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Recovery support initiative prefers coaches with more extended sobriety

February 11, 2016
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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Peer recovery coaches stand in a unique position to assist individuals in clearing the hurdles of early recovery, but their own wellness needs attention too. A new initiative offering technology-based recovery support has broken from the norm by requiring that its recovery coaches demonstrate three full years of sobriety before starting in the role. Many other recovery coaching efforts have a requirement of around one year of sobriety.

“We just believe that the more sobriety a person has, the less pressure they're going to feel,” says Brian Bailys, founder of Cleveland-based ASCENT. “This is a high-stress role. The last thing we want is for one of our coaches to relapse.”

Developers began working on the ASCENT recovery solution last year, and the organization formally announced this month that its initial customers include the Cleveland-area treatment center New Directions and a pair of court programs. The recovery coaches in ASCENT communicate with individuals in early recovery by telephone and text; they are paid an hourly fee.

Bailys says that depending on the client relationships that ASCENT ultimately forms, there may be some effort to match coach to individual in terms of background. “If we get a prison system, we're getting ex-prisoners to be the coaches,” he says.

Qualities of a coach

Bailys, who explains that the idea for ASCENT grew out of his own experience in an outpatient treatment program where the vast majority of his fellow patients relapsed within 90 days of leaving treatment, says, “The real gap in treatment is continuing care.”

He says that for the coaching component, ASCENT looks for individuals who exhibit empathy and a high degree of support, along with rich lived experience. “All of our coaches are very willing to share,” he says.

The coaches receive 52 hours of training. Their role is clearly defined, as coaching is designed to have neither the clinical bent of therapy nor the 12-Step focus of a sponsor (“our program is agnostic,” says Bailys). Proper boundaries are critical, he adds.

In anticipation of eventual third-party reimbursement for coaching, ASCENT will work with credentialed recovery coaches in states that have initiated a credentialing process.

ASCENT's services combine the features of the CHESS Mobile Health recovery support application (a for-profit venture affiliated with the University of Wisconsin) with what Bailys calls the “human touch” of peer recovery coaching. Participants' replies to daily questions about their well-being could trigger a call from the recovery coach, he explains.

Later this month, ASCENT plans to introduce a recovery support service that it will market directly to consumers, Bailys says.