Recovery / Peer Coaching

A Certified Recovery / Peer Coach is a person with significant life-altering experience. This is also referred to as lived experience. These specialists support individuals with struggles pertaining to mental health, psychological trauma or substance use. Because of their lived experience, such persons have expertise that professional training cannot replicate.  

There are many tasks performed by Recovery Coaches that may include assisting their peers in articulating their goals for recovery, learning and practicing new skills, helping them monitor their progress, supporting them in their treatment, modeling effective coping techniques, and self-help strategies based on the specialist’s own recovery experience, as well as supporting them in advocating for themselves to obtain effective services.

As of September 2012, 36 states had established programs that train and certify individuals with lived experience who have initiated their recovery and are willing to support others in their recovery process

Recovery coaching is a form of strengths-based support for persons with addictions or in recovery from alcohol, other drugs, codependency, or other addictive behaviors.  Recovery coaches work with persons with active addictions, as well as persons already in recovery, to help them make decisions about what to do with one’s life and the part addiction or recovery plays in it.

Recovery coaches help clients find ways to stop addiction (abstinence), or reduce harm associated with addictive behaviors.

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For addicts fresh out of detox or returning home from treatment, the client trades a secure drug-free environment for a situation where they know there are problems.

A Recovery Coach will provide the symbolic and functional safety of the treatment center.  A Recovery Coach will introduce the client to 12 step meetings; guide them past former triggers (e.g. liquor stores, strip clubs, emotionally charged situations) and support the client in developing their recovery plan.  A Recovery Coach will help the client to make lifestyle changes in order to experience a better quality of life in the first crucial days after discharge from a treatment center.

Sometimes a recovery coach is necessary to help keep a client sober in order to regain custody of their child, re-enter the work force, get their license back, or even to comply with probation requirements.


Recovery Coaching became more developed and professional in 2003 as a professional life-coaching niche. Alida Schuyler, a coach credentialed by the International Coach Federation (ICF), and a woman in recovery from addiction, wrote the first recovery coach certification training program specifically aimed at training students to coach persons with addictions. She also created the first special interest group for recovery coaches, and she co-founded the nonprofit Recovery Coaches International with Andrew Susskind.

William L. White used the term “recovery coach” in his 2006 paper Sponsor, Recovery Coach, Addiction Counselor but later changed adopted the term “Peer Recovery Support Specialist” to emphasize a community-based peer model of addiction support.

Many recovery coaches use different recovery approaches adapted from the Minnesota Model.  White’s Recovery Management model adapted from the Minnesota Model includes recovery coaching (peer recovery support specialist) and was developed by William White in 2006.  Alida Schuyler developed a professional model of life coaching for addiction recovery by blending the Minnesota Model and Harm Reduction model with the core competencies of the International Coach Federation (ICF).

Through the research completed by William White, David Loveland, Ernest Kurtz, Mark Saunders and the efforts funded through Faces and Voices of Recovery, the Fayette Companies, Great Lakes Addiction Technology Transfer Center, the Chestnut Health Systems and many other universities, research on recovery coaching is multiplying at a very rapid rate.

Two research papers were published in 2009 and 2011 by Melissa Killeen are housed at the University of Pennsylvania (PA) Library.  Through this research the theory has been developed that recovery coaching reduces relapse by providing the recovering individual ongoing support developing healthy problem-solving skills and self-efficacy (reaching worthwhile goals) as well as connecting with the local recovery community for additional support. In other words, recovery coaching helps the client develop the cognitive skills necessary for considering options and consequences, making clear choices, planning and taking actions toward healthier life and recovery goals.  

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