Peer to Peer | Mentoring

By: Jim Jensen

Recovering mentoring is about using wisdom — the process of tempering knowledge plus experience.

Some Questions as We Move Forward

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Jun 23, 2011

In discussing recovering coaching, requisite credentials, experience and all the rest, we could entitle it Street Credibility vs. Classroom Credentials. One advantage that those with classroom credentials have is in the area of verification. It’s much easier and straightforward to get a handle on their credibility through their credentials; transcripts, training and the licensure hoops they’ve had to jump through. In other words, at least it’s a profession within an identifiable academic container.

On the other hand—and let me say these comments are directed toward those RC’s who are in private practice with their own website, private-pay clients, etc., and not
 We can't ignore "informed consent."
toward those who are part of a larger peer-based recovery support system (P-BRSS)—if the fledgling recovery coaches, recovery mentors and others with similar titles are advertising their ability to facilitate change in the lives of their clients based on their own experiential knowledge, their “street cred” as it were, sometimes including a modicum of training as well, then how do we go about verifying that credibility? And is it necessary to do so, and if not, why not?

Clients Have a Right To Know
Certainly their clients have the right to know the qualifications of the person to whom they are entrusting some aspect of their lives. We can’t just ignore the concept of “informed consent.” Yet how does one go about verifying things like whether someone has been/is really in recovery without some type of similar container? To wit: 

There once was a treatment director friend of mine who ran a residential treatment program and, as everyone around him knew, he had many years of sobriety. When he subsequently entered treatment at the center where I was in training at the time, the real story came pouring out: It turns out that for about the previous four years he had been leaving the treatment center he directed each day, going home and having a few nips. When he could no longer tolerate the hypocrisy, escalating drinking and stress, he came clean. As it turns out, he had been trying to bury a number of issues he had been afraid to deal with and which had, of course, wound up contributing to his relapse.

Then there was an encounter I had recently with a young man online. I had come

“Credentials? Jim, chill out a little, this is the internet.”

across his website, which contained all sorts of information about addiction, including some statements that were clearly inaccurate. I looked on his site for a listing of his credentials but found nothing except his mentioning he had seven years abstinence. I emailed him and asked why, if he was going to offer so many opinions on abstinence, addiction and recovery, he hadn’t detailed his credentials for doing so. He responded with the following: “Credentials? Jim, chill out a little, this is the internet.”

I took that to mean that, according to him at least, I was just a bit out of touch with the ethics of cyberspace and that apparently in this new, public venue people could feel free to say whatever they liked with no sense of accountability to their audience. Although these may be rare examples, the point they illustrate is still valid.

At least for the time being, it seems that the safest operating assumption to make for the addiction field, and for those who seek to establish, maintain and enhance their recovery, is that recovery coaching has a viable role to play in that process. Since that role is just in its infancy, there are countless unanswered, and even unasked, questions. Questions such as:

  • What credentials for RC’s are necessary?
  • How does one get an accurate measure of the veracity of those RC’s who are holding themselves up as experientially qualified?
  • What type of recovering population is best suited for an RC to work with?

If the Wounded Healer concept is part of the RC profile, as some have maintained, then there are big questions such as: Does anyone who has been “wounded”(definition please!) qualify for wounded healer status or do we adhere to Dr. Carl Jung’s statement that “Only the wounded physician (definition please!) heals”?

Certainly the biggest question within this context is: When are a person’s wounds healed enough to qualify him/her to work with others? A suitable container is needed for the burgeoning field of recovery coaching and the sooner consensus is reached as to what that container should look like, the better it will be for all concerned.

We can begin to see as well the inevitable convergence that is going to take place between those who are seeking to determine what it means to be in recovery and those who are beginning to define themselves as coaches in that recovery process.

» Read about Jim and follow his past posts here.


Jim Jensen  3257 days ago
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Deidre - Thanks for your comment... I share your sentiment. In my blog that comes out tomorrow I begin making the distinction between private practice RC's vs. those who work within a larger organization with more peer-based recovery support services. Let me know what you think. I believe we need to demand substance and some level of acceptable credentials before people start engaging in RC work.

Deirdre  3260 days ago
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I enjoyed your blog Jim and look forward to hearing more from you. I have some very mixed feelings about recovery coaching, While my own 24 years of recovery including 12-step recovery as a sponsor and a sponsee, certainly informs my practice, the 5 years I spent becoming a LMSW and CASAC while interning countless hours at a variety of substance use and mental health settings only makes me more proficient at what I do. I worry that all this isn't more about the bottom line than serving the individual in recovery.

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