Category Archives: body dismorphia

What is a recovery coach?

What is a recovery coach, a peer recovery support specialist or a professional recovery coach?

In 2013, I published Recovery Coaching – A Guide to Coaching People in Recovery from Addictions, since then the duties and responsibilities of recovery coaches, peer recovery support specialists and professional recovery coaches have expanded significantly.

In this post, I hope to help define for those interested in becoming a recovery coach what certifications they should seek, the places they could work and what they can anticipate as compensation for their work.

What kind of certification should a future recovery coach receive?

Recovery coach training and certification is a requirement in this field. Coaching certification and training is one of the fastest growing aspects of the healthcare field. The number of recovery coaching training and certification courses has expanded to over 300 institutions nationwide. Many employers require recovery coach and peer recovery support specialist certifications. In the links section of this web site is a state by state listing of all the organizations that offer certifications for addiction recovery coaches.

If you are reading this post to receive basic recovery coaching information, first decide if you enjoy working with people in recovery from substance misuse or want to work with people in recovery from a mental health or behavioral health disorder.

Are you interested in working with people in recovery from addictions or in recovery from a mental health or behavioral health diagnosis?

A nearly universal definition of a peer recovery support specialist or a recovery coach is an individual with the lived experience of their own recovery journey and wants to assist others who are in the early stages of the healing process from psychic, traumatic and/or substance misuse challenges, thus, this peer can aid and support another peer’s personal recovery journey.

Some certifications for a peer recovery support specialist give an individual the training necessary to work with individuals with a behavioral health disorder or a mental health diagnosis. These certifications include more training on the nature of behavioral health disorders, the medications used to treat these disorders, crisis interventions, life/occupational skills, and trauma informed care. A recovery coach working with people in addiction recovery does not necessarily need these types of training. In this post, I will focus on the recovery coach working with people in recovery from substance misuse.

The individuals that work with people in recovery from substance misuse are called recovery coaches, as well as peer recovery support specialists (PRSS), peer recovery support practitioners (PRSP), recovery support specialists (RSS), sober companions, recovery associates or quit coaches. In all cases, they support individuals in recovery from addiction(s), which can include alcohol, drugs, gambling, eating disorders as well as other addictive behaviors.

The basic recovery coaching credential is required. If you want more specific training, one can add certification for treating co-occurring disorders, the application of Narcan which includes the certification for coaching persons detoxing from an opioid overdose, certification coaching individuals in Suboxone or Methadone treatment also called Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) and Medication Supported Recovery (MSR), certification for spiritual recovery coaches and credentials for coaches working with individuals with behavioral addictions such as sexual compulsivity, internet gaming and gambling disorders. Treatment centers may require a drug and alcohol counseling certificate to work with inpatient clients.

Recovery coaching credentialing has expanded to include recovery coach supervisors, training for individuals that want to manage other recovery coaches, or an elevated level of certification called professional recovery coaching.

A professional recovery coach is an individual that has been coaching for several years, has hundreds of coaching hours under their belt, manages other coaches and/or has received other coaching credentials. A professional recovery coach is sometimes referred to as a life recovery coach. A professional recovery coach can receive training from any of the organizations that train peers or recovery coaches, and in addition, they can receive training from the International Coach Federation’s accredited life coach training program. Recently, Connecticut Community of Addiction Recovery has started developing a Professional Coaching Certification.

Where do you want to work?

Some recovery coaches seek to work at a recovery community organization (RCOs) or a recovery support center. An RCO is an independent, non-profit organization led and governed by representatives of local communities of recovery. The recovery coaches at these recovery community organizations work with people of all financial means, addicts that are homeless, offenders, even professionals like nurses, teachers, lawyers and highly educated individuals, who have hit bottom. Sometimes, the recovery coaches at these centers receive a salary from the RCO. RCO recovery coaches can also be volunteers, opting to perform their coaching duties for no reimbursement at all.

Recovery coaches can be employed by treatment centers coaches often escort a client home from a treatment center insuring they do not relapse in the first 30 days after discharge. More half way houses or sober living environments are employing recovery coaches. In fact, many recovery coaches have opened a transitional living home or a supportive sober living environments. They act as a recovery coach and a house manager at the same time, their presence adds to the quality of the recovery experience for the residents.

Recovery coaches can work in emergency departments in hospitals, detoxification centers or sobering centers; working with individuals in crisis, either detoxing from an alcohol or opioid overdose.

Lastly, some recovery coaches run their own business. They will visit clients or call them over the phone or use SKYPE. These recovery coaches market themselves by contacting a treatment center’s aftercare coordinator, maintaining a web site or will seek referrals from therapists. These coaches meet face to face with the client weekly and will work with them over the phone or face to face on a regular basis. The client is billed directly for the coaching services.

How much do you want to be paid for your services?

Recovery coaches are paid a variety of rates. A recovery community organization, a treatment center, sober living environment or social services agency recovery coaching rates are from $12-$20 per hour. If a recovery coach receives their salary from a social services agency, or a recovery community organization that agency may have received a grant to run a peer program from the State or Federal government.

A professional life recovery coach can bill from $35 up to $100 an hour for their coaching services. These professional recovery coaches bill their clients directly and incur expenses for running their coaching practice such as insurance, travel and overhead. This ‘pie in the sky’ $100 per hour fee of a professional recovery coach is not for the inexperienced or newbie coach. There are significant responsibilities a recovery coach has for their client, primarily keeping them free from relapse or overdose, or in other words- keeping them alive.

Soon, there will be reimbursement from health insurance companies for recovery coaching for individuals who are diagnosed as dependent on a substance. New York has an arrangement with the state’s Medicaid offices to reimburse for recovery coaching for individuals who are diagnosed as dependent on a substance. Other states, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Massachusetts, are formulating similar Medicaid payment plans, but these reimbursements are not yet in place. Currently, private independent health insurance companies do not cover the services of a recovery coach working with an individual in recovery from an addiction.

In less than four years the field of recovery coaching has grown significantly. With the advent of the Affordable Healthcare Act and the newest legislation to fight addiction, the 21st Century CURES and the CARA Acts , recovery coaching is now recognized as one of the most important tools to initiate and maintain long term recovery. This recognition will continue as the benefits from recovery coaching continue to be realized.


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I am most vulnerable when I am naked

As a recovery coach, I approach my clients as a peer, as someone who has suffered the slings and arrows of addiction and emerged into a life of recovery, and sober from drugs, alcohol and some behavioral addictions. As a peer I have the experiential knowledge to help my clients walk the pathway to recovery.

However, there are some clients, I cannot seek to help. These clients are the ones that identify as having eating disorders. That is because, (I have to be truthful here) I struggle with disordered eating. I am an overeater. Carbohydrates, dairy and processed sugars are my heroin and I have not overcome this addiction.

I also spent my formative years, from age one until well into my thirties, in the grips of body dysmorphia. In Wikipedia, body dysmorphia is defined as Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), also known dysmorphic syndrome, a mental disorder characterized by an obsessive preoccupation that some aspect of one’s own appearance is severely flawed and warrants exceptional measures to hide or fix it. I saw myself as a fat person. When I looked in the mirror I saw a person three or more dress sizes larger than I really was. I thought I was fat, when all along I was a person with a normal sized body.

What’s Underneath Project

This blog post will not go into my years of body dysmorphia, but rather on a recent awakening: how to accept me as I am. Just last week, I was viewing a article on Tallulah Willis, Bruce Willis’ and Demi Moore’s daughter and her recent stay in a treatment center. There was a link to a video of Tallulah that I clicked on. I was introduced to a whole new way of seeing myself, through the “What’s Underneath Project.”

Seven years ago, Elisa Goodkind, a veteran fashion stylist, and her daughter, Lily Mandelbaum, a former film student, created StyleLikeU as an alternative to the fashion culture’s crippling status quo. Launched in 2009, StyleLikeU is home to a series of intimate video portraits that redefine our culture’s notion of beauty, called the What’s Underneath Project. These simple videos, show unapologetic individuals who are true to themselves in both their style and in their lives. Individuals, gay, straight, recovering from breast cancer or transitioning to their true gender, exude confidence in their own skin. And the viewers are empowered to discover that this same sense of confidence and beauty can be their own.

As I was browsing through the videos, and I clicked on Olivia Campbell’s (a well-known British plus style model) video. I cried when I listened to her journey through bullying and sexual abuse. I came to the realization that I am still beautiful, even though I am over sixty, thanks to Jacky O’Shaughnessy’s video. I was transfixed that her story, was exactly my story, one of poor body image and how it affects my relationships. Jacky’s statement that she feels the most vulnerable when she is naked in front of a man, and she feels the most beautiful when she is naked in front of a man, was so honest. Because underneath it all, I felt the same thing.

A Viral Phenomenon

The What’s Underneath Project strips everyday people and celebrities down to their bra and panties to open them up, exploring the power of genuine self-acceptance as they undress. Since its launch in 2014, the response has been monumental. The videos went viral, and have received over 9 million YouTube hits, international press, while fan mail floods in from people wanting to help, donate funds and participate. The What’s Underneath Project has produced 70 plus videos, ranging from 5 to 15 minutes in length, and has posted them on YouTube.

In November 2014, the What’s Underneath Project launched a Kickstarter campaign to support the production of a documentary film that will capture this viral video series. The campaign was a wild success and in just 18 days, exceeded the initial goal of $100k. By the end of the month-long campaign, the What’s Underneath Project raised a total of $135,655. The upcoming documentary film is in production and the What’s Underneath Project documentary film will be released in the Spring of 2017.

The What’s Underneath Project is on the road to becoming a global movement for self-acceptance.

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