The Role of a Therapeutic Recovery Coach

By Paul Sawyer

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When many hear the term “recovery coaching” they often believe that this term is specifically referring to coaching someone in early recovery from a substance use disorder. This can be the case and often is as this role has become more and more prevalent in the substance use treatment field. Many hospitals and even local police departments are making recovery coaching a mainstay on their staff. Often people who are in early recovery from a substance use disorder have had many vital parts of their lives negatively impacted by the substance use, such as work, school, finances, and relationships. If being in early recovery from a substance use disorder isn’t hard enough, trying to repair and re-build a life in these critical domains is a daunting task. Having an experienced recovery coach by your side during this crucial period can make all the difference. With the help of a recovery coach, one can begin to take the necessary steps to build a life in recovery, such as identifying goals, connecting with a therapeutic treatment team (ex. therapist and psychiatrist), joining with a self-help group, developing a budget, etc.

Therapeutic recovery coaching can pertain to individuals without a substance use disorder as well. Many of the difficulties individuals face with a substance use disorder, individuals struggling with a mental health disorder also face. Recovery coaching can especially be beneficial when individuals are engaged in therapy. Coaches can help individuals take the skills they have gained in therapy and apply it to real life situations. For example, an individual could be in therapy for symptoms associated with depression such as lack of motivation, loss of interest in activities, and general apathy. The therapist could be taking a behavioral approach with the client and encouraging the individual to engage in activities they used to enjoy doing. The therapeutic recovery coach can actively participate with the client in these identified activities. With the coach having a therapeutic background and understanding of mental health interferences, they can help the client recognize and overcome these difficult emotions in the moment and achieve the therapeutic behavioral objective of engaging in this previously enjoyable activity. This is just one example, but there are many ways coaches can take the work done in the therapy office to the “real world.”

Therapeutic recovery coaching helps clients with a wide variety of activities that range from improving executive functioning skills to finding new sources of purpose in the world. Recovery coaches strive to empower individuals to define their own goals and provide support and accountability to help clients stay on track with those therapeutic goals. They also work closely with treatment teams to ensure a unified approach. Also, you do not have to be diagnosed with any disorder for therapeutic recovery coaching to be beneficial. Below is a comprehensive list of various services Therapeutic Recovery Coaches provide at the O’Connor Professional Group (OPG):

  • Vocational Coaching (e.g., exploring career/academic interests, vocational testing, resume building, job application support)
  • Academic Support (e.g., researching educational options, coordinating credit transfers, study skill support)
  • Yoga and Meditation/Mindfulness Training
(e.g., meditation guidance, mindfulness education, exploring local meditation/yoga resources)
  • Self-Help Meeting Navigation (e.g., identifying appropriate meetings, accompanying clients to meetings)
  • Executive Functioning Support (e.g., supporting the initiation and management of tasks, developing the ability to self-monitor)
  • Physical Fitness (e.g., locating specific fitness centers, engaging in rock climbing, working out, hiking and biking with clients)
  • Budgeting and Financial Planning (e.g., creating and maintaining a budget, utilizing a specific credit card that limits spending)
  •  Nutritional Guidance (e.g., creating and budgeting balanced grocery list, accompanying clients to the grocery store, cooking meals and supporting clients in making healthy choices in restaurants)
  • Transportation (e.g., driving clients to local appointments, support in navigating public transportation)
  • Interpersonal Skill Development (e.g., connections to appropriate peer networks, coaching about developing healthy relationships)
  • Social Activities and Community Integration (e.g., connecting clients with local resources based on areas of interest, attending social events with clients)
  • Exposure Work (e.g., coaching around fear foods, or experiences)
  • Medication Monitoring (e.g., assisting with pill cassette organization and providing medication checks, providing reminder prompts as needed)
  • Environmental Support (e.g., removing triggers from home environment, organization of living space)
  •  Time and Stress Management (e.g., creating balanced behavioral schedules, supervising difficult tasks, teaching stress management strategies, providing prompts for task completion)
  • Independent Living Skills Development (e.g., guidance around maintaining good hygiene, personal safety)
  • Coping and Interpersonal Skill Building
(e.g., reinforcement of DBT skills in coordination with a treatment team, behavioral rehearsal of coping strategies, modeling of social norms and healthy relationship boundaries
  • Support around exploration of personal identity and lifestyle choices

OPG’s therapeutic coaches work with clients and their clinical teams to determine which areas of need are most important to address and in what order. Short and long-term goals can be established and adjusted over time, as can the intensity of the services.

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