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What is the Difference between a Sober Coach and a Sponsor?

This is a question that I get asked a lot so I wanted to write something that would answer this important question! While both sober coaches and sponsors provide support and care for those in recovery, their roles, qualifications and functions differ greatly.


A sober coach is a professional who works with those interested in entering and sustaining sobriety and recovery; in many cases, they have personal experience with addiction and recovery but this is not always the case. Sober coaches work with individuals at various stages of their recovery to provide tools, support, care, accountability and mentorship which aids their clients in creating lasting, sustainable change. Sober coaches (ideally) have received specialized and formal training in addiction recovery, coaching techniques and other areas that support behavior change. Those identifying as professional sober coaches should have training, expertise and certifications that support their work.


The relationship between sober coaches and their clients is professional in nature and takes a more holistic approach, looking not just at addiction and substance use but also seeking to support their clients’ improved overall wellness. Sober coaches are trained to provide support and care when it comes to managing triggers and cravings, addressing underlying issues, teaching healthier coping skills, creating and moving towards goals, implementing self-care practices, boundaries and healthy habits while increasing confidence and resilience. Sober coaches also provide evidence-based approaches to relapse prevention, on-going support and care beyond the initial stages of recovery. Finally, sober coaches are paid for their services and care.


Sponsors are members of recovery communities that utilize twelve step recovery models such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA); they are in recovery themselves and they typically have at least one year of continuous recovery though there are no official or formal requirements for sponsors. Sponsorship, like twelve step programs, are a peer and mutual support model that is zero cost and a dynamic in which both sponsor and sponsee volunteer to participate in. The relationship between the sponsor and sponsee is personal and informal; the sponsor is available for support, to attend meetings together and to provide guidance when it comes to understanding and applying the twelve steps. The twelve step structure is the foundation of the guidance and support being offered. Outside of being in recovery, there are no requirements, qualifications or expertise required of sponsors.


In summary, depending on the type of support an individual is looking for, a sober coach or an AA sponsor might be a good option. Sober coaches are trained professionals who provide a holistic approach which includes tools, guidance, support, care, and accountability to support their clients’ goals and wellness. AA sponsors provide peer and emotional support within the parameters of a twelve step recovery model.


If you would like to learn more about how sober coaching could support you, click here.


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