Recovery coaching: A unique and powerful partnership

When you’re taking on the difficult task of bringing the disease of addiction into remission—commonly referred to as recovery—it’s helpful to have someone who understands what it was like to live with this disease. A Recovery Coach (RC) does just that. Here at the Massachusetts Helpline, we’ve been privileged to get to know Alex Fidalgo, a Recovery Coach supervisor and trainer who works in Springfield and Worcester. We recently talked in depth with him about recovery coaching and how he approaches his work.

In recovery himself for years, Alex fell in love with recovery coaching early on after attending the Recovery Coach Academy when he moved to Massachusetts from Florida. “Recovery coaching gives people options and treats people as resources. They are the experts in their own lives—it is a unique partnership,” he shared in our conversation.

A Recovery Coach works one-on-one with a person in early recovery (the “Recoveree”) to provide support, education, and tools to live the life they desire. “I put tools in front of them, remove barriers with them, work on today and what they want to do in the future,” he says. Central to the relationship is the peer perspective: because Alex is in recovery himself, he can relate to what his Recoveree has gone through. A collaboration and partnership is created, and together they define what the Recoveree’s recovery will look like.

When working with someone new, Alex focuses on relationship-building and creating trust through conversation and shared experience. The relationship is vital, as it’s through these conversations that the coaching happens. Early in the process, he develops a wellness plan and sets realistic goals with his Recoveree. A RC typically works with someone once or twice per week over the course of six months. “I am not going to be there with them forever,” he says. A plan needs to be in place to make sure the Recoveree’s goals are met.

Removing barriers is critical to the work. RC’s help their Recoveree identify the barriers that are holding them back and help them work around and through anything blocking their path to a happy life in recovery. Although RC’s can help navigate state systems and structures, the Recoveree leads the process. For example, the RC will go to court or an appointment with someone if they are nervous, but it is up to the Recoveree to do the rest of the footwork.

In his work, Alex sees the person he’s working with as “full of resources” and helps his Recoverees identify their internal strengths and assets. He lets them know that he believes in them. He says that he aims to “draw from their power and help them realize, ‘I can do that!’ Then I help them get there.” Sometimes people new in recovery need to address issues of trauma and past abuse. In this case, “I identify and listen closely to what they need and connect them to needed resources.”

Alex is clear that it’s not all about overcoming barriers, however. It is also about identifying what makes life worth living and getting supports in place to get there: “People who enjoy life are more likely to stay in recovery—I help them discover what that is for them. Recovery coaching gives people options.”

After working for years as a RC himself, Alex now trains others to become Recovery Coaches and Recovery Coach supervisors in MA. He’s currently working to diversify the pool of available coaches so that there are relatable coaches for everyone. Recently he watched people he coached just a few years ago now becoming his colleagues as they graduated from the Recovery Coach Academy. It was incredibly powerful for him to see this transformation. The non-clinical, judgment-free peer support of recovery coaching is extraordinary and creates a space for people to flourish. Alex feels privileged to witness this growth over and over.

Recovery Coaches are available statewide. They work in the emergency department of some hospitals, in many community health centers, and Peer Recovery Support Centers, and are also found through ATRMulticultural Wellness Center, and other locations. There are vouchers available to receive coaching and MassHealth often covers the cost. Contact our Helpline specialists at 800.327.5050 to get connected to a Recovery Coach today.

The Impact of Language – Stigma, Policy & Practice

The Impact of Language on Behavioral Health

Stigma, Policy and Practice

By Robert Ashford

The language used to discuss and describe mental health and substance use has changed dramatically over the last 100 years. Modern and postmodern society has transcended labels such as teetotaler, derelict, crazy, and psycho, though iterations of these negatively associated phrases remain. Changing linguistic trends within the mental health and substance use disorder fields have been propelled forward by the inclusion of concepts such as person-first language; first by mental health advocates, and later co-opted by advocates within the substance use disorder space. Similarly, medical professionals are driving change towards the use of more clinically appropriate language (e.g. substance use disorders, rather than substance dependence and abuse), which is having both positive and negative impacts.

Download the full White Paper at Recovery Language

What does your recovery look like to you?

This is a question we need to be approaching all of our clients with first and foremost. Posing this question allows us to understand them better, identify where they’re at, and demonstrate genuine curiosity and commitment to the person as an individual. Isn’t that what we’re striving for as coaches?

When a person thinks of the word recovery, to each of us the word brings a different meaning; a different outlook. As a society, while treatment certainly has its place and helps initiate recovery, treatment alone does not sustain recovery. With the shortage of “beds” and insurance coverage, we in the recovery coaching community would best serve others by soliciting from our recoverees what recovery looks like from their lens. Maybe they’re horrified by the word; maybe they’re having a hard time with acceptance; maybe we need to remove that barrier before we can proceed with forward movement?

As Phil Valentine suggest in his blog post, by soliciting the information from the individual we’re meeting them where they are at and not imposing societal expectations, beliefs, or judgements on them; we’re creating a relationship of trust (a friend).


To read Phil Valentines’ blog post click here.

Recovery Coach Training reaches beyond the surface

My volunteer work with the Pregnancy Resource Center has brought some clients in need of more than just pregnancy, parenting issues. I am so blessed to have had the training this past winter/spring giving me better insight in how to be a resource, encourager.

God has blessed us all with love and your continued training and support.

God’s grace and blessings, as always –


TV MEDIA Exploiting Addicts for Ratings-STAND UP and Advocae

Dear Friend,

Words have power: To marginalize. To discriminate. To dehumanize.

It took nearly fives years into my recovery to learn that language has the power to kill when it comes to addiction. And few words do more harm to those suffering from addiction and their families than the word: junkie.

This term is an insulting slur. It stigmatizes, dehumanizes, and disenfranchises millions of people struggling with a legitimate medical issue. As a documentary filmmaker myself, I was appalled when I read VICELAND’s announcement about their new documentary series set to premiere during National Recovery Month.

They’re calling it American Junkie.

What’s even more head-scratching is how the show’s creator and TV Executive describe what they are attempting to do:

“This show takes the current drug crisis beyond headlines and statistics and makes it human.” – VP of Current Programming and Executive Producer Patrick Moses

“Addiction is a faceless disease that does not discriminate.” – Filmmaker Pat McGee

So they want the show to “humanize” and “not discriminate”? But in a sleazy attempt for a ratings bump, they opted to use this degrading term for the most critical element of the show, the title? This will produce the exact opposite effect of their stated intentions.

We need to act fast and demand the producers of this program change the title before it hits the airwaves next month. To do that, we’re asking you to take a few simple steps today:

1. Please email a note to Patrick Moses, Vice’s Executive Producer, telling him how using this term in the show title will further marginalize an already discriminated group of people, ultimately leading to more incarceration and death for those with a preventable and treatable health problem.

2. Please tweet to Viceland at their handle @viceland urging them to change the title of this show. You can tweet something like I did:

No @viceland @mrpatrickmoses, don’t call me a junkie, I am a PERSON who once struggled with addiction. You will have blood on your hands from the millions #FacingAddiction if you don’t change the title of “American Junkie” immediately! #WordsHavePower

We have seen before when corporate profit interests create immoral actions that directly impact those struggling with addiction. We cannot remain silent, and allow a mainstream media series to use this inflammatory word in their show title. If we want to open up desperately needed healthcare resources, change the public response to this crisis, and save more lives, the most significant fight we have every day is negative public perception.

I hope you will speak out with me today.

With warm regards,

Greg Williams

Executive Vice President, Facing Addiction with NCADD


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