For individuals to achieve recovery from substance addiction or behavioral health issues, they need to have the proper support. Two types of people who can give those in recovery the support that they need are recovery coaches and peer specialists. While both recovery coaches and peer specialists provide people in recovery with support, the way that they do so is different, as there is a clear difference between a recovery coach vs. peer specialist.
What is a Recovery Coach?
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A recovery coach is a certified professional who provides support, guidance, and resources to those in recovery. Recovery coaches do this by helping those that they coach to identify and achieve their goals in life.
Recovery coaches also provide individuals in recovery with support and guidance by giving them advice on how to overcome obstacles and triggers and maintain recovery. Recovery coaches will even connect their clients with resources such as support groups, addiction and behavioral health treatment programs, and different forms of therapy programs.
What is a Peer Specialist?
A peer specialist is a person that has already been in recovery for addiction or behavioral health issues for an extended time, and thus, is in a place to provide first-hand knowledge and support to people who are newly in recovery. Although typically not as intensive as the ones that recovery coaches obtain, peer specialists usually must also obtain some type of education and/or certification.
The main purpose of a peer specialist is to provide those who are newly in recovery with empathetic support and advice. Peer specialists give people who are new to recovery hope that life can get better post-treatment.
Recovery Coach vs. Peer Specialist
There are differences between a recovery coach vs. peer specialist. One key difference between a recovery coach vs. peer specialist is that recovery coaches are trained counselors, social workers, or mental and/or behavioral health treatment professionals while peer specialists are simply people who have previously suffered from addiction or behavioral health issues and thus, desire to help others achieve and maintain recovery.
While peer specialists typically have some sort of certification and/or training, the training is not as intensive or in-depth as the type of certification or training that recovery coaches typically must go through. As a result, recovery coaches are paid professionals while peer specialists are volunteers or people that may just get a stipend.
While peer specialists are typically not as educated as recovery coaches, they do have one thing that recovery coaches do not. That thing is firsthand experience with addiction or behavioral health issues. As a result, peer specialists can provide people who are new to recovery with specific advice that only those who have suffered from addiction and behavioral health issues themselves can offer.
Another thing that peer specialists can offer people who are new to recovery that recovery coaches typically can’t is a high level of empathy. Such empathy allows those who are new to recovery to feel less judged when confiding in peer specialists. This, in turn, leads to more open and honest conversations.
Qualifications That Individuals Need to Be a Recovery Coach
The qualifications that recovery coaches typically need include the following:
- A high school diploma
- Completion of a recovery coach training program
- Certification from a recognized organization such as the International Coaching Federation or the Association of Recovery Coaches
- Continued education to maintain certification
Qualifications That Individuals Need to Be a Peer Specialist
The qualifications that peer specialists typically need include the following:
- Personal experience with addiction or behavioral health issues
- Completion of a peer specialist training program from a credible organization such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) or the Mental Health Association (MHA)
- Certification from a recognized organization, such as the International Association of Peer Supporters or the National Council for Mental Wellbeing
- Continued education to maintain certification
Benefits of Working with Recovery Coaches
While many of the benefits of working with recovery coaches are the same as those working with peer specialists, some benefits are more specific to recovery coaches. For example, recovery coaches tend to provide clients with more practical treatment resources. Examples of such practical resources include individualized treatment programs at specific treatment centers.
Benefits of Peer Support in Recovery
There are several benefits of peer support in recovery. Again, one clear benefit specific to working with peer specialists is the high level of empathy and understanding that they provide. This is because peer specialists know firsthand what it’s like to go through the struggles that the clients are going through.
Benefits of Working with Recovery Coaches and Peer Specialists
Many of the benefits of working with recovery coaches can translate to working with peer specialists. Examples of ways that working with either a recovery coach or a peer specialist can benefit someone new to recovery are below.
While the support may come in different ways, both recovery coaches and peer specialists provide their clients with one-on-one support.
Both recovery coaches and peer specialists help their clients set and achieve recovery goals. Such goal-setting helps individuals maintain recovery.
Improved Mental Health and Wellbeing
Both recovery coaches and peer specialists offer their clients support, guidance, and addiction resources that help improve mental health and well-being. This, in turn, helps the clients of recovery coaches and peer specialists live full lives.
Both recovery coaches and peer specialists act as accountability partners for their clients. That’s because recovery coaches and peer specialists constantly check in with their clients to make sure that they’re doing what they need to stay healthy.
Strategies That Recovery Coaches and Peer Specialists Use When Helping Individuals Who Are New to Recovery
While many of the roles, qualifications, and benefits of a recovery coach vs. peer specialist may differ, many of the strategies that both of these positions use are the same. Examples of strategies that both recovery coaches and peer specialists use to help people who are new to recovery include the following:
Motivational Interviewing (MI) is a therapeutic tactic that helps people identify their motivations for change. By doing so, MI helps people no longer be ambivalent about recovery.
Both recovery coaches and peer specialists may suggest that their clients take part in motivational interviewing. By making this suggestion, recovery coaches and peer specialists can help their clients maintain recovery long-term.
This is a form of therapy that helps people who are new to recovery focus on the tools and resources that they have to overcome obstacles and maintain recovery. Both recovery coaches and peer specialists may suggest this therapy to pessimistic people in recovery.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) helps people identify and then change their negative thoughts, emotions, and behaviors into positive ones. CBT is one of the most well-known forms of therapy that professionals use to help treat people with substance addictions and behavioral health issues. Thus, it’s no surprise that both recovery coaches and peer specialists suggest this form of therapy to their clients.
Mindfulness and Stress-Reduction Techniques
Both recovery coaches and peer specialists may suggest that people who are new to recovery use mindfulness and stress-reduction techniques. Through mindfulness and stress-reduction techniques, people can learn to better manage their stress and emotions.
Mindfulness and stress-reduction techniques can also help people stay calm and positive in the face of adversity. Mindfulness and stress-reduction techniques can even help people manage their addiction and behavioral health triggers. Both recovery coaches and peer specialists promote that their clients take part in such treatment techniques.
Harm reduction focuses on minimizing the negative consequences of addiction and behavioral health issues. It also focuses on maximizing the positive changes that come with treatment and recovery. Both recovery coaches and peer specialists suggest that their clients use harm reduction.
Relapse prevention helps people identify triggers. It also helps people pick up on additional relapse warning signs. That way, people who are new to recovery can know when they need to be proactive about their treatment therapy. Because the goal of both recovery coaches and peer specialists is to help people maintain recovery, both roles often suggest that their clients take part in relapse prevention.
Support and Resources
Both recovery coaches and peer specialists provide their clients with the support and resources that they need to maintain recovery. Such resources include addiction treatment therapy, support groups, and more.
Receive Support from Recovery Coaches and Peer Specialists While in Treatment at Free by the Sea
Ideally, a person who is new to recovery simultaneously has a recovery coach and a peer specialist. That way, he or she can reap the benefits of both roles simultaneously rather than weighing the pros and cons of having a recovery coach vs. peer specialist.
Simultaneously working with recovery coaches and peer specialists will provide those new to recovery with a more comprehensive support system. Here at Free by the Sea, we offer our patients a wide range of support and resources to help them overcome any addiction or behavioral health issues. Such support and resources include numerous addiction and mental health treatment programs.
There are also numerous individuals employed at Free by the Sea to help give our patients the extra support that they need. We even offer our patients recovery coaches and peer specialists.
To learn more about Free by the Sea and the services and resources that we offer, contact us today. We are here to help you.
Dr. Richard Crabbe joined our team in 2019 as our psychiatrist and medical director. He attended the University of Ghana Medical School where he became a Medical Doctor in 1977. From 1978 through 1984, he was a medical officer in the Ghana Navy and provided a variety of services from general medicine to surgeries. He received his Certificate in General Psychology from the American Board of Psychology and Neurology in 2002.