How to Become a Recovery Coach: 3 Important Steps for New Coaches
by Michael Walsh
The addiction treatment field in Canada is made of people who care deeply about helping others improve their lives. [updated March 2023]
Over the last 8+ years, I’ve met some incredible people working in this field – intelligent, compassionate, and dedicated individuals with integrity, working to help others make positive changes in their lives.
Whether you’re a recently certified Recovery Coach working to establish a strong business or you're curious about becoming one, this page is your guide to getting started.
It is very important that anyone who identifies as a Recovery Coach has engaged in specific training. Recovery Coaching is a skillset that requires training, practice, and some mentoring.
Running your own business is not for the faint of heart. Being an entrepreneur takes hard work, persistence, and business savvy – these are the tools you need for your work as a Recovery Coach.
To begin, let’s look at where my journey started, and how you can get started with becoming a Recovery Coach.
How to Become a Recovery Coach
It was 2013 when I first recall hearing about Recovery Coaching.
I was working in public health and felt... uninspired. I wasn’t necessarily unhappy, but I kept questioning whether there was something else out there for me. Something that could better utilize my skills, experience, and knowledge –– and therefore make a greater impact with the client I wanted to work with.
Having my own lived experience I knew how meaningful this type of work could be. I also saw a huge opportunity for growth in Canada, because Recovery Coaching hadn’t picked up speed the way it had in the USA — yet.
I thought about going to school for Counselling Psychology, but when I heard about Recovery Coaching it ticked all the boxes of how I wanted to work with clients.
So I jumped in headfirst.
Naturally, the first thing you need to do to become a Recovery Coach is to find a great program with a solid curriculum. I chose to go with the USA based Crossroads Recovery Coaching, which at the time in 2013 was one of just a handful of programs available (and there were none in Canada at that time).
Crossroads’ program lasted a full year, which allowed me the chance to create a solid business, marketing, and financial plan and website while simultaneously laying the coaching groundwork.
As of 2020, Still Here Recovery Coach Training offers in-person training in White Rock British Columbia.
I landed my very first client within a week of graduating, and the rest really is history. It only took three years before I could safely let go of my public health job and go full-time with the business.
Today, I’m one of Canada’s top Recovery Coaches and have developed a strong online presence.
I’ve enjoyed a level of success that has come along with this career, but my true passion has always been helping people explore and change their relationship with drugs and alcohol, and get to a better place in their life. Since starting as an early adopter of Recovery Coaching in 2014, I have a solid pulse on the overall industry.
Right now there is a need for more top-notch, well-trained, and credentialed Recovery Coaches. People who can help others move beyond simply giving up the drugs and booze, to build lives they’re proud of. Recovery Coaches that can meet people where they’re at, and stick around as they come alive with new energy and determination.
Today, Recovery Coaching is an emerging para-professional niche resource in Canada and gaining some good traction.
The only hitch?
It’s hard as hell to build a business from the ground up, but it’s a whole lot easier when you have someone in your corner who has already paved the way! So let’s dive right into how to build a successful Recovery Coaching practice.
These steps assume that you've completed your business, marketing, and financial plans – and you’re ready to really move things forward.
Step 1: Build Your Online Presence
Building your online presence is like building your storefront. It’s what people see of you online, and it helps them decide – in the first five seconds! – whether they want to keep reading.
There are a few main components to think through when it comes to showing up online with confidence as a new Recovery Coach.
Working with a Recovery Coach is a very personal experience, so you better believe that people are often going to research multiple websites, and look at a variety of options other than just Recovery Coaching. This means you want your site to focus on how you can help your ideal client, but you also want to give people a sense of your personality.
I invest a fair bit financially on my websites and it shows. I researched many Life and Recovery Coaching websites in 2013 and I found out very easily how I "didn’t" want to present myself online.
Your website is often your main calling card; if it looks cheap it will impact whether someone wants to work with you or not.
Including your own personal recovery story somewhere on your site will go a long way in helping people make that initial connection with you. Writing in a conversational tone will create a more personal feeling, too.
I prefer custom-coded and professionally-designed websites that present well and function robustly (a reputable hosting company is a must, too). But if you’re on a budget like many new coaches, try using a platform like Squarespace and Wix to build a site on your own. Both platforms offer templates that make the process fairly straightforward, if not unique.
A Blog or Resource Page
There are many perspectives on addiction and recovery. Your clients, and people want to get a sense of your approach before they decide to work with you. A blog is a great way to share your perspectives. Blogging also helps you show up on Google when clients search for various phrases related to your business.
Learning the basics of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), or working with a copywriter who understands these concepts, goes a long way in driving traffic to your site once it’s up and running.
Social Media Platforms & Google
Social media is a great way to connect with others in the industry, and to find potential clients too. Some people create dedicated accounts for their business, while others mix personal and business.
It’s up to you, but more than anything else, people crave authenticity. Think twice before sharing anything that feels like a sales pitch. Sharing honestly about what you’ve been learning and doing is usually the best approach.
Make sure the tools you use are working for you. Google, for example, has a suite of business tools to strengthen your online presence, many of which are free or low-cost.
Step 2: Start Networking
Networking is key when it comes to launching your business and increasing your presence as a Recovery Coach.
- Attending industry-specific conferences is a great way to meet other Recovery Coaches and a range of other professionals in this vast field.
- Don’t limit yourself to addiction and recovery events. Remember, your ideal client likely isn’t going to be hanging out at a summit for addiction professionals.
- Share about your journey as an entrepreneur with friends, family, and colleagues.
- Check out local events geared toward small business owners and entrepreneurs.
- Make connections with other practitioners, mental health professionals, and addiction treatment centers, and explore the potential for cross-referrals.
- Get on email lists or social media pages that are offering events. Combining networking and learning will improve your professional lexicon, adding credibility and integrity to your practice.
In Vancouver British Columbia Canada, the British Columbia Centre on Substance Use provide research and events on substance use and addiction. You can find similar organizations in many major cities and towns that offer learning opportunities and events.
There are many events you can attend virtually while still networking. The Recovery Capital Conference in Calgary is a great place to network and learn what's-what in the field.
Step 3: Find a Business Coach & Mentor
Hands down the best thing I did for myself after deciding to become a Recovery Coach was to find an amazing business coach and mentor (I had two.)
I had some previous business experience, but for the most part, I’d been flying by the seat of my pants with previous endeavors. Working with a business coach gave me the structure and discipline to map out my business goals and create strong business, marketing, and financial plans.
Once you’ve decided to become a Recovery Coach, you’ll want to start looking for a great business coach and mentor. Someone who really knows the industry, and understands firsthand what it takes to build a business and be successful.
Get Help With Your Recovery Coaching Business
I’m an accredited Addiction Recovery Coach offering worldwide virtual support, and in-person support in some cities across Canada. I am also an Interventionist and Family Coach using the CRAFT Model of Addiction.
Like I mentioned above, there is a need for well-trained, passionate Recovery Coaches in Canada. I have built a successful Recovery Coaching business in British Columbia, Canada, and I work with clients in a variety of countries.
If you are new to the concept of Recovery Coaching and want to know how to become a Recovery Coach, I can help you determine whether it’s the right fit. We can explore whether or not you have an entrepreneurial side that can pull this off, either as a side gig or a full-time enterprise. This can be explored in one or two sessions.
If you’re already a Recovery Coach who has completed a reputable program and are now wondering what to do with yourself, I can help you plot your next steps. We can discuss what’s best for you, whether that means working for someone else in private practice, finding a role in a treatment centre or public health, or even launching your own practice.
Regardless of where you’re currently at, I offer a no-charge discovery call to anyone interested in learning more about becoming a Recovery Coach or how to accelerate your existing business.
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.