Bringing our coaching philosophy to life

Photo of Heather Lister, Face It TOGETHER National Trainer

Published April 24, 2019

As Face It TOGETHER’s national trainer, Heather Lister ensures our coaching is consistent and highly effective, no matter how or where it’s delivered – by video, phone or in person. She designs and leads training for all addiction management roles within the organization and oversees coach hiring and supervision.

Lister answered questions related to her role, our coaching approach and philosophy and how we ensure our members get the best experience and support. 

How is peer support different from professional counseling or therapy?
Typically, peer coaches don’t spend as much time on someone’s past as much as counselors might. We’re very focused on present and future behaviors and don’t necessarily need as much information about the root causes of a problem. The past does come up, but we prioritize providing knowledge, support and skills to help members manage their disease or the disease of a loved one.
Wondering how we’re different from clinical treatment? Read more here.

How is a coach different from a 12-step sponsor?
While both sponsors and peer coaches have the lived experience with addiction, sponsors specialize in the 12 steps and emphasize sobriety. Coaching can offer more flexibility – members don’t have to follow a certain program or remain sober to stay engaged with us. Additionally, while sponsors refer to the Big Book for guidelines, coaches are trained in several areas and utilize a number of different resources. Lastly, coaching tends to be more structured than sponsor relationships. Coaches work with members to develop a wellness plan, refer to assessments to track progress over time and focus on concrete goals and action items. Some of our members have sponsors in addition to a peer coach – we’ll support whatever pathway helps members get well and stay well.

What qualifications are your coaches required to have?
We look for coaches who share our values. Most importantly, empathy, open-mindedness and a deep understanding of different pathways to wellness. We emphasize flexibility and personalization, so coaches need to be open and meet members wherever they are. Sometimes, that may mean moderation, not abstinence, is the end goal.
For more details about coach certification and experience,
visit this FAQ post.

How are your coaches supervised and evaluated?
Coaches are evaluated throughout the year to ensure consistency and quality. Four sessions are recorded per coach every year (we always let members know beforehand). The transcripts are reviewed by their lead coach as well an out-of-state coach to allow for thorough feedback. We want to make sure no one is inadvertently stepping outside of their specialty, like giving medical advice. We also make sure coaches are taking notes and collecting assessments so we remain a data-driven organization.

What ongoing education/training do coaches participate in?
All coaches are required to participate in quarterly continuing education courses. Some examples of previous topics we’ve covered include mandatory reporting, Naloxone administration and Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT).

What are the benefits of having a coach with a similar lived experience?
Peer relationships are incredibly powerful. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the relief from a member who finds out I know exactly what they’re going through. Beyond similarities in their wellness journeys, we try to match members to coaches with similar life experiences. If we have a member who has children, is on probation or also struggles with an eating disorder, we do our best to pair them with a coach who has experience in that area of their life.

How does data inform coaching?
Our coaches really excel at helping members holistically. Of course, their immediate focus is on addiction-related issues, but they also support members in all aspects of their lives. Doing better, not just being sober, is what gets people well – that’s a view we follow earnestly. Coaches are all about helping people move forward in positive ways, and the Recovery Capital Index plays a large role in that.

Why are members assigned a coaching team?
We use our data and our intuition to help identify the best coaching team for our members. Each member is paired with a primary coach, as well as one to two secondary coaches. We do this for a couple reasons. First, if a member’s primary coach is out of the office, the secondary coach can step in to help with existing knowledge of the member’s journey. Additionally, secondary coaches can offer valuable perspectives or ideas the primary coach may not have considered. This team-based approach doesn’t diminish the very real, emotional connection members have with their primary coaches, but instead enhances their support, outcomes and experiences.

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