What is the difference between a recovery coach, a sponsor or a therapist?

(The following is the first in a series of excerpts taken from Melissa Killeen’s new book, RECOVERY COACHING — A Guide to Coaching People in Recovery from Addictions. This text is from Chapter 5, How Does a Recovery Coach Guide a Client Through Recovery?)

A recovery coach is not a sponsor, therapist, physician or priest. Even though there is a strong spiritual component in the recovery coach’s repertoire, the recovery coach is not a clergy member promoting a specific religion or church. As a coach, I follow both the International Coaching Federation’s Code of Ethics and the Core Competencies drafted by Recovery Coaches International (a professional association of recovery coaches) emphasizing the differences in a therapist, doctor, a 12-step program sponsor and a recovery coach:

1. Therapy is for those clients seeking relief from emotional or psychological pain. Therapy focuses on the past and how past unresolved issues are impacting the present. Coaching focuses on the present and what can be done, today, to move the client forward. Ethical guidelines require coaches to refer clients to a therapist or doctor if emotional or physical pain is evident. Recovery Coaching is often used in conjunction with therapy but not as a replacement for it.

2. Coaching separates itself from other professional healthcare relationships and roles such as a physician or a nurse, because a coaching-client relationship is a partnership. Whereas in a professional relationship, the physician or nurse has expert knowledge and they impart this knowledge as a form of advice, diagnosis or offering solutions. Coaches do not diagnose or impart solutions. Coaches encourage their clients to come up with self-powered solutions.

3. Sponsors from a 12-step program are different from coaches, as they are not paid professionals and they encourage abstinence from addictions by advocating use of a 12-step program. A recovery coach is not limited to using the twelve steps and traditions as a pathway to recovery. A recovery coach can suggest using SMART Recovery, Kundalini yoga, or the Buddhist path to freedom from alcoholism and addiction in order to help their client in recovery. Recovery coaching is not affiliated with any 12-step program or mutual aid group and does not promote a particular path of recovery; a recovery coach encourages the client to select their path and works with their client along that particular selection. (Susskind, 2006, Recovery Coaches International.org, 2006, Loveland & Boyle 2005).

A recovery coach has to establish certain ethical standards in order to help a recovering client. Simple emotional characteristics such as compassion and empathy go a long way, but do not help the coach in a crisis with their client. Educated with the knowledge of ethical standards, the core competencies and their experience, a knowledgeable and strong recovery coach can emerge. The ICF Code of Ethics and Core Competencies are recommended as a reference for recovery coaches. Visit Wikipedia to learn more about recovery coaching by clicking here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recovery_coaching.

RECOVERY COACHING — A Guide to Coaching People in Recovery from Addictions gives readers something that “hasn’t been done before: a thorough explanation of recovery coaching” states Omar Manejwala, M.D. author and former Medical Director of the Hazelden Treatment Centers, “this [book] will be an indispensable resource for both the coach just starting out or the veteran.”

If you are interested in purchasing Melissa Killeen’s new book, click below.

Recovery Coaching
A Guide to Coaching People in Recovery from Addictions


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