5 Tips to Treating Addiction with Recovery Coaching

by Dr. Aaron VanGaver | Follow on Twitter

When living in Vancouver the concept of substance abuse and drug addiction is not new – especially if you have ever been down East Hastings.

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IN A CBC ARTICLE, Dr. Carl Hart discusses how the drugs themselves are not the problem when it comes to addiction.

He suggests shifting the focus from the drugs and focus on education and preventing addiction. People need to be given better information as to the side effects – don’t exaggerate, as well as teach drug safety.

Dr. Hart mentions the importance of discussing the behavior and addressing an individual’s motivation for using drugs.  Above all he emphasizes how vital it is that doctors and support workers treat the root cause for addiction – music to my ears!

Instead of blaming the substance, it is crucial that public policy look to bettering mental health services and address the core reason for addiction. This is completely in line with the principles of naturopathic medicine and my approach to working alongside patients with addiction.

His opinion is very much in line with my philosophy as a naturopathic physician.  With a focus on addiction, my practice is very holistic and addresses the root cause of addiction as opposed to mitigating the harm of the substance being abused (though this is important).    Often there is a coexisting psychiatric condition. While I am often only one of a team of support for my patients, my training gives me multiple tools to draw from and my approach looks to treat the root cause.

By treating the root cause, patients are less likely to relapse and with additional tools at my disposal I am able to effectively manage the symptoms associated with recovering from an addiction.

“Addiction is a multifaceted issue and must be approached from multiple angles with the goal of treatment being addressing the real reason for addiction.”

Naturopathic medicine is a fitting approach because I have the ability to manage symptoms with IV therapies and diet, as well as alleviate emotional stress with modalities such as acupuncture, and ultimately be a support person through recovery coaching to guide and work alongside my patients on their healing journey.

Above all, as a naturopathic physician I address not only the root cause, but take a holistic approach to addiction – seeking to bring balance to body and mind.

Recovery Coaching

Recovery Coaching is a form of strength-based supports for persons in or seeking recovery from alcohol and other drugs, and other addictions. Similar to life and business coaching, Recovery Coaching (also known as peer mentoring) is a type of partnership where the person in or seeking recovery self directs his/her recovery while the coach provides expertise in supporting successful change.

Recovery Coaching focuses on achieving any goals important to the individual. The coach asks questions and offers suggestions to help the “recoveree” begin to take the lead in addressing his/her recovery needs. Recovery Coaching focuses on honoring values and making principle-based decisions, creating a clear plan of action, and using current strengths to reach future goals.

The coach serves as an accountability partner to help the person sustain his/her recovery. The Recovery Coach helps the person access recovery, as well as access systems needed to support recovery such as benefits, health care, etc.

Recovery Coaches:

  • help to initiate and sustain an individual/family in their recovery from substance use or addiction.
  • promote recovery by removing barriers and obstacles to recovery.
  • serve as a personal guide and mentor for people seeking, or already in recovery.
  • help a client find resources for harm reduction, detox, treatment, family support and education, local or online support groups; or help a client create a change plan to recover on their own.
  • help individuals find ways to stop using (abstinence), or reduce harm associated with addictive behaviors.

“Recovery Coaching focuses on honoring values and making principle-based decisions, creating a clear plan of action, and using current strengths to reach future goals.” — Aaron Van Gaver

The Recovery Coaching Process:  (what your patients can expect)

  1. Initial complimentary meet & greet (in person or virtual) – this is the time were we both can evaluate whether we are a good fit.  One of the most important things is compatibility in a coaching relationship.  In this initial session we will also go over the fee schedule/packages that best suits your individual needs; as well we go over the coaching contract.
  2. 1st Coaching session – The next step really depends on whether you are also looking for naturopathic/medical support (prescription medicine, lab testing, acupuncture, IV vitamin therapy) or whether you are just looking for someone to keep you on track.
  • In the first coaching session we will go over any assessments that are needed, find out where you are at in your recovery/addiction – and look at ways of reaching your ultimate goal.  The first little while in recovery, we will be focusing on coping skills, and dealing with triggers.  Balance is key, and we work together to find the perfect balance for YOU.
  1. Continuing Coaching sessions – Packages are offered in 45 minute session, any unused time can be banked for additional use later on.  All e-mails and correspondence during the coaching relationship are free, so in pinch, you know you can always reach out to me.

5 Tips to be an Effective Recovery Coach

  1. Be persistent – set the expectations out early on in the relationship – how “honest” can you as a coach be with your client?  This is where you call them out on their bullshit!  Do it every time.  Be persistent.
  2. Be consistent – make sure you have a consistent flow to your visit/programming.  Your client will look forward to this consistency in their visits.  It also teaches them about being consistent and setting up routines.
  3. Be realistic – call it out!  If you see a person that is still in active addiction – find out what that goal is.
  4. Motivate – ever single time you see your patient, you are motivating them to continue on their path to recovery.
  5. Encourage – the underlying tone to every one-on-one is encouragement.

Project StarLight

Project StarLight is one of my programs this year to address and work with patients struggling with addiction.  The goal of this program is to address the deeper issue that needs to be balanced in order to overcome addictive and compulsive habits.  In line with my professional philosophy, I am looking to address the core issue that perpetuates addiction. When this is resolved the need for addiction no longer exists.

Reading interviews like that with Dr. Hart is encouraging and gives me hope that it won’t be long before we see some of these changes manifest.

About the Author
Dr. Aaron VanGaver

Dr. Aaron Van Gaver ND has practiced for 12 years in downtown Vancouver BC. Going through his own recovery journey, Aaron met the people that helped him, and learned the tools that it takes to get through recovery. Everyone's recovery looks different, and Aaron is there to make that journey a little less scary. Dr. Aaron has launched Project Starlight - The Addiction Workshop, and in 2017 plans on bringing a public workshop Addiction 1.0, which will help provide education and community for anyone looking to learn more about addiction.