Recovery coaching, where did it start?

Recovery coaching is a result of a long history of efforts intended to assist in recovery or treatment of those who were addicted to alcohol or other substances.

Among the earliest models for what is now known as recovery coaches was among the various Native American communities in the mid to early 19th century, in which groups of Native Americans joined in a pledge not to drink, while elders and others encouraged and supported them in their recovery efforts.

Nearly two centuries before Alcoholic Anonymous was founded, organized groups of Native Americans were assisting those who were seeking sobriety. As far back as the 1750s, if not before, Native Americans in recovery were meeting together, sharing stories, and mutually supporting one another in the quest for sobriety. Those who were further along in their path reached out to newcomers in ways that should be familiar to those in recovery today.

The concept of elders reaching out to embrace those who were new to recovery might be thought of as the beginning of the recovery coaching concept, although several changes in the process have been made over the years, including its use in other addictions.

There were other efforts to stem the problem of alcoholism, particularly in the 1800s, but many of them were imposed upon alcoholics who were viewed as being disruptive to society, and tended to be punitive in nature. Too often, the goal was to remove alcoholics from public society rather than to facilitate recovery.

In 1906, the Emmanuel Clinic in Boston began a lay treatment program for alcoholism that sought to bring about recovery through a combination of Christian-based spirituality and psychological interventions. This program laid the groundwork for Alcoholics Anonymous.

The founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill Wilson, Dr. Bob Smith, Ebby Thatcher, and Rowland Hazard, were influenced by the Emmanuel Clinic and the Oxford Group, a Christian organization that taught absolute honesty, absolute purity, absolute unselfishness, and absolute love. Bill and Dr. Bob were both alcoholics who had failed in achieving sobriety through a number of other programs. The program they set up is based on a 12-step model embodied in its primary text, Alcoholics Anonymous, generally known as The Big Book. Because so many other recovery groups have adopted and adapted variations of AA's 12-step program, Alcoholics Anonymous is generally viewed as the grandfather of recovery organizations.

Alcoholics Anonymous is a peer-based alcohol recovery program that has played a significant role in the development of the larger recovery community, but AA is not the basis for recovery coaching.

Unlike AA and other addiction recovery programs, recovery centers and recovery coaches are more of a repository for resources that may be helpful to people in recovery, not only from alcohol but from other substances.

Modern recovery coaching programs developed in the early 21st century, and serves as a support system for people with addictions, or who are in recovery from alcohol, other drugs, codependencies, or other addictive behaviors.

Alida Schuyler is credited with writing the first recovery coach certification training program, and was a co-founder of Recovery Coaches International, along with Andrew Susskind. Another significant contributor to the the recovery advocacy movement was William L. White, who also referred to recovery coaches as peer recovery support specialists, emphasizing a community-based model of support.

Recovery coaches are not therapists. They do not diagnose, they do not offer primary treatment for addictions, and they are not associated with any particular recovery program, although recovery centers, such as the Pir2Peer Recovery Center, may host some of these groups.

Recovery coaches might be expected to encourage participation in such groups as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, SMART Recovery, Women for Sobriety, or others that might be active in their area, but they do not represent these organizations. They may also work with individuals seeking their own path to recovery.

Some organizations offering recovery coach training include the Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery (CCAR), the Pennsylvania Recovery Organizations Alliance (PRO-A), and the McShin Foundation.