeting, another participant shares their story of addiction, their strengths, hopes, and how addiction affected their life. There are 12-step programs that are gender based, groups for addictions such as AA and NA, culturally or language based groups, and even groups for first responders. Each of these is geared towards following steps and as they go through the process, finally tuning each step to work in your life.

SMART recovery is more of a discussion based meeting. It is a four-point program offering tools and techniques for each point:

  1. Building and Maintaining Motivation
  2. Coping with Urges
  3. Managing Thoughts, Feelings and Behaviors
  4. Living a Balanced Life

Using the four-points, group members process issues in conjunction with learning new coping skills. SMART Recovery teaches self-reliance, ways to cope with addiction or addictive behaviors. Utilizing the developed skills, groups members use resources such as a workbook, online training sessions, and physical meetings for recovery support.

How does Lifeskills South Florida incorporate the sponsor relationship while in treatment?

Reid describes the sponsor relationship at Lifeskills as an open one, “From day one, we encourage clients to make that connection with a sponsor because they will rely heavily on them once they leave treatment.” Speaking from experience, Reid knows that a sponsor will help guide a person following treatment and contribute to preventing a relapse. The structural level of support that is designed to encourage the sponsor relationship and is built upon three levels:

  1. Discovery: A client is getting their footing in the treatment process.
  2. Dedication: A client is required to have a sponsor or sober support, providing a benefit for mental health in developing relationships or community involvement. Many clients will often stay at the Dedication level.
  3. Implementation: A client has more freedom in their sponsor relationship, such as going out to dinner after a meeting. This level is difficult to achieve and not everyone will try this level.

Recovery coaches at Lifeskills will periodically meet with clients, and we find it helpful for them to have that external support as they progress through treatment. The recovery coaches have the opportunity to discuss a client’s treatment progression and provide support to the clinicians as they work closely to coordinate an appropriate plan.

For Reid, having a sponsor and a treatment program helped him regain control of his life. He is now transitioning into the role of Clinical Services Coordinator, where he will work with clients in a more therapeutic role. He is continuing his case management role and recently obtained his master’s degree in Applied Psychology. Reid credits his recovery and success to not only his time at Lifeskills but also to his sponsor.

Lifeskills South Florida is here for those seeking help with a mental health disorder, addiction, or dual diagnosis. Entering treatment is the first step to recovery, and we focus on equipping clients with coping and self-care skills for reintegration back into life once out of treatment. Lifeskills is an accredited dual diagnosis treatment center near Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.  To learn more about our treatment programs, please contact us.

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