Do I Need A Sober Coach?
The concept of a sober coach is relatively new. A sober coach is someone who acts as a companion to a recovering addict, providing strength and support when the individual feels on the verge of relapse. This person is generally a former or recovering addict themselves, and is generally not registered with the APA or other official boards.
Until recently, a sober coach was a luxury that only the rich and famous could afford. In particular, celebrities who needed to get back to work in a triggering environment would hire someone to be around them at all times, stepping in when the urge to use felt unbearable.
Now, however, sober coaches are much easier to find and far more affordable. People from all sorts of backgrounds make use of their services. They can be an invaluable resource in staying clean in spite of testing circumstances.
If you are in recovery, you might be wondering whether you need a sober coach. Are they an indispensable piece of the recovery puzzle? Or might they do more harm than good?
What is a Sober Coach?
Before looking at the pros and cons, let’s take a quick look at the actual definition of a sober coach.
Most people are familiar with the concept of a sponsor – a fellow recovering addict further along the path who the addict can turn to in trying times. A sober coach goes one step further, in that they are paid to stick around the recovering addict full- or part-time.
A sober coach is a secondary means of care. In other words, they are useful for addicts who have already been in rehab or treatment and have achieved sobriety. Addicts who have not received treatment of any sort will not benefit from a sober coach.
A sober coach may be a trained professional or simply a former addict further along in their recovery. There are now training programs for sober coaches, with certification. However, sober coaches generally do not have professional training in counseling and are not registered with the APA.
Benefits of a Sober Coach
When it comes to addiction, a lot of the clichés tend to be true. Relapse really can happen in the blink of an eye. Even those who have been sober for an extended period of time can relapse if they don’t have measures in place to prevent it.
Sometimes, in spite of the best intentions and all the obstacles one has placed in one’s own way, one is in too much pain and the urges become too strong to manage alone. These are the times when a sober coach is particularly helpful. They will step in to prevent the individual from using.
In this way, they can keep an individual from going back to square one. It is understandable that some people have found sober coaches to be not only invaluable, but life-saving.
Sober coaches who have struggled with their own addictions can relate to what you are going through, and be the compassionate presence you need to keep your resolve. At the very least, they are a very effective obstacle. The best sober coaches are the perfect companion to take you further on the path of sobriety.
However, as good as the idea sounds, there are certainly reasons to be wary. Skeptics point to the fact that sober coaches are not trained healthcare professionals. This is significant for a number of reasons:
The most clear-cut reason is that they do not have the wherewithal to manage every situation that arises. You may feel comfortable enough with a sober coach to let your guard down, only to realize that they cannot help you through certain unforeseen circumstances.
On the contrary, they may do more harm than good. Because they’re in a position of a mentor, they can start to feel like they have all the answers, or know how best to “treat” you. Employing strategies of “tough love” or trying to use therapy techniques, they may end up causing you distress that neither you nor they can handle.
Since they do not have training in treating mental illness, they may not recognize the signs of clinical issues and may inadvertently say or do something that exacerbates the symptoms.
Sober coaches also do not have the training in ethics that mental health professionals have. Ethics are there to protect both the therapist and client. A sober coach might do something unethical without being aware of it, compromising their own position as coach as well as your sobriety.
These concerns are not baseless. In the early days of drug rehab centers, recovering addicts were employed on the assumption that they could use their experience to help others. In many cases, this strategy was detrimental to all involved. Addiction is a disease, and treatment cannot be left to the uninitiated.
Do you need a sober coach? In short, the answer is no. You don’t need a sober coach. Many addicts have succeeded in recovering without one.
However, recovery is rarely straightforward, and a sober coach can be an invaluable resource that is, at the very least, a safety net. A sober coach might be the difference between recovery and relapse. Addiction treatment is very personal in all aspects. This is no different. Those who can afford a sober coach, and who believe they’ll benefit from the help, should speak to certified sober coaches to see what they can offer.
If you do decide to use a sober coach, make certain that they are certified through reputable sober coach training programs and have experience working with others like you. It is imperative that they agree to strict boundaries that will prevent them from becoming too intimately acquainted with you. They are providing you a service, and need to remain professional if they are to do what needs to be done to keep you sober.
A sober coach can help you stay sober in the long-term. But make sure to do your due diligence before putting your life in their hands.