What Is a Sober Companion?
In short, a sober companion is a day-to-day partner that’s by your side along your addiction recovery. While family members, close friends, and clinicians are there to support you when appropriate, a sober companion is with you in the trenches and has your best interest at heart because they’ve been there before.
What Does a Sober Companion Do?
How is the support of a sober companion different from the support of clinicians and family members or friends? Clinicians are available to provide support and recommendations at scheduled times, usually during prescheduled appointments. That means they may not always be available at critical times or when the risk of relapse is highest.
On the other hand, close friends and family members may not have experience with addiction recovery and may not always know how to help. Without that experience, behavior that seems helpful may in reality be harmful, as is the case with codependency.
Ultimately, a sober companion fills the gaps in those support systems because they are available around the clock and can respond with urgency. At the same time, they’ve walked the walk and know what it takes to stay on the road to recovery because they’ve done it themselves and helped others do the same.
When Is a Sober Companion Helpful?
When someone is in the early stages of addiction recovery, a sober companion is helpful around the clock when you aren’t necessarily aware of what triggers are present in your environment or how to identify high-risk events. Daily activities as simple as driving home from work might be a potential trigger, and during early recovery, you might not have the skills or tools to avoid relapse.
As time goes on, however, the support of a sober companion can serve as training wheels for real-world situations with your companion stepping back once you’ve demonstrated you have the developed mindset to work through triggers in healthy ways.
What To Look for in a Sober Companion
As you’re researching sober companion services, it’s important to remember that not all programs are created equally. Before choosing a sober companion, make sure to consider these factors:
Training and Certifications
Don’t let the word “companion” fool you into thinking that just anyone can be a sober companion. When it comes to addiction recovery, the stakes are high, and lives are at stake. That means not just anyone can or should be a sober companion. However, there are no required certifications or standards in order to become one, so every sober companion program has different training and requirements.
As with any career, that means some programs are looking for little more than warm bodies to fill the role while others require a rigorous vetting and training process that may last a year or more before they are assigned to clients. Most programs land somewhere in between, so it’s important to ask about what certifications and training sober companions have received before they’ve been assigned to you.
The best sober companions are those who not only talk the talk—they’ve also walked the walk themselves. The reality is that when addicts are in recovery, they aren’t always the most honest or transparent with themselves or with others. During the early stages of recovery, individuals are prone to downplaying risky behavior and overestimate their willpower to stay sober, which, without support, can lead to serious setbacks, including relapse.
While many people might want to take their loved one’s words at face value, a sober companion who’s been in their shoes is better equipped to see through the facade and know when to push back or call out high-risk behaviors.
Sober Companion Support
To provide consistent support to individuals in recovery, sober companions also need support from their team. While mandatory training is an important starting point, it shouldn’t end there. As a sober companion is providing care, their support is only as good as the support of the team backing them.
When you’re choosing the right sober companion, try to learn more about the support they receive in their role. If there isn’t a full-time team behind them making sure they have everything they need to provide the best care, you can’t expect to get the best care.
Joint Commission Accreditation
As discussed above, sober companion program standards vary because there are no national requirements holding them accountable. However, sober companion companies can receive accreditation from the Joint Commission, an organization responsible for accrediting more than 22,000 healthcare organizations and programs across the United States.
When you see that a sober companion program is accredited by the Joint Commission, you can be confident that they’re committed to providing quality care and upholding the highest standards in the healthcare industry with a rigorous set of policies and procedures they must follow. If they aren’t, you have to wonder if they’re following any standards at all.
Before finalizing your decision on a sober companion, check whether they’ve been accredited by the Joint Commission here.
Sober Companions vs. CRAs
At ALYST, we call our sober companions Certified Recovery Agents (CRAs), but the two are not the same. CRAs combine the roles of sober companion and sober coaches into one. We also hold our CRAs to a higher standard of experience and training than any sober companion company you’ll find.
Read more about the differences between sober companions and CRAs here.
How ALYST Is Redefining the Role of Sober Companions
The team at ALYST is refreshing more than just our name—we’re also redefining what you should expect from sober companions. That’s one of the key reasons we call them CRAs, but it’s not just in the name. Our CRAs are establishing the new norm for the rest of the industry to follow. When you’re ready, find out if you’re a good fit for our program or learn more about what else sets our approach apart.