Using a Life Coach in Aftercare
People who are in recovery for an alcohol use disorder can increase their success when they receive support from family, friends, peers, and other sources. A life coach can be a valuable form of support.
What Is a Life Coach?
A life coach provides a synergistic relationship between the client and coach. The helps the client develop their full potential in whatever it is they are trying to achieve. Life coaches are consultants, and often play the role of counselor, although they are not professionally trained as therapists or counselors. Life coaches assist their clients because they provide:
- A sense of accountability: Life coaches typically have several phone calls a month with their clients that are regularly scheduled. These scheduled calls prompt clients to take action and hold them accountable.
- A sense of expertise: Trained and certified life coaches know how to help people set goals, structure their time to achieve their goals, and use less effort. They also help clients to avoid trial-and-error approaches to achieving their goals.
- A sense of motivation: Certified life coaches are trained to use the right tools to motivate the person to achieve their goals. Most coaching is done over the phone and occurs with 30-minute to 60-minute sessions three times a month.
Training for Life Coaches
It is best to seek out a life coach with formal training and certification in order to ensure that the coach has attained an adequate level of professional competency. Certified life coaches complete a life coach training program and then pass a test to receive certification from organizations, such as the International Coach Federation, an organization that certifies life coaches and provides information on all types of coaches including sports coaches, life coaches, mentors, etc.
Life coaches often require an additional 100–2,500 hours of actual coaching experience, depending on the type of certification they are seeking. The key skills developed in a life coaching certification program include goal-setting, problem-solving, communication, time and progress management, creativity, and the development of empathy and compassion for clients.
What Do Life Coaches Help With?
Life coaches can help with numerous issues, including:
- Goal-setting and goal achievement
- Organizational skills, such as clearing clutter from one’s life
- Overcoming hesitation, insecurity, or fear and achieving goals
- Balancing personal life and business life
- Developing communication skills
- Achieving greater financial stability
- Finding a career that is satisfying
- Assisting an individual with important life transitions
- Starting and growing a business
- Developing personal or romantic relationships
- Identifying and understanding core values
- Fulfilling emotional needs
How Much Do Life Coaches Charge?
According to the above sources, life coaches typically charge between $300 and $700 a month for three or four phone calls that each last between 30 and 60 minutes. Executive coaches may charge significantly more. Coaches who work in the corporate field may charge thousands of dollars per month and often charge fees that are around $500 per hour.
Clients are expected to make a minimum commitment of at least one month, and many life coaches ask for a commitment of 3-6 months. Coaches typically ask for a signed agreement, but there is quite a bit of flexibility, such that if an individual feels the arrangement is not working for them and they have signed an agreement that extends for several months, they often can opt out of the agreement. This policy varies from coach to coach.
What Life Coaches Are Not
Based on the information provided by the above professional life coach organizations, it is clear that life coaches are not:
- Therapists: Life coaches are not trained or licensed therapists unless they have received additional professional training that qualifies them to be licensed therapists. They are not trained in the assessment or treatment of any mental health disorder.
- Physicians: Unless a life coach has a formal medical degree, they should not offer medical advice to anyone.
- Friends: Although the relationship with a life coach is certainly on a personal and friendly basis, life coaches should not be considered as personal friends. This is a professional relationship.
- Substitutes for components of substance use disorder treatment: While life coaches can offer some positive benefits to individuals in recovery from an alcohol use disorder, they are not substitutes for the effective components of a treatment or aftercare program. Instead, under the right conditions, they can be useful additions to a formal comprehensive alcohol use disorder recovery program.
How Can Life Coaches Help during Recovery from Alcohol Use Disorder?
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), there are numerous ways that life coaches can help a person or family members during a loved one’s recovery from an alcohol use disorder. These include:
- Developing a plan: Life coaches can help the person to develop and a start recovery plan.
- Adding stability: Life coaches may be able to help a person and their family create stability during recovery from an alcohol use disorder.
- Identifying obstacles: Life coaches are good at identifying obstacles to success and then helping an individual overcome them.
- Providing guidance: Life coaches can provide guidance and mentorship for people involved in a recovery program or who are seeking to become involved in a recovery program.
- Offering motivation: Life coaches can provide motivation for individuals who are in recovery from an alcohol use disorder, and this motivation can often help people to stick with the program and avoid relapse.
- Giving positive reinforcement: Life coaches are trained to provide positive reinforcement when individuals reach goals, engage in proactive activities, and improve themselves.
- Offering practical advice: Life coaches are trained to provide practical advice to help individuals reach their goals. While this type of advice doesn’t constitute therapy, it can help individuals apply techniques learned in therapy in the real world.
- Conducting research: Life coaches are trained to assist individuals find and obtain necessary resources to reach their goals.
- Acting as an advocate: Life coaches can function as an advocate for a person in recovery. This may involve serving as a liaison between treatment programs and the individual.
- Serving as a role model: Life coaches are often viewed as role models by individuals who use them. People in recovery need positive role models to inspire them and focus their energy in the right direction.
- Offering peer support: Life coaches who are also in recovery from substance use disorders may have specialized knowledge on how to help an individual in recovery avoid common pitfalls. These individuals can share their personal experience with their clients and develop a connection that provides peer support as well as coaching. This connection can help the individual to set goals, reach goals, and move forward in recovery.
The success of long-term recovery for individuals with alcohol use disorders is often dependent on maintaining an aftercare program once the person has undergone withdraw from alcohol and structured treatment. Utilizing a physician-assisted withdrawal management program (medical detox) can get the person started on the road to recovery and reduce the risk of early relapse, but after this program is completed, it is essential that the person becomes involved in a treatment program, and then an aftercare program.
Life coaches with experience in recovery can offer professional peer-based services during outpatient treatment and aftercare. Support, particularly support from peers, has received significant empirical evidence to indicate that it can be very useful in assisting individuals in recovery from substance use disorders, including those in recovery from alcohol use disorders. Positive peer support has been demonstrated to result in shorter length of stays in hospitals, an overall reduction in treatment costs for those who have both physical disabilities and mental health disorders like substance use disorders, and a positive influence on both physical and emotional recovery.
Utilizing the services of a life coach can provide a helping hand to encourage recovery and help a person engage in positive decision-making. Individuals in recovery from alcohol use disorder often find themselves weighed down with the stress of having to overcome their past addictive habits. Life coaches help these individuals employ positive coping skills outside of the treatment environment and may be able to enhance principles that individuals in recovery learned in therapy. The focus is on goals, improving relationships, educating oneself on how to achieve success toward goals, and maintaining a positive attitude. Life coaches can also help individuals find treatment providers that fit their special needs.
Weighing the Cost of a Life Coach against the Benefits
Life coaches can provide positive incentives, support, and direction for individuals who are attempting to achieve specific goals, such as maintaining abstinence from alcohol while being involved in an outpatient aftercare recovery program. The contribution of social support for an individual who is in recovery from an alcohol use disorder can never be underestimated. However, life coaches are not formally trained therapists, and unless they have a background that includes formal training in psychology, counseling, or social work, these individuals are not qualified to offer clinical advice. They can, however, direct an individual and offer positive motivation and incentives to help the person achieve their goals.
For many individuals in an aftercare recovery program, utilizing a life coach might be a significant financial expense that does not add significant benefit to their recovery program. If the person has a specific goal they’d like to reach, such as finding a new job or reaching a certain number of days sober, the services of a life coach can be beneficial; however, those who can’t afford one can find a sponsor from a 12-Step group that can offer many of the same benefits that life coaches bring to their clients. Thus, unless an individual can afford the services of a life coach, and utilizes the services of a life coach in addition to engaging in all aspects of empirically validated substance use disorder treatment as outlined by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (e.g., medically assisted treatment such as medications, substance use disorder therapy, social support group participation, and other interventions that are required based on the needs of the individual), it is probably best to focus financial resources on therapy, medications, and other empirically validated treatment options.
An individual in recovery from alcohol use disorder should only use a life coach in addition to a comprehensive alcohol use disorder treatment program. Substituting the use of a life coach for therapy, social support group participation, or medications is not recommended. A life coach can help an individual to organize, plan, and engage in aspects of recovery, but life coaches are not substitutes for formal substance use disorder treatment.