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Recovery coaches: sobriety resource or fashion statement?

A recent New York Times article highlighted the growing use of “recovery coaches” among well to do mothers in New York City. Primarily utilized by working mothers and career women, the recovery coaches were uniformly described as women in recovery themselves who filled in gaps in the typical treatment and recovery service system.

Career women and working moms with an addiction find it much more difficult to leave what they are doing to engage in a 30-60 day stay in a rehab facility. There is also apparently a greater stigma among this population which makes it difficult for them to engage in regular self help or treatment program meetings. Some of this speaks to the double standard existing between men and women. While a working dad may be given time off from work to spend 30 days at the Betty Ford clinic, he can do this with the knowledge that his wife will stay home to take care of the kids and his job will probably be waiting for him upon his return. There are not usually reciprocal supports for women.

So what is the difference between a therapist a sponsor and a sobriety coach? There are numerous web sites and organizations that tout credentials and training programs to become a sobriety coach. One of these describes the role as: “…an ongoing professional relationship that helps folks who are in or who are considering recovery from addiction to produce extraordinary results in their lives, careers, businesses, or organizations—while advancing their recovery from addiction.” This description, like many others is rather general and does not provide clear requirements for educational background beyond the training program provided (for a fee) by the host organization.

The Center for Executive Coaching, one of the coaching web sites provides a very extensive curriculum but has a major emphasis on marketing. It is in fact teamed with Guerrilla Marketing expert Jay Levinson's organization.

Although there can never be too many resources in the work needed for recovery from addiction, the risks in working with a recovery coach lie in the lack of standardized training, uniform professional ethics and the inherent complexity of recovery. There is obviously a need to address the unique needs of working women and career moms but caution should be taken before hiring a recovery coach rather than a licensed therapist or working with a self-help group sponsor.

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