The language and labels of successful recovery management — Coach? Sponsor? Therapist? Advocate? Monitor?

Northstar Guides offers a full range of services that are focused on helping our clients maintain long-term sobriety.

Our team has frequent, spirited, discussions about the vocabulary we use to describe the art and science of helping people to achieve their potential for successful recovery from substance abuse. The recovery profession is full of job titles that are out-dated, ineffective, cutesy, or just plain vague. So we talk about labels, how they work, and what they mean.

Nicole loves the term “coach.” And, for Nicole a true-born coach if ever there was one, recovery coach is a great fit. Nicole’s client’s experience her case management and recovery support style as that of a really great coach. She’s there, pacing the sidelines, cheering on her team, pulling them into the bench for a word of advice. Helping each client see their own potential and suggesting what kinds of workouts they’ll need to practice to make it to the winners circle. Nicole isn’t all nice and “good job” with her team members. She is perfectly comfortable sitting them down for a game or two when they break team rules. She tells it like it is when someone falls short of their own standards for accountability and performance. Coaching is dynamic and effective in the hands of a gifted practitioner. (We are currently looking for two or three great coaches like Nicole, to add to our team. Email if it’s you!)

Sponsor doesn’t get nearly as much airtime at Northstar Guides for simple reasons: our specialty is helping clients achieve long-term sobriety using non-12-step methods.

We don’t have anything against step programs – anyone succeeding with a 12 step program, including working with a good sponsor, should definitely stick with their program. But our clients, virtually all of whom have attended countless 12 step meetings, often one or more trips through 12 step rehab or other primary treatment, have not found the outcome they need, in the rooms. So the mention of a sponsor tends to take the air out of the conversation. So why bring it in at all? Well, our clients actually need sponsors. They may need a sponsor to welcome them back to work, easing the path through past negative relationships, with a smile and assurance that Pete the pediatrist is returning with an accountability contract, recovery support, and won’t be anything less than an asset to the practice. That kind of sponsorship can’t be bought. It can, with advocacy by NorthStar Guides staff members, be built, nurtured, and arranged to the benefit of everyone involved.

Therapists are a big part of the Northstar Guides team approach to recovery management and success. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the giant winner in double-blind research tests of methods that work to help people achieve actual, durable recovery. So we generally think it’s a good idea. If we need to help clients find an appropriate therapist, we do. If the fit needs adjustment to reflect past negative experiences, or the special requirements that many of our clients have for reporting to professional boards, accountability contract circles, etc. we turn to our network of experienced, top-flight therapists. We can even develop a referral if the therapist needs to accommodate FAA night shift hours and be a convenient 4am commute from Fargo.

Every Northstar Guide team member is an advocate. We are an advocate for our clients’ recovery path. We are also advocates for the rehab facilities, professional organizations, judges, and others who refer their tough non-step cases to our services.

We also, stand as advocates for everyone’s right to travel the roads without sharing it with Relapsed Ralph. Our accountability model is firm, fair, and unbending in the belief that we are advocating for our clients when we also advocate for true accountability through immediate and tough consequences. In cases where advocacy is best served by returning our client to primary treatment, jail, or experiencing whatever consequences are in their recovery action accountability plan, that’s exactly what we do.

No doubt, no frosting coating, Northstar Guides, whether coaches, therapists, case managers, or other specialists, are all monitors. We take our responsibility to every member of the referral network we serve, and the circle of support we strive to build around every client, to honestly monitor whether what we’re doing is working, seriously. We do not believe that passively ignoring relapse signals or other warning signs serve anyone.

Looking back this looks a little bit like the minutes of the 2015 annual year-planning retreat. There aren’t many chuckles built in. It’s all somewhat dry. I guess at least once a year, it’s good to restate our core. Our mission, if that’s your label.

Please call on us if one of your clients comes to mind as you read about the Northstar Guides system. We love to talk with other professionals about how our system can benefit your organization and the clients we all want to see to a successful long-term recovery.

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