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Updated on August 22, 2022

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.

The main goal of a sober companion is to help someone maintain total abstinence. They also provide guidance and support that help people establish healthy routines and reduce harm.1 

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

The field of sober companionship is unregulated. Some sober companions are licensed mental health professionals or have experience in addiction recovery.

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Sober Escorts vs. Sober Companions

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

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

Sober companions provide support in social situations where a recovering person might be tempted to drink alcohol. They might provide transport to meetings and appointments. However, 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 someone in recovery can negotiate an 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 someone transitions from full-time detox and recovery programs back to their regular lives. 

These companions don't guarantee sobriety, but they provide a significant level of support.

They're there to help addicted people navigate the challenges of transitioning to a sober life outside of the formal recovery environment. They often contribute to a higher success rate.

Knowing whether you need a sober companion is a personal decision. 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 AA4, SMART Recovery5, and others.

Sober companions might offer:

  • Transport to and from rehab, medical appointments, 12-step meetings, etc.
  • Medical support during long journeys
  • Practical and emotional support during the transition from treatment to home life
  • Helping to remove alcohol from the home
  • Guidance and support with daily structure outside of a treatment center or program
  • Help dealing with difficult situations with work, travel, or family members
  • Attendance at an event where there’s a temptation to drink. For example, a party, business meeting, or social event
  • Support for longer-term circumstances. For example, 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 Doesn't Do

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

Sober companions aren't friends or sponsors. They aren't life coaches, but they offer support and guidance in a similar manner.

Their role is to encourage people to make healthy choices. But they aren't personal assistants. They won’t run errands or someone'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 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 won't.

Sober companionship is an unregulated industry. There's no required training or licensing. However, some sober companions have participated in any training.

You can choose to work with a freelance or self-employed sober companion. Or you can use a service. The benefit of a service is that you receive an extra layer of consumer protection if you work with a reputable company.

Many sober companion services work with recovering addicts.

They often require companions to have:

  • At least five years of sobriety
  • A CPR/first aid certification
  • Liability insurance

They must also submit some basic medical information.

Services help with matching clients and companions. They typically provide access to alternatives if the initial match doesn't 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.

If you aren’t sure where to begin your search for a sober companion, start 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

As there's no regulation in the sober companion industry, there's no official pathway to becoming a sober companion.

Reputable sober companions and companies often take training and gain qualifications to ensure they can handle their duties.

Issues covered in many sober companion training programs are 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
  • Safety concerns
  • Indications of other addictions
  • Family dynamics

If you’d like to become a sober companion, it’s essential to seek out a training program. This is even if you’ve accomplished several years of sobriety.

These programs ensure you have the knowledge and skills needed to support clients.

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