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How a Sober Coach Can Help People Recover from Addiction

Among other things, willing to share their own experience.

Key points

  • Sober coaches target addiction exclusively.
  • Sober coaches are available around the clock and often meet with clients several hours a day, multiple times a week.
  • Sober coaches commonly visit clients in their home, accompany them to recovery meetings, or assist in finding sober living facilities.
 Mikail Duran/Unsplash
Source: Mikail Duran/Unsplash

Addiction is a devastating and heartbreaking condition. For those struggling with substance abuse, or the loved ones who witness their descent, it can be an endless battle with the darker sides of our nature. It's a struggle that far too many people are losing.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fatal overdoses increased nearly 30% during the pandemic, more than doubling since 2015 to a record-shattering 100,000 deaths recorded in a 12-month period leading up to April 2021.

In my 26 years as a psychotherapist, I have seen more lives lost or destroyed by addiction than any other mental health disorder.

Getting Help

One of the most challenging aspects of addiction is finding an effective treatment, particularly for teenagers or young adults. Voluntary recovery groups, such as AA or NA, are readily available and offer enormous support for many. Having a sponsor, and fellowship in a positive recovery community, has real benefits and greatly aids many in the development of sobriety.

Addiction treatment has benefited significantly as well from the rise of sober coaches. Unlike most therapists and outpatient programs, sober coaches are available around the clock to offer guidance and direction to the people struggling with substance abuse. They also may meet with their clients’ families to address enabling or codependent behaviors, and, unlike most therapists, sober coaches may frequently meet in their clients’ homes or accompany them to recovery meetings or treatment programs, or help them develop sobriety skills.

How a Sober Coach Works

To better understand sober coaches, I sat down with Thomas McAlinden, a certified recovery coach in New York City. McAlinden is quick to share his own lifelong struggle with addiction; he celebrates 27 years of continuous recovery and makes himself available 24 hours a day for his clients.

What’s the difference between a sober coach and a therapist?

Therapists are clinically trained to treat different psychological issues; sober coaches focus 100% on addiction. Since most sober coaches are in recovery themselves, they have actual life experience with addiction and a passion for helping others. They also don’t hesitate to share their experiences with their clients.

How often do sober coaches meet with their clients?

Sober coaches often spend many hours a week with their clients. In some cases, a sober coach will stay with clients around the clock to keep them safe. Most importantly, they go where their clients need them to be, such as in their home, traveling to or from appointments, or attending recovery meetings with them. Natually, wherever they meet, discretion and confidentiality are of uppermost importance. With the client’s permission, sober coaches also team up with therapists and outpatient treatment teams to provide periodic updates on the client’s progress in recovery.

What other issues can a sober coach address?

Sober coaches can address many issues other than substance abuse, such as eating disorders, gambling, etc. Sober coaches can also help families plan interventions, arrange for transport to inpatient rehab programs, and refer clients to sober living facilities.

Can sober coaches help parents whose children are struggling with substances?

Absolutely. Parents are frequently overwhelmed when their teenager starts abusing substances. Sober coaches meet with parents to educate them on the dangers of addiction, in addition to helping them develop interventions, strategies, and coping skills. An initial phone consultation is the best way to get started and access the kind of services that would most benefit them and their loved ones.

To find a therapist, please visit the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.