As research on addiction continues to develop and widen our understanding of substance use, so too do the many different treatments evolve. Back in the day, the management of substance use disorder was mainly overseen by two or three professions. But today, there are a number of different professionals that work together to create holistic treatment plans for each individual person.
Two of the most commonly mentioned professionals necessary to achieve sobriety include the therapist and the coach. While some people use these terms interchangeably, both professionals serve a unique purpose in the process of treatment and fulfill completely different roles.
What is a Therapist?
Individuals suffering from substance use disorder often develop the condition as the result of trauma. Deep-seated memories of abuse, fear, anxiety, helplessness, and depression can all hurt a person’s psyche and force them to look for a possible escape. This escape can look different for each individual, but unfortunately, it often takes the form of drugs or alcohol.
A therapist’s role in the treatment process is to unearth these traumas and help the individual process their experiences. Sometimes, therapists are referred to as ‘counselors’, especially when the individual being treated wants to distance themselves from the negative connotation that comes with ‘therapy.’
Often a long-term process, this therapy involves addressing the traumatic experiences that might have triggered the addiction in the first place. Therapists must be cautious to explore such sensitive issues with tact and care, especially since some individuals may be triggered into a panic attack when confronting past traumas. And while you might be able to live independently of your therapist, some clients find themselves touching base every now and then especially when confronted with potential relapse.
Some of the things that a therapist might do during therapy include:
- Providing incentives for behavior that encourages sobriety and abstinence
- Addressing past traumas
- Teaching coping mechanisms to avoid relapse
- Discussing close family relationships and friendships
- Offering socialization opportunities, especially with other participants
What is a Coach?
Unlike a therapist that focuses mainly on the past, a coach’s attention is fixed on the present. These professionals don’t look into your emotions or history too much, and are more concerned with mapping out your day-to-day life to maximize your chances of success.
Coaches provide assistance when it comes to goal achievement, and they provide encouragement to help you fulfill your objectives that were set out during your first few meetings. Coaching often involves looking into present, problematic behaviors that might be hindering a person from being their best self.
A coach can stick around for as long as you need them, but often, clients become independent of their coach once they get the hang of their new routine. Individuals in addiction treatment can benefit from a coach especially in terms of establishing healthy self-care and work patterns.
Some of the things that a coach might help with include:
- Establishing healthy routines that focus on self-care
- Improving communication skills
- Providing guidance on financial security and stability
- Assisting with work performance or acquisition
- Offering help on establishing a new business venture
- Helping strengthen and harmonize present relationships
Which One Do You Need?
It’s important to keep in mind that these professionals will often work hand in hand, and neither of them are truly dispensable. However knowing which one you need right now involves assessing your situation and determining where you are in terms of your recovery.
Individuals who are still struggling with urges and are yet to reach sobriety will best benefit from a therapist. Until a person is free from past trauma, they’re likely to keep coming back to their old ways. And that’s why a therapist is so important.
That said, if you’re still wrestling emotions, fears, anxieties, and issues from your past, and you feel that you haven’t completely accepted or addressed these problems, then you might want to consider therapy as your main priority.
On the other hand, it seems that individuals who are farther along their recovery process are better equipped to fully enjoy the benefits of a coach. Typically, individuals who take advantage of coaching are those who have overcome the first few stages of the recovery process.
With better insight into their situation and a more positive outlook, people who have been sober for a while are now looking to the future. This is the time when career coaching, socialization, and even business ideas might be beset explored.
Choosing the Right Therapist or Coach
While educational background, professional experience, and accolades all play a role in the selection of a therapist or coach, it’s important to understand that your relationship will be the most important aspect. A coach or therapist that just doesn’t jive with your personality might make you distant and unwilling to go through the motions of therapy or coaching.
Before you choose a therapist or coach, take the time to check your options. Do you prefer someone who’s upbeat, bubbly, and aggressive, or are you more interested in a professional who’s laid-back, quiet, and contemplative? Individual personalities play a role in the effectiveness of treatment, so it’s imperative that you work with someone who’s persona meshes with yours.
The success of your treatment relies on how well you interact with your chosen professional. The better your relationship is, the more likely their advice and encouragement will make an impact on your life. Look for someone you feel comfortable with to ensure the success of your treatment.
A Holistic Treatment Plan
The best way to guarantee lifelong recovery would be to cover all the bases and seek the assistance of various professionals in the field. Therapy and coaching are effective treatments, but when taken together, these two disciplines can significantly increase your chances of uninterrupted sobriety.
Offering completely different services and support, coaching and therapy might come into your treatment plan at different steps in the recovery process. Nonetheless, both offer distinct benefits that are aimed towards achieving the same goal, which isn’t only sobriety but also optimal functioning as a member of a society.