Recovery Coaches: Support Specialist or Scam Artist?

recovery coachesA recovery coach is an individual who has gone through a nominal amount of training in order to provide paid support for men and women suffering from the disease of addiction. Namely, this includes drug and alcohol use associated with substance use disorder or SUD.  Recovery coaches often work with both individuals in active addiction and people in long-term recovery.  The support that recovery coaches provide however, will vary.  But exactly what is the role of a recovery coach and what kind of support do they provide?  Are they qualified to create or provide treatment?  What about offering advice or counseling?  Exactly how much training does a recovery coach have?  Who hires them and what does a certificate in recovery coaching mean?  Are recovery coaches true support specialists or sophisticated scam artists?

What is the Role of a Recovery Coach?

To determine the appropriate role of a recovery coach, I’d like to start with what they are not qualified to do.  For instance, a recovery coach is not allowed nor are they qualified to provide primary treatment for addiction.  They are not equipped to diagnose any disorder nor are they associated with any particular treatment modality or recovery method.  Instead, a recovery coach acts more like a mentor or a 12 step (Alcoholics Anonymous) sponsor.  Recovery coaches are qualified to provide support and praise for any positive life changes.  They are qualified to suggest ongoing support through community, treatment, empathy, listening and helping individuals with the disease of addiction to improve their present life. Essentially, this kind of support has the potential to help an individual with avoiding triggers, drug relapse prevention and living an overall better and healthier life.

Recovery coaches are not licensed counselors and are not trained to work to heal trauma or cope with emotions or false beliefs.  In essence, a recovery coach is there to listen and direct individuals with addiction issues to real resources for addiction treatment and recovery without providing any real advice or counseling.

How Much Training Do Recovery Coaches Possess

Unlike licensed therapists and counselors who’ve underwent a minimum of 6 years of schooling and a multitude of practicum hours to obtain a master’s degree and a license, a recovery coach may have as little as a few hours to a few days of training.  At the end of the program, a certificate is issued that may or may not be qualified by the state.  Legitimate recovery coaching programs follow state guidelines and provide legitimate certificates that enable those who “graduate” from the program to start an independent career as a recovery coach.  Depending on state guidelines and the facility, students may or may not have to pass a test before they can obtain a certificate.

On the other hand, there are a plethora of recovery coaching outfits that provide illegitimate “training” strictly to make money and the certificates they provide means nothing.

Anyone considering becoming a recovery coach would be wise to do their homework to determine whether or not the recovery coaching program they enroll in is legitimate.

Beware of Scams and Recovery Coaches who misuse their certificate and training

Anyone who attends any type of legitimate schooling and higher education in order to better themselves, especially in order to help others should be commended.  However, recovery coaches have very specific jobs and endeavoring outside the scope of what they are qualified to do could be a detriment to their clients.

Ultimately, men and women suffering from drug addiction (substance use disorder) whether they are living in active addiction or new to recovery are vulnerable and hire recovery coaches because they don’t feel like they can do it on their own.  This is perfectly normal.   However, because people new to recovery or individuals still using drugs are highly malleable, recovery coaches possess a kind of power that can help an individual re-invent themselves or cause significant damage.  Even recovery coaches with good intentions may cause damage if they get cocky and think they can use their certificate and training to provide direct advice and/or counsel people.

Unfortunately, too many recovery coaches cause more harm than good simply because they think that their training gives them the ability (and the right) to walk individuals through difficult or traumatic situations and events.  Unfortunately, those that do this, unless they got lucky, often create more problems in a recovering addict’s life and exacerbate the possibility of a drug relapse.


While recovery coaching and their certificates are not scams within themselves, there are many who misuse their influence over addicts by providing services they’re not qualified to offer and end up causing more harm than good.  An addict who ends up relapsing due to bad advice or counsel from someone not trained like a recovery coach may ultimately overdose and die.  This is why those who consider hiring recovery coaches need to beware of who they hire and work with.

Always find out where a recovery or life coach has undergone their training and research whether or not their certificate is state provided.  Moreover, don’t put a recovery coach on a pedestal.  They don’t know everything and they’re not always right.  That said, when done right, a recovery coach may just be able to provide the additional support one needs to move in a positive direction away from drugs and towards quality of life.

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Written and Published By William Charles, Owner/Publisher of Kill the Heroin Epidemic Nationwide™, Heroin News, and the National Alliance of Addiction Treatment Centers (NAATC)

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