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What is Active Recovery Coaching and How Can it Help With Addiction Treatment?


For a decade, Charles McGarty fought a battle with addiction to drugs and alcohol. To top it off, he had an eating disorder and routinely smoked two packs of cigarettes a day. 

So you might be surprised to learn that, today, he’s the founder and owner of a recovery coaching program in Austin, Texas, 10 years sober (and counting!), and a pioneer in the field of recovery and wellness programming. 

Or it might make perfect sense because our hardest battles are often the places where we have the most to give. 

As a mind body therapy, active recovery coaching offers a new path to wellness, which is very significant for those in recovery who have struggled with a traditional 12-steps model. 

In the last decade, we’ve made significant progress into researching and measuring the positive effects of incorporating holistic addiction treatment. Read on to find out more about this highly effective and unique approach to addiction recovery. 

What is Recovery Coaching?

Recovery coaching is a strength-based approach to supporting and helping individuals who are in active addiction or early recovery from alcohol addiction, substance abuse, and even addictive behaviors. 

Recovery coaches, or RCs, as they’re more commonly known, support all pathways to recovery, use motivational interviewing skills, and apply the Harm Reduction Model when working with a recovering addict. 

Most importantly, they bring their own experiences with active addiction recovery and their empathy and knowledge of local law enforcement procedures to bring clarity to both the individual and their families. 

Based on these hallmarks of recovery coaching, we can say that recovery coaches support the recovering addict in four broad ways:

  • Emotional — Through communication expressing empathy and care
  • Informational — By providing connection to information and referrals to community resources that enhance recovery health and wellness
  • Instrumental — With concrete supports for outpatient housing or employment
  • Affiliational — As a connection to other recovery communities or groups, activities, and events

Recovery plans in recovery coaching are customized to each individual’s needs and build on their strengths and recovery goals. However, this form of recovery support is non-clinical and long-term, meant to create connection and community around people experiencing active addiction. 

Types of Recovery Coaching

Peer Recovery Coaching

Peer-to-peer recovery coaching is all about providing long-term support and building a one-on-one relationship between a PRC and someone going through active addiction. This relationship between a peer recovery coach and an individual includes self-actualization, community engagement, and promoting overall wellness.

peer recovery coaching

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Active Recovery Coaching

Active recovery coaching helps individuals move from active addiction to active recovery. 

As such, it requires a mindset flip and integrates physical discipline, fitness, and wellness into the fore. It’s a more experiential therapy that requires active participation and attendance. For example, individuals may have to commit to a minimum of 2 sessions per week with their Active Recovery Coach.

The focus is on improving physical health to bolster and support the mental and emotional journey that individuals experience. Peer-to-peer recovery coaching, along with the commitment to personal training, and sober living, are all proven methods of helping individuals achieve long-term recovery. 

There’s clear and consistent scientific evidence that proves why (and how) the physical dimensions of active recovery coaching make it such an effective tool for the recovery process. 

The Role of Mind-Body Connection in Therapies for Addiction

Mind-body addiction recovery principles have been around since the start of addiction recovery in 1937. However, the principles made their way into the 12-step program that we’re all familiar with. These include principles such as surrender, meditation, gratitude, and letting go.

However, mind body therapies like Active Recovery Addiction integrate traditional treatments with behavioral and lifestyle interventions such as yoga, fitness, acupuncture, and mindfulness to holistically address addiction recovery.

Research shows that mind body medicine is playing an important role in ongoing approaches for substance use disorders and addictions:

  • A 2013 study showed of participants who undertook two weeks of meditation found that there was a significantly lower risk of relapse for substance abuse use and heavy drinking
  • A 2016 study of physical activity programs like yoga on smoking cessation found that participants experienced a decrease in cravings

Mind body therapies work so well for individuals in the recovery process because they’re able to address the issues underlying the addiction. 

Active recovery coaching, as a methodology and approach that ties together recovery coaching and exercise fundamentally, rewires the addicted brain’s connection to the body. It’s been proven to improve the chemical and hormonal balances that are at work in an individual with addiction.

Exercise-induced neuroplasticity in the prefrontal cortex improves executive functions and may decrease compulsive behaviors in individuals prone to substance use disorders. We propose an integrative cognitive-psychobiological model of exercise for use in future research in drug addiction in clinical settings.” — Rewiring the Addicted Brain Through a Psychobiological Model of Physical Exercise

In other words, consistent exercise takes advantage of the brain’s natural ability to adapt and rebuild itself. From here, individuals can begin to make better choices about food, activities, and even peers.

Mind-Body Therapies Help Individuals Deal With Pain

Harnessing the brain’s neuroplasticity is just one reason why active recovery coaching sticks and provides long-term benefits. Mind body interventions can help mitigate the need for high or progressively escalating doses of prescription opioids.

In a 2019 study of mind-body therapies to address pain, researchers found that these more holistic addiction treatments can reduce pain and reduce prescription opioid use. Studies also found that these experiential therapies are much more effective as a form of holistic addiction treatment.

Mind-Body Therapies Don’t Have Adverse Effects

Another reason why mind body medicine is worth engaging in during the recovery process is a lack of adverse effects. 

Participants can engage in techniques of active recovery coaching, but they don’t walk away having lost anything significant. In the worst-case scenario, they personally may feel resistance to participating in new experiences. But they’re not being prescribed anything that affects their neurology in a questionable way.

Mind-Body Therapy Improves Distress Tolerance

When individuals in recovery first turn to active recovery coaching, they find it physically challenging. That’s for sure. 

However, they may also find it emotionally uncomfortable. Building an awareness of cues and triggers that cause people to instinctively turn to substances or alcohol as a way of alleviating that discomfort is one of the subtle but significant benefits of connecting mind and body. 

As individuals in recovery get used to sitting with unpleasant emotions and thoughts, their distress tolerance — or their ability to tolerate these momentarily uncomfortable experiences — increases. 

Many MBTs already use meditation, positive psychology, cognitive techniques, and mindfulness to break the link that’s been formed between feeling uncomfortable, craving substances or alcohol, and using these to distract from the distress. Active recovery coaching takes it one step forward by grounding these largely mental practices into a physical, experiential therapy.


It’s true that mind body medicine does embrace a more holistic approach to addiction recovery, but the power of accountability and community are also at play. Active recovery coaching works as consistently as it does because it taps into the power of community. While the individual in recovery is still learning self-discipline and personal accountability, it’s the opportunity to connect with their peers, also in recovery, that makes them so willing to keep returning. 

At New Choices Treatment Centers, we believe in taking a holistic, mind-body-spirit connection to healing and recovery. Because addiction affects every part of an individual’s life, the road to recovery also needs to similarly renew each aspect of that person’s relationship with themselves and others. Learn more about our Active Recovery Coaches and individualized programming at New Choices Treatment Centers.

If you are wondering whether CBT therapy for substance abuse is a good choice for you, the addiction specialists at New Choices Treatment Centers are here to help. Contact us with your questions or call (726) 888-7003 to speak to our admissions staff to get started on your recovery journey.