Dr. Cali Estes - The Addiction Coach ®

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RAW DRAFT: The Important Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Recovery Coach

The Important Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Recovery Coach

Getting help is a vital step in recovery and should never be discouraged. However, when looking for help there are just so many factors that can lead to some rash decision-making – hesitation, desperation, pressure from within or from outside sources – it’s essentially a combination destined for failure.

So, it’s important to know what you’re getting into and ask the important questions before making any mistakes. This is especially true in finding the right recovery / sober coach for you.

There are different approaches, personality types, teaching styles, backgrounds, duties and expectations.  The point is you’ve got to get to know your coach, and there are some especially important questions to ask when doing so.

What is a Recovery Coach?

A recovery coach is someone who, as defined by Sober On Demand, “Is in long term recovery that is certified, bonded and insured and is able to help other people give up using drugs and alcohol. They utilize a powerful, proactive, and solution-based private guidance system that can enable the client to achieve a level of clarity and understanding that might otherwise NOT be attained through traditional addiction treatment or drug rehab style environments.”

In other words, a recovery coach is someone who can lead your journey to recovery and has gone through it in the past, now being “clean and sober”.

And while the terms recovery coach and sober coach are often used interchangeably, Sober on Demand does make a distinction, defining sober coaches separately and emphasizing their “strengths-based system of recovery rooted in creating an action plan and creating a fulfilling life”, which will be important later.

Finding the right coach for you can be a huge deal, as according to a study conducted by SAMHSA, patients with a recovery coach overall experience a number of improvements in their lives, including increased treatment retention, greater housing stability, reduced re-hospitalization rates, and a whole laundry list of other successes.

So, here are some vital questions to find your best fit when you’ve got a whole sea of options ahead of you.

What to Ask About

Their Education

While at face value the idea may come across as rude, asking about someone’s background and qualifications is not only reasonable but also responsible.

  • Who trained them?
  • Do they know the ins and outs of the recovery training process?
  • What is their general educational background?
  • Are they certified?

If their answers to any of these questions make you uncomfortable, it’s better to get that out of the way now rather than finding out much later in the process.

Their Approach

Their education may also offer a glimpse into their coaching style, which is worth looking into. Again, there are some different approaches here and there and Sober on Demand gives some examples with their own recovery coaching staff:

“Most recovery coaches and sober coaches are assisting a client in the harm reduction model, using Medically Assisted Therapies (MAT) such as Suboxone, Subutex, Vivitrol, Methadone, or Marijuana Maintenance programs and controlled drinking. Some recovery coaches and sober coaches will assist with full and complete abstinence of the drugs and alcohol, but our goal is to meet the client right where they are in the process and help them achieve the goals and action steps necessary to UnPause their life.”

This would fall under the evidence-based approach, utilizing medication and psychotherapies. There is also the alternative “12-step approach”, which is based on Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous. Knowing which avenue your own coach subscribes to is an important step, as while both are effective, the 12-step approach can be hit or miss. Its emphasis on spirituality as well as complete abstinence can be seen as a deterrent to some or comforting to others.

Their Availability

Some people need a lot more dedicated time, and others can handle some occasional checkups here and there. Coaches often have a set schedule, whether it be a weekly session basis, bi-weekly, or some can be flexible in terms of availability. This is entirely dependent on the individual’s needs and the coach’s capabilities.

Finding someone who can be there consistently not only offers a sense of structure but builds a bond by offering some trust to them.

Availability isn’t exclusive to time either, as some accommodations will have to be made in terms of how someone would like to meet. Programs like Sober on Demand offer phone, zoom or in-person meetings, but this is by no means applicable everywhere.

Their Story

How long has your coach been sober? What are their vices and triggers? Again, if their answers to these questions make you uncomfortable, then maybe that coach isn’t for you. The questioning process is about building trust and reassurance in their ability to guide you through the difficult journey.

Learning about their journey may also aid in building a bond with that person and reinforcing that trust and maybe some relatability.

Cost and Duties

The cost of hiring a sober / recovery coach can be hefty in some cases. Don’t be afraid to ask some questions regarding that. Do they take insurance, do they charge hourly, or do they offer a refund if things go wrong within the first month?

Keep expectations grounded, as typically insurance carriers do not cover the costs of a recovery coach, but there’s no harm in asking. On top of that, you should know where your money is going.

What fees are charged with each service? Ask them to provide a list of duties as your recovery coach, as detailed as necessary. Make sure you know exactly what you’re paying for.


Finally, it’s a good idea to ask for some references from other clients. Sometimes hearing it directly from the person isn’t convincing enough, and that’s perfectly reasonable. Your mental health is at stake here!

So, go ahead and ask for some references. Clients are much less incentivized to get you on board and can offer some legitimate insight.

Find Your Right Fit

Shopping around in this scenario isn’t discouraged, in fact, quite the opposite. Find your perfect fit because your journey is your own. You’ve got to know exactly what you’re getting yourself into and maximize the potential for possible growth, and with these questions, you can do just that and then some.



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