Navigating the path to recovery from substance abuse disorders (SUDs) can be a complex journey, and having the right support can make all the difference. While both AA sponsors and sobriety coaches offer valuable guidance, they do so in distinct ways.

What is a Sobriety Coach?

A sobriety coach, recovery coach, or addiction coach is a trained professional who guides and supports people who want to get and stay sober from alcohol and other drugs. Their primary goal is to help you develop the skills to maintain sobriety and improve your overall well-being.

They may also assist you in general life issues, such as career paths, daily structures, and routines. Sobriety coaches help you develop the structure you need to live a sober and more fulfilling life.

Who Benefits from Sobriety Coaches?

Sobriety coaches can support a wide range of individuals:

  • Individuals in Early Recovery: The initial stages of recovery are often the most challenging. A sobriety coach can provide the immediate, hands-on support often needed to navigate early sobriety’s emotional and logistical hurdles.
  • High-Risk Occupations: People in high-stress or high-profile jobs, where discretion and constant support are needed, may find the services of a sobriety coach invaluable.
  • Those with Previous Relapses: For individuals who have experienced one or more relapses in the past, a sobriety coach can offer targeted strategies for avoiding triggers and making sustainable life changes.
  • Family Members: Sometimes, the family members of those in recovery also need support and guidance. A sobriety coach can offer advice on supporting a loved one in recovery while also taking care of oneself.
  • Busy Professionals: For those who cannot commit to regular group meetings due to work or other obligations, a sobriety coach can provide flexible, personalized support that fits a busy schedule.
  • Those who prefer One-on-One Support: Group settings are not for everyone. Some people feel more comfortable and are more open in a one-on-one setting, making a sobriety coach an excellent alternative to group-based recovery programs.

What Can You Expect from a Sobriety Coach?

Hiring a sobriety coach can be a significant step in your recovery journey, but what exactly can you expect from this relationship? Here’s a breakdown:

  • Personalized Support: One of the key benefits of a sobriety coach is the personalized, one-on-one support they offer. Your coach will work with you to develop a tailored recovery plan that aligns with your specific needs, goals, and challenges.
  • Accountability: A sobriety coach will help you set achievable goals and will check in regularly to ensure you’re making progress. This level of accountability can be crucial for maintaining your commitment to sobriety.
  • Emotional Support: Recovery is often an emotional rollercoaster. A sobriety coach offers a listening ear and emotional support, helping you navigate the ups and downs with resilience and perspective.
  • Skill Development: From coping mechanisms to stress management techniques, a sobriety coach will equip you with the skills you need to maintain sobriety in various life situations.
  • Crisis Management: Should you find yourself in a high-risk situation or facing a potential relapse, your sobriety coach is often just a phone call away, ready to provide immediate support and guidance.
  • Flexibility: Many sobriety coaches offer flexible scheduling, including evenings and weekends, and may be available for emergency consultations. Some also offer virtual sessions for added convenience.
  • Confidentiality: Discretion is often a priority in the recovery journey. You can expect a professional sobriety coach to maintain strict confidentiality, allowing you to speak freely and honestly.
  • Long-term Relationship: While the duration of the coaching relationship can vary depending on individual needs, many people maintain a long-term relationship with their sobriety coach, transitioning from intensive support to periodic check-ins as they progress in their recovery journey.

What is an AA Sponsor?

An AA sponsor is a senior member of Alcoholics Anonymous who’s been sober for a year or more and supports a newer AA member on their path to quitting drinking and staying sober in the context of AA’s 12-step program.

They are understanding, sympathetic, someone to turn to for the challenges you face while recovering from addiction, and someone to confide with and share information you’d be uncomfortable sharing during AA meetings.

Ultimately, AA sponsors help newer members understand and apply the 12 steps and traditions to get and stay sober long-term.

It’s important to note that organizations that adapted the 12-step program to other types of drug addiction, such as Narcotics Anonymous, also have sponsors.

Who Benefits from AA Sponsors?

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) sponsors serve as mentors and guides for individuals navigating the path to sobriety. Here are some groups that particularly benefit from working with AA sponsors:

  • Newcomers to AA: For those who are new to the AA program, a sponsor can provide invaluable guidance on how to navigate meetings, work the 12 Steps, and integrate the principles of AA into daily life.
  • Those Struggling with Relapse: If you’ve experienced a relapse in the past, a sponsor can help you identify triggers and develop coping strategies to prevent future setbacks.
  • Individuals without a Strong Support Network: For those who lack a strong network of supportive friends and family, a sponsor can fill an important emotional and motivational gap.
  • People in Transitional Phases: Life changes like moving to a new city, changing jobs, or ending a relationship can be triggering. A sponsor can provide stability and guidance during these transitional times.

What Can You Expect from an AA Sponsor?

An AA sponsor mentors and guides the recovery journey, particularly as you navigate the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. Here’s what to expect from this relationship:

  • Guidance Through the 12 Steps: One of the primary roles of an AA sponsor is to guide you through the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. They can help you understand each step and how to apply it daily.
  • Emotional Support: Recovery is often an emotional process, and a sponsor can provide a listening ear and emotional support. They can help you navigate the ups and downs of sobriety with empathy and understanding.
  • Accountability: Your sponsor will likely check in with you regularly to see how you’re doing and discuss any challenges you face. This level of accountability can be crucial for maintaining your commitment to sobriety.
  • Availability: Most sponsors make themselves available for phone calls or meetings, especially during times of crisis or temptation. While they are not a substitute for professional medical or psychological care, they can offer immediate support when you’re struggling.
  • Experience-Based Advice: Sponsors are individuals who have successfully navigated their own recovery journey. As such, they can offer practical, experience-based advice rooted in real-world challenges and successes.

AA Sponsor vs. Sobriety Coach

Both AA sponsors and sobriety coaches offer valuable support on the road to recovery. Still, they serve different roles and may be suited to different individuals based on their unique needs. Here’s how they compare.

Role and Function

  • AA Sponsor: Primarily serves as a mentor to guide you through the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. They offer emotional support, accountability, and practical advice based on their own experiences with recovery.
  • Sobriety Coach: Offers a more comprehensive and often more flexible form of support, including life coaching, skill development, and crisis management. They may or may not incorporate the 12 Steps into their approach.


  • AA Sponsor: Generally, an AA sponsor has successfully worked through the 12 Steps and has been sober for an extended period. They are not typically healthcare professionals but are volunteers offering peer support.
  • Sobriety Coach: Often have formal training and certifications. Some are healthcare professionals; many have specialized skills to handle various issues, including co-occurring mental health conditions.

Flexibility and Availability

  • AA Sponsor: Usually available for regular check-ins and may offer immediate support during times of crisis. However, they are generally volunteers and may have limitations on their time.
  • Sobriety Coach: Often offers more flexible scheduling, including virtual sessions, and may be available for emergency consultations. They are generally more adaptable to your schedule but often come at a cost.


  • AA Sponsor: This is a volunteer role, and there is generally no cost associated with having an AA sponsor.
  • Sobriety Coach: This is often a paid service, and costs can vary widely depending on the coach’s level of support and credentials.


  • AA Sponsor: The relationship is confidential, allowing for open and honest communication.
  • Sobriety Coach: Also offers a confidential relationship but may be bound by professional codes of ethics and laws regarding healthcare confidentiality.

How to Choose Between an AA Sponsor and a Sobriety Coach

Choosing the right support system is crucial for a successful recovery journey. Here are some factors to consider when deciding between an AA sponsor and a sobriety coach:

  • Personal Preferences: If you prefer peer-based support and are committed to following the 12 Steps, an AA sponsor may be the right choice for you. If you’re looking for a more personalized and flexible approach, possibly outside the framework of AA, a sobriety coach may be more suitable.
  • Financial Considerations: Sponsors are volunteers, so there’s no cost involved. This can be a significant advantage if you’re on a tight budget. Coaches often charge for their services, so you’ll need to consider whether you can afford this form of support.
  • Accountability Needs: If you feel that peer support and moral accountability will help you stay on track, an AA sponsor can provide this. A sobriety coach may be more effective for more structured accountability, including potentially more frequent check-ins and progress tracking.
  • Co-Occurring Disorders: AA sponsors are not trained to handle mental health issues that often co-occur with substance abuse. Some coaches are trained to address co-occurring disorders, offering a more holistic approach to recovery.

By carefully considering these factors, you can make an informed decision that best suits your needs, lifestyle, and recovery goals.