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Recovery Coaching is a powerful tool in the arsenal of approaches to the opioid epidemic. A Recovery Coach (sometimes called a Peer Support Specialist) is a person who is in recovery themselves from any number of physical or psychosocial conditions. These may include substance use, family of substance users, behavioral addictions such as sex or gambling, PTSD and such harmful behaviors as cutting or burning. A Recovery Coach (RC) has received special training in such areas as Motivational Interviewing, Stages of Change, Stages of Recovery, various Pathways to Recovery, and Co-occurring Conditions. The fact that they “have been there” brings a special opportunity for the development of identification and rapport, which is invaluable when relating to a Recoveree (one seeking or in recovery).

A psychologist friend of mine related an experience which exemplifies the strength of that connection: A young lady had overdosed on heroin and had some other health issues, hence she was admitted to the hospital. Her attending physician tried to encourage her to get into treatment. She was adamant that she did not have a problem and did not need treatment, all evidence to the contrary. He asked one of his colleagues to try to get her interested in treatment…still no luck. He asked one of the social workers to try…again, no luck. He then called my counselor friend, who was making no progress with her either. Then he spotted one of the local RCs in the hallway outside her room. He went out to ask what he was doing there, and he said someone had asked him to come talk to the patient about treatment. My counselor friend said he would step back and let the RC try. Within five minutes, she had decided to go to treatment.

What made the difference? The RC shared his experience with her. He told her that he had been in the same situation four years earlier. He told her how he had put down the drugs and how his life had changed for the better since that time. The power of the episode was that she could identify and connect with him in a way that was not possible with all the others who had tried to work with her. She had HOPE that she could recover, as a result of him sharing his recovery experience.

At FAVOR Grand Strand, our goal is to train RCs to be available to families, recovery related organizations, emergency rooms and hospitals, clinics, drug courts, detention centers, and law enforcement. These RCs are uniquely suited to assist in getting the substance user, or the person with mental health or harmful behavior issues, into a stage of willingness and self-awareness that will allow them to seek help. The RC will then continue to support and coach them through the recovery process, while directing them to the appropriate services and support to reinforce their recovery. There will also be Family Recovery Coaching available to help the family address the problem and support the family in the ongoing recovery process. We recognize that the family is often the greatest source of strength and hope to the Recoveree, but can aggravate the situation without proper guidance. We will be training Family RCs as well, to assist families in their recovery, as the disease knows no boundaries and affects the entire family.

The death toll of substance use is staggering and we must make every effort to combat it. Your support of FAVOR Grand Strand can help us continue this powerful work. We need financial support, persons willing to become RCs, and volunteers to assist in all aspects of operating our Recovery Community Center. Help us help you!

~~ E.V. Archambeau, MD

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