A sober companion or sober coach provides one-on-one assistance to newly recovering drug addicts and alcoholics. The goal is to help the client maintain total abstinence from alcohol and drugs, and to establish healthy routines outside of a residential treatment facility.
Controversy exists between sober companions, not only in their name (sober companion vs. sober coach vs. recovery coach), but over the use of any situation placing them in contact with other enablers. Also, some sober companions strongly agree with 12 step programs; other sober companions do not support the 12 step process and use alternative methods.
One key difference between a sober companion and a sober coach, is that a sober coach is a direct descendant of the Alcoholics Anonymous “sponsor”, a significant difference being that the sober coaching is done for payment while a sponsor works for free as the practice of the 12th step, carrying the message of recovery.
The primary duty of a sober coach is to ensure the recovering addict does not relapse. They may be hired to provide round the clock care, be on-call, or to accompany the recovering addict during particular activities.
A companion acts as an advocate for the newly recovering person and provides new ways for the client to act in their own living environment. Many companions use techniques such as chiropractic adjustments, acupuncture, meditation, distraction, massage, diet and proper nutrition, exercise and even prayer and affirmation of sober choices. A sober companion either completely removes the addict from his own environment of hidden stashes, or may search for hidden drugs in their own environment, in an effort to restrain a client to prevent them from relapsing.
Sober companion treatment usually lasts for 30 days – often, much longer. The time required to effect a meaningful change varies greatly depending upon the client, his co-occurring disorders, and the family life at home. Ideally, a companion’s presence in the client’s life will decrease as the client’s ability to confront family, work, and legal issues without relapse is proven. Some providers stay with their clients for many months, and some offer only transportation services (for instance, to and from treatment facilities or sober living homes). The sober companion’s duties encompass a wide variety, from simply ensuring the client remains abstinent to serving as a resource broker in the client’s home community.
Sober companions are sometimes used in cases where an actor or musician will not attend treatment, but must remain abstinent to complete a film or recording project. They are also depicted by some media outlets as “adult babysitters” for actors, musicians, and other celebrities.
In keeping with several other forms of drug rehabilitation, some sober companions have no formal training or qualification. Most (but not all) companions are recovering addicts who have themselves been able to maintain multiple years of sobriety. While some companions will have some training in psychology, sociology, or medicine, in addition to a strong personal program of recovery, some may have taken the Recovery Coaching certifications offered by Recovery Coaching International (recoverycoaches.org) or the very inexpensive (sometimes free) training offered by the Connecticut Center for Addiction Recovery (CCAR.org) training in a model for peer recovery support specialist roles and responsibilities. A few independent providers, such as Sober Champion require literature study and in-person training by an experienced professional.
The Sociotherapy Association certifies and trains Support Companions, Recovery/Sober Companions, Elderly Companions, and Adolescent Companions. The Sociotherapy Association in America created the Support Companions program to offer real support and relationship to those in need.