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Counselor's Corner: Partners in Recovery: Licsencsed SUD Counselor and Recovery Coach

teamworkFor the past two decades, a new role has been emerging in the substance use disorder treatment profession: the recovery coach. A recovery coach is a frontline worker in a recovery-oriented system of care who provides pre-treatment, in-treatment, and post-treatment recovery support. Pre-treatment recovery support provides community outreach to the 75% of persons with substance use disorders who will not access treatment over the course of their lifetime. In-treatment recovery support creates a seamless transition from residential substance use disorders treatment back into the community. Finally, post-treatment recovery support helps with the fragility of early recovery (White, Kurtz, and Sanders, 2006). The Peer Recovery Center of Excellence was formed in 2021 to expand this important role.

While the recovery coach role has been growing, there's been increasing concern among addictions counselors that using recovery coaches is a strategy to eventually replace counselors. This article focuses on ways the two roles work together, as both require complementary and necessary skills to promote recovery.


Knowledge and skills licensed substance use disorders counselors need

  • Evidence-based practices for treating substance use disorders 
  • How to do an assessment
  • Treatment Planning
  • How to make a diagnosis
  • Co-Occurring Disorders Treatment
  • The integration of substance use disorders and trauma treatment
  • Family Therapy
  • Crisis Intervention
  • How to address suicide
  • Grief work
  • Domestic Violence Counseling
  • How to make referrals to self-help groups that support recovery

Knowledge and skills recovery coaches need

  • How to advocate for persons seeking recovery
  • Community resources that support recovery
  • How to develop community resources that support recovery
  • Knowledge of long-term recovery
  • Community-based roadblocks to recovery and how to overcome them
  • How to engage individuals seeking recovery in the environment
  • Non-traditional healers in communities who support recovery
  • Crisis intervention
  • The use of personal recovery experience to support recovery
  • How to provide emotional, informational, resourceful, transportation and affiliational recovery-support

(White, Kurtz, Sanders, 2006).

For both roles to co-exist in a complementary manner, recovery coaches and counselors who work for the same organization need to discuss similarities and differences in their roles. Then they can create plans and strategies for working together. When this synergy occurs, their clients seeking recovery benefit.



White, W. Kurtz, E., Sanders, M. Recovery Management. (2006). Great Lakes ATTC. Chicago

About the author

Mark Sanders, LCSW, CADC, is the Illinois state project manager for the Great Lakes ATTC, MHTTC, and PTTC. Mark has more than 35 years of experience in the addictions treatment field and is also an international speaker, trainer, and consultant in the behavioral health field whose work has reached thousands throughout the United States, Europe, Canada, Caribbean, and British Islands. Mark is the recipient of the 2021 NAADAC Enlightenment Award, recognizing his lifetime career commitment and contribution to NAADAC and the substance use disorder treatment profession.