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Deploying Recovery Coaches: The Best Model by Phil Valentine

On April 9, 2018, Rebecca, Jennifer and I wrote a blog called No Coach is an Island. As recovery coaching expands across the country, some efforts are not taking full advantage of our profession, so I sense some urgency to retool the following ideas and post again.

Situation– treatment providers, hospitals, drug courts, prisons and other institutions hire one, two or maybe three recovery coaches.

These settings are most likely isolated and function under established, firm policies, regulations and restrictions. Imagine a magnificent stone fortress built on an island – not easy to get in or out, but offers sanctuary and healing. I like the idea of the recovery coach service in this setting, but there is a better way than requiring a recovery coach to work within the walls.

Here are the major difficulties with the coach on an island approach.

  1. The recovery coach only knows what the coach knows.

  2. One coach has one connection to the recovery community – his/her own. It is much more difficult for a single person to be aware of all the recovery support services and recovery resources in their area.

  3. Little to no support from other recovery coaches.

  4. Supervisors in these settings often do not understand the recovery coach role and insist recovery coaches adhere to clinical ethics and boundaries.

  5. Where and how does a coach in this setting continue to develop professionally?

  6. Fortress settings may put restrictions on eligibility for employment in the recovery coach role – lived experience, amount of time in recovery, and below average pay.

At CCAR, we had the luxury of developing another model – to have recovery coaches dispatched to the needs. We have built a dynamic, effective team. Here are the main components of the dispatch model.

  1. To enhance recovery outcomes, work with a trusted recovery community organization (RCO).

  2. The RCO offers a multitude of recovery connections reflective of multiple pathways for recovery.

  3. The RCO develops a team of highly skilled, competent, well paid, professional recovery coaches that represent and believe in all recovery pathways.

  4. The RCO dispatches recovery coaches to Emergency Departments, Police Stations, Fire Stations, prisons, treatment centers, managed care organizations, etc. when requested.

  5. The RCO practices a key coaching principle – it treats each coach as a resource. The RCO trusts the recovery coach to do their job. They have freedom to innovate, adapt and serve.

  6. Leadership does not micromanage.

  7. The RCO allows the recovery coach team to grow dynamically and strengthen one another.

  8. The RCO encourages the team to learn from one another. The team develops linkages with a variety of community recovery supports that they share with one another.This body of knowledge is a powerful, living entity that the team nurtures. As an example, CCAR Emergency Department Recovery Coaches use group texting to communicate continually with each other. A day’s thread has 100’s of messages.

  9. The RCO will develop a career ladder (for those interested) – from receiving support to volunteering (offering support) to partaking in quality recovery coach training to earning a Recovery Coach Professional (RCP) designation to employment in the recovery support services field.

When a hospital (or other entity) enters into an agreement with an RCO, it hires a team of coaches, not just one person. The hospital contracts with an organization that embraces multiple pathways of recovery. The RCO manages compensation, benefits, overhead and supervision for the recovery coaches. The RCO is accountable for the recovery outcomes.

At CCAR, we connect people to ongoing care through our established network. The network is vast, comprehensive and dynamic. It continually expands and shifts. For example, our coaches know who to call and when to call, for nearly all situations they have faced in the Emergency Department. If they have a question, they have come to rely on one another. Someone on the team will likely know.

How would an isolated recovery coach have this ability?

No coach is an island.

Phil "Right Click" Valentine

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