Recovery Coaching: Living Life to its Fullest


As we’ve arrived into a new century, a revolutionary new approach called Recovery Coaching is now finding its place in the addiction recovery community.  It not only helps those in any stage of recovery move toward their goals but also provides the opportunity for doing so with purpose and direction.


Having worked in the addictions field for many years as part of my psychotherapy practice, it was a natural fit for me to specialize in Recovery Coaching.  I had witnessed clients staying clean and sober who were eager to develop a better, more meaningful life.  Coaching fills the gap between psychotherapy and sponsorship by offering a future-focused, strengths-based approach.  Your sponsor holds you accountable for working the twelve steps.  Your therapist helps you understand and work through the reasons for your addiction.  Your Recovery Coach partners with you to define the life you want for yourself and guides you through the action steps to achieve it.


As a coach, I began to notice how recovering addicts are different from the typical life coaching client.  And this is what I found.  If a client is in early recovery, goals need to be broken down into bite-size pieces so the client can experience  what it feels like to succeed.  By creating successful building blocks, clients experience their core strengths and capabilities. If a client is further along in recovery, coaching moves faster and goals become bigger. 


The most important aspect of Recovery Coaching is the understanding that all coaching goals need to support sobriety at all times.  Because relapse is so often a part of recovery, a coach needs to receive specialized Recovery Coach training.  Sometimes recovery issues will be a focal point and sometimes they will be only be part of the coaching experience.  The agenda is always up to the client to decide what gets discussed or not and the coach is never in the role of sponsor or therapist. For instance, not all clients will choose to follow a twelve-step approach and a Recovery Coach never dictates which path a client chooses as long as the client’s goals are supported by their choices and actions along the way.


Here is an illustration of how Recovery Coaching works in early recovery. Michelle looked like a devoted mom and wife in public, but behind closed doors things were different.  The pretense ended one afternoon when she was found unconscious after another drinking binge. Friends and family checked her into an exclusive Malibu treatment center for the third time in seven years.  In the past, she’d attended 12-step meetings supported by therapy after discharge, but this time Recovery Coaching was added to her aftercare plan. In conjunction with traditional therapy and the twelve steps, this unconventional process fosters hope and personal accountability. As a result of the future-focused, action-oriented nature of Recovery Coaching, Michelle has now been sober for the longest time since she began drinking at age sixteen.  In fact, her recovery has been so life-changing she is now studying to be a chemical dependency counselor.


Recovery Coaching improves quality of life through awareness, insight and taking practical action. As a result of creating a more meaningful life, Recovery Coaching helps reduce vulnerability to relapse.  Treatment centers from around the country are hungry for innovative techniques and strategies--coaching brings their clients fresh, new tools especially helpful during the transition from treatment to home. 



Andrew Susskind, MSW, ACC (December 2006).