Why Effective Recovery Coaching Requires Training, Certification, Supervision and Experience
by Michael Walsh
The Must-Haves When Hiring a Sober Coach
So you’ve had it and you’re ready to do something about your drinking. Congratulations! Deciding to get help is truly half the battle. [Updated March 2023]
While quitting drinking may feel like an insurmountable task right now, I assure you it’s not. I’m living proof of that, and so are the hundreds of clients I’ve had the privilege of coaching on the exact journey you’re about to embark on.
Hiring a certified sober coach is a powerful way to fortify your efforts toward changing the role that alcohol and drugs play in your life. But not all recovery coaches have the training or experience required to skillfully guide their clients to the transformation they’re seeking.
That’s why it’s important that you do your research.
Make sure that a recovery coach is capable and qualified to help you quit drinking and design a life you love before you start your work together.
Credentials Matter When Finding the Right Certified Recovery Coach to Help You Quit Drinking
While I err on the side of optimism wherever possible in life, I’m also a realist. And the truth is there are a lot of people struggling with problematic drinking.
Some catch it in the early stages and turn their lives around relatively quickly. For others it takes the weight of serious consequences to finally take the leap – wherever you land on the spectrum, you’re in the right place!
With so many people needing help, it’s no surprise that over the last decade of working in the field, I’ve seen an influx of people wanting to become recovery coaches.
And that’s fantastic! By all means, let’s get all hands on deck.
In Canada, Recovery Coaches aren’t required to get certified before they start working with clients. However there are ways to get excellent training, supervision and certification in Canada and those who have it are likely to be offering the very best in Recovery Coaching services at a high level.
Recovering from alcohol or drug dependency brings up a lot of heavy stuff. Childhood traumas, mental health challenges, and the damage that may have been done by your drinking could come to the forefront. A recovery coach that isn’t properly trained and gained sufficient experience, won’t know where the line is between coach and therapist.
Some issues need to be addressed with a mental health professional. A certified coach will have the awareness and resources to point you toward the right person when it’s appropriate. This is not only critical to a client’s successful recovery but is also an ethical obligation.
My work (and my business) is driven by a desire to see everyone who needs help cutting back or quitting drinking get the support they need to do it. I also want to see clients enjoy the best possible outcomes in their recovery.
Making informed decisions when hiring a sober coach that operates skillfully with the highest standards of care increases the odds of that happening.
The Components of Effective Recovery Coaching
Recovery from alcohol and drug dependency is one of the most incredible transformations you can undergo.
It’s quite common for people who have this experience to want to help others who are suffering in the same way they were not that long ago. It provides a sense of purpose and usefulness that was lacking while in the turmoil of alcohol and drug use.
Becoming a recovery mentor or sponsor is a natural progression (and even an expectation in some recovery programs) for those who become stable in their recovery. But mentoring and sponsorship are not the same as becoming a certified recovery coach.
In a sponsor/sponsee relationship, sponsors focus on adhering to the principles of a particular program rather than the individual needs of the person they’re working with. This is the opposite of the standard I hold in my work. For me, the client is the center of the recovery plan and designs the path and life they want to lead.
While sponsorship-type roles may be a reasonable precursor to becoming a recovery coach, they don’t qualify someone to do so.
Education, training, supervision, experience, and certification are necessary steps that every professional sober coach should take before working with clients. Make sure these pieces are in place if you or someone you love is looking for help.
Still Here Recovery Coach Training and Education – A Peek at My Journey
When I started my Recovery Coaching career eight years ago, I wanted more than just my own experience of recovery and significant change to guide my work so I did some research and enrolled in the best training program available at the time. Crossroads Recovery Coach Training was a one-year program that combined best practices in coaching with in-depth curriculum regarding addiction recovery. I have included other multiple trainings in between such as Motivational Interviewing which I write about further down this article or Internal Family Systems as examples.
Learn more about how I started by reading How To Become A Recovery Coach — Three Important Steps.
From there I started offering my services and never looked back. This laid the foundation for my career but I firmly believe that continued education is critical as the recovery field is ever-evolving.
In 2020 Still Here Recovery Coach Training became available in White Rock BC which is an exemplary in-person training that I knew would enhance the way I was already working with clients. It was (and still is) the gold standard curriculum for recovery coaches in Canada so I enrolled in October 2021 and loved the training!
Still Here believes (as do I) that ongoing skill-building, face-to-face practical application of concepts and supervision enables recovery coaches to perform optimally. These are a few of the aspects of my training that I implemented into my practice.
- Components, stages, and pathways of recovery
- The influence and effects of culture, power, and privilege
- Recovery wellness planning
- The difference between the role of a coach to that of a counsellor or sponsor
- The purposes and risks of self-disclosure
- Addressing ethical boundary issues
- How to access and build a network of local resources relevant to my clients
- The practice of mindful, active listening and motivational interviewing
Having the tools and guidelines acquired through proper education and training are fundamental to successful recovery coaching. Those who skip this process are ill-equipped to serve their clients, even if they have the best of intentions.
Supervision & Certification
After finishing the intensive Still Here curriculum I was asked to be one of their facilitators of their 40-week mentorship program. After completing my Still Here training and combined with my, literally, thousands of hours of Recovery Coaching time with clients, I acquired my certification from the Canadian Addiction Counsellors Certification Federation.
I’m now part of the Still Here Recovery Coach Training faculty and at each training I present the Business of Recovery Coaching. I continue to mentor and supervise other trainees as they become skilled, adept recovery coaches. In my own business, I have brought other coaches onto my team and maintain the requirement for anyone who works with me to have been trained before coming on board.
Experience – Both Personal & Professional
Over ten years of recovery coaching, I have quite literally seen it all. While getting sober is a very windy, and sometimes turbulent road, nothing surprises me at this point.
When I start working with someone who wants to quit drinking, there’s an instant connection. The kind of connection that only comes from having been in your shoes. My clients often share the same fears I experienced in early recovery.
- I don’t know if I can quit drinking.
- I know something has to change but I’m not sure I really want to quit.
- If I stop drinking, I’ll never have fun again.
So many of my client relationships begin with objections like these. It’s important to acknowledge and honour them. But when you’re embarking on an entirely new way of living, it helps to embody what that will look and feel like.
Clarifying your “why” will help keep you motivated on the difficult days – and I’m not gonna lie, there will be a few of those along the way. Motivational interviewing is a process that will help us gain clarity and build a recovery plan.
Recovery Planning Starts With Motivational Interviewing
I’ve always believed community and support are a necessary part of recovery. After working with hundreds of clients I also know overcoming a drinking problem is a very individual process.
There simply is no one-size-fits-all solution when you quit drinking. Therefore, the plan for you as a new client is based on your individual circumstances, what works for you, what doesn’t, and what kind of life you dream of living.
In other words, your recovery plan is customized and personal to you.
Motivational interviewing is the way our work together begins. It’s a way of entering into the work with you, the client, at the heart of your recovery plan. Recovery coaches like myself who are trained by Still Here Recovery Coach Training have learned to actively listen to our clients without judgment or an agenda of our own.
It’s with this tool of motivational interviewing that you find your footing on the path to recovery. And it’s where I plant my feet next to you as I prepare, not to establish or enforce guidelines, but to walk beside you through the incredible transformation ahead.
Get Help Creating Your Personal Roadmap
It can be really scary to arrive at the realization that you have a drinking problem, no matter how big or small.
But it’s a lot less scary when you have an experienced guide to help you sort things out.
I’m an accredited Addiction Recovery Coach offering worldwide virtual support, and in-person support across Canada. If you’re interested in exploring 1:1 recovery coaching to help you cut back your drinking or stop drinking entirely, I’m happy to answer your questions.
I offer a no-charge consult call to anyone who has questions about their own substance use, or the substance use of a family member. These calls are completely confidential with no pressure to make a decision before you feel entirely ready.
If you’re ready to explore the potential of working together, I’d love to chat. Michael is based in Victoria British Columbia Canada. The other Recovery Coaches on the team are based in Nanaimo, Vancouver British Columbia Calgary, Edmonton Alberta, Toronto Ontario, Montreal Quebec, and Halifax, Nova Scotia. Because we all work virtually — we can work with anyone no matter what city, province or country around the world. We have clients all across Canada and the USA, Seattle, Los Angeles, Dallas, Miami, New York City, Denver, Nashville, Berlin, Tel Aviv, London, Singapore and Australia.
I’d also like to invite you to read more about my personal story here.