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 ATR, Multicultural 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.