When we meet with families, one of the questions we ask is “What is the very best possible outcome for your loved one?”
The typical answer is something along the lines of “I want them to completely stop drinking / using drugs and to return to the loving member of our family that we remember from past”.
So, with this in mind, I thought I’d write a list of the sorts of qualities to look for in a Sober Companion in order to achieve those goals.
1) Make sure the Sober Companion is of a similar age (or slightly older) within around 5 years in younger adults (20s), 10 years in older adults (40s) and 15 years in senior adults (60s and above). There is some wriggle room, but these are good guidelines.
However, it doesn’t stop here, as it’s equally important to match the client with someone of the same gender, and to a certain degree, similar interests (sports, concerts, cars, technology, etc). This is particularly important with younger clients, as they really need to rely upon the Sober Companion for guidance in daily activities, behavioural stimulation and new challenges.
2) Be absolutely certain that the Sober Companion has great, solid recovery themselves, typically 4 years of continuous sobriety or more. I’ve seen too many cases where the Sober Companion has barely enough of their own recovery experiences to keep themselves sober and where they really couldn’t be taking care of someone else’s recovery yet.The Sober Companion can’t pass on to the client what they don’t have themselves, so it’s really important that they have a quality of recovery that is no just solid, but also attractive and aspiring for the client.
3) We know that recovery is far more than just about not drinking or using, but is all about the holistic quality of life and whether the person is happy, content and confident in their affairs. So look for these traits in the Sober Companion. Are they taking care of themselves physically – do they exercise and take care of their nutrition intake? Are they emotionally mature, or are they prone to worrying about themselves and circumstances? Check out their behavioural health – do they present themselves appropriately and politely? And observe their spiritual health by noticing if they take care of others’ and show empathy.
4) Check to see whether the Sober Companion has accurate identification with the client’s issues, i.e. did they use similar drugs or alcohol, in similar situations, and experience similar feelings as a result of the desperation caused before and during the search for recovery. Please include process addictions here too, for example, a client may cross addict into sex and love addiction. Can the Sober Companion successfully identify with these challenges also? To complement this further, check that the Sober Companion has got a broad life experience and can adapt comfortably between being street smart and behaving formally in all variety of occasions, especially within the culture of your family.
5) It’s imperative that the Sober Companion is self confident and knows how to boldly lead, without being overpowering or controlling. The client needs to respond positively to their leadership style without becoming resentful. Furthermore, before the Sober Companion begins, ensure that the family all agree on the specific Care Plan and that the outcomes match up and aren’t blurred. It’s going to be very difficult if the Father has one expectation and the Mother has another, because the client can then play one parent of the other as a form of manipulation, disempowering the Sober Companion. So agree on the care plan and then trust the Sober Companion to fulfil this goal. If you don’t believe the Sober Companion can achieve these goals, it’s most likely due to their inability to maintain leadership over the client.
6) It’s highly important in this emerging culture with many different people proclaiming that they’re Sober Companions without any education, training or standardisation of quality. However there most certainly are Recovery Coaching standards used in the USA for Sober Companion qualifications. Please check that your Sober Companion has achieved this level of competency. It’s specifically important because it also means that the Sober Companion can then get insured to practice and isn’t operating as a cowboy in a business that’s about serving peoples lives. Other levels of qualifications that are important would be first aid training, conflict resolution and close protection. It’s also a good thing if the Sober Companion has been CRB checked.
7) Each Sober Companion should have a Case Manager who sits above them and manages the whole case, liaising between the family and the Sober Companion, also maintaining an overall relationship with the client. Make sure the Case Manager is experienced and able to express themselves congruently and with confidence. If the Sober Companion does not have a Case Manager then know that you are potentially dealing with an amateur and not a professional. There are some great Sober Companions who do not have a Case Manager, but this is not an ideal situation. Furthermore, ask whether your Sober Companion is receiving supervision from a therapist. Again, all professionals will have this feature in their practice and an amateur would be displaying their naivety if they didn’t receive and believe in the strength of their supervision / supervisor.
Sober Services has been operating Sober Companions since 2008 and are able to stand by all of these 7 points of strength in all of our Sober Companions. There may be other Sober Companions out there, so please ask them if they adhere to these standards before proceeding with their services. After all, we all believe our loved ones deserve the best care possible. Please don’t purchase your Sober Companion because they’re cheapest. Go with the Sober Companion that is the best.
Other terms used for Sober Companions may be Sober Body Guide, Sober Guardian, Sober Coach, Recovery Coach, Sober Escort.