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Updated on October 1, 2021

Should I Have a Sober Companion?

What is a Sober Companion?

A sober companion provides one-on-one support and assistance to people recovering from alcohol use disorder (AUD). Sober companions are sometimes called sober coaches or recovery coaches.

A sober companion’s main goal is to help a client maintain total abstinence. They also provide guidance and support that help clients establish healthy routines and reduce harm. 

Sober companions can be part of a recovering person’s clinical team of professionals or work independently. They join the team during the later stages of addiction treatment as the addicted person begins their transition to regular life.

The field of sober companionship is unregulated, but some sober companions are licensed mental health professionals or have substantial experience in the field of addiction recovery.

Sober Escorts vs. Sober Companions

Sober escorts and sober companions are very similar, but their specific “duties” vary.

Sober escorts provide transportation to and from appointments with doctors, counselors, therapists, and support groups for people in outpatient recovery programs.

Sober companions, on the other hand, provide support in social situations in which a recovering person might be tempted to drink alcohol. They might provide transport to meetings and appointments, but it’s not their only duty. They might spend several hours a day with clients. Some live with recovering people for a brief period.

Lack of regulations means a recovering individual can negotiate a customized arrangement based on their needs.

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Do I Need a Sober Companion?

Sober companions are extremely valuable for people in recovery, especially in the early days and weeks of independence. Sober companions provide support as an alcoholic transitions from full-time detox and recovery programs back to their regular everyday lives. 

Sober companions do not guarantee sobriety, but they provide a significant level of support. They are there to help addicted people navigate the challenges of transitioning to a sober life outside of the formal recovery environment and can contribute to a higher success rate.

Knowing whether you need a sober companion is a personal decision. However, people with the financial or medical means to hire a sober companion should consider doing so. 

What to Expect From a Sober Companion

What a client can expect from a sober companion varies based on the specific situation.

Nearly all sober companions work with people involved in an abstinence-based recovery program. This includes 12-step programs like AA, SMART Recovery, and others.

Sober companions might offer:

  • Transportation to and from rehab, medical appointments, 12-step meetings, etc.
  • Medical support during long journeys if travel is needed to attend treatment
  • Practical and emotional support during the transition from treatment to home life
  • Sweeps of the home to remove alcohol
  • Guidance and support with daily structure outside of a treatment center or treatment program
  • Help dealing with difficult situations with work, travel, or family members
  • Attendance at an event where there’s a temptation to drink, such as a party, business meeting, or social event
  • Support for longer-term circumstances, such as while a musician is touring or a long-term work assignment away from home where access to their usual support system isn’t available 

What a Sober Companion Does Not Do

As varied as a sober companion’s role might be, there are certain things they do not do.

Sober companions are not friends and they are not sponsors. They are not life coaches, but they offer support and guidance in a similar manner.

Their role is to encourage clients to make healthy choices and do so themselves while working. But they are not personal assistants and won’t run errands or do a client’s bidding in any way.

Sober companions should be treated similarly to medical professionals. There’s a certain level of intimacy and vulnerability in the relationship, as there would be with a medical care provider, but the relationship is professional.

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How to Find a Sober Companion

Finding a sober companion is an easy process. In most cases, treatment providers you’re already working with can direct you to the appropriate services offered by companies in your area.

It’s important to know what services you need before reaching out to a potential sober companion. Not all sober companions offer the same services. For instance, some might be willing to travel or move in with their clients, while others do not.

Sober companionship is an unregulated industry. There is no required training or licensing, but some sober companions have participated in training. You can choose to work with a freelance or self-employed sober companion or use a service. The benefit of a service is that you receive an additional layer of consumer protection if you work with a reputable company.

Many sober companion services work with recovering addicts. They require companions to have at least five years of sobriety, CPR/First Aid certification, liability insurance, and to submit basic medical information. 

Services help with matching clients and companions and provide access to alternatives if the initial match does not work out. This means the sober companion can focus entirely on the client. Companies might also make travel arrangements and handle financial issues and scheduling.

Working with a sober companion service likely costs more than hiring a freelance companion, but you’re likely to receive more comprehensive services.

If you aren’t sure where to begin your search for a sober companion, begin with your existing resources. Speak to your 12-step sponsor, treatment coordinator, counselor, doctor, or anyone else with experience in the industry.

How to Become a Sober Companion

Because there is no regulation in the sober companion industry, there is no official pathway to becoming a sober companion. However, reputable sober companions and sober companion companies tend to accrue training and qualifications to ensure they are capable of handling their duties.

Issues covered in many sober companion training programs include issues related to:

  • Ethical, moral, and legal matters
  • Insurance
  • Scheduling and routines
  • Coaching vs. companionship
  • Vehicle safety
  • Working with other members of a client’s treatment team
  • Goal setting
  • Listening skills
  • Harm reduction
  • Mental health and how to address any issues
  • Safety concerns
  • Indications of other addictions
  • Family dynamics

If you’d like to become a sober companion, even if you’ve accomplished several years of sobriety, it’s important to seek out a training program. These programs ensure you have the knowledge and skills needed to support clients.

Treatment Options for Alcohol Abuse & Addiction

  • Inpatient Programs — Inpatient treatment is the most intensive and effective option for alcohol addiction treatment. These prograInpatient treatment is the most intensive and effective option for alcohol addiction treatment. These programs usually last 30, 60, or 90 days. However, they may be longer in some instances. Throughout an inpatient program, you will live on-site in a safe, substance-free environment. You will go through medically supervised detoxification first, then behavioral therapy and other services will be added to your regimen. Many of these treatment programs will assist you with an aftercare program afterward.
  • Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHPs) PHPs are the second most intensive alcohol addiction programs. They are sometimes referred to as intensive outpatient programs (IOPs). Partial hospitalization programs provide comparable services to inpatient programs. These may include detoxification, medical services, behavioral therapy, support groups, and other holistic or custom treatments. The main difference between PHPs and inpatient programs is that you return home and sleep at your house during a partial hospitalization program. Some PHPs provide food and transportation. However, this varies by program. PHPs are ideal for new patients, as well as patients who have completed an inpatient program and still require intensive treatment.
  • Outpatient Programs Outpatient programs are less intensive than inpatient programs and PHPs. They are best for people who are highly motivated to achieve sobriety and have responsibilities at work, home, or school. Outpatient treatment programs customize your treatment sessions around your schedule. Outpatient programs can help new patients achieve success. They may also be a part of aftercare programs once a patient completes an inpatient program or PHP.
  • Medication-Assisted Therapy (MAT) Certain patients qualify for medication-assisted therapy. Some medications can assist you throughout detoxification and withdrawal. Others can reduce cravings and normalize your bodily functions. Disulfiram (Antabuse), acamprosate (Campral), and naltrexone (Revia and Vivitrol) are the most common medications used to treat AUD. MAT can help prevent relapse and increase your chance of recovery if combined with other therapies.
  • Support Groups Support groups are peer-led organizations made of people dedicated to helping each other stay sober. They can be the first step towards sobriety or a component of an aftercare plan. Many of these programs follow the 12-step approach.

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Resources

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“Do I Need a Sober Companion?” Psychology Today, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/ending-addiction-good/201907/do-i-need-sober-companion.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Treatment for Alcohol Problems: Finding and Getting Help | National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).” Nih.gov, 2017, www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/treatment-alcohol-problems-finding-and-getting-help.

“The Association for Addiction Professionals.” Naadac.org, NAADAC, 2019, www.naadac.org/.

“Alcoholics Anonymous.” Aa.org, 2019, www.aa.org/.

“SMART Recovery.” SMART Recovery, 6 Sept. 2019, www.smartrecovery.org/.

“SAMHSA - Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.” Samhsa.gov, 2000, www.samhsa.gov/

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