When you think of therapy, you might think of Freud sitting in his chair near the head of a sofa. There, a patient lies flat with his feet up on the other end and his hands behind his head. He’s going on and on about his dream while Freud nods and groans from time to time. Since then, therapy has dramatically changed. Today, you can expect to face the therapist directly, sit instead of lay on the couch, and talk about all aspects of your life, not just your dreams.
Yet, one of the most essential components to therapy and the treatment of mental illness, including addiction, is the relationship. The therapeutic relationship has been proven to be the most vital ingredient to seeing a client improve. In fact, there is growing research that points to the therapeutic relationship as the most significant factor in the improved well being of clients and this has proven to be true regardless of the diagnosis. Many clinicians might agree that although there are specific treatment interventions they work with, without the therapeutic alliance, those treatments may not be as effective.
This directly applies to getting the sober help a recovery addict might need. When the sponsor/sponsee relationship is secure with a strong rapport and the sober mentoring process begins, it can be the foundation upon which a newly sober individual can find hope, support, and faith in the process.
In fact, if you’re at the point of finding the right sober help from a sponsor, it would be wise to choose someone you can imagine having a supportive relationship with for a while. The following guidelines are meant to point you in the right direction. They’re meant to assist you in finding the right person for you:
- Perhaps this goes without saying, but the sponsor should have more experience in their sobriety than you. In fact, they should be secure in their sobriety and firmly rooted in living sober.
- Those who are heterosexual should choose a sponsor that is not of the opposite sex, and the opposite is true for homosexuals. The point is that you don’t want a sexual attraction to get in the way of your growing recovery. Your sponsor should provide sober mentoring and help, not take you out on a date.
- Your sponsor should be well versed in the 12-steps and in living sober in general. There are some in recovery who attend Alcohol Anonymous (AA) meetings, but who give the 12-step program lip service. If you want to find someone to help you “work the steps,” you’ll need someone who knows those steps well.
- Don’t dismiss your intuition when you’re choosing a sponsor. The intuitive side to you can lead you towards sober help and point to the perfect sponsor.
Even though you might find the perfect sponsor, keep in mind he or she is not your therapist. Although there was a correlation to therapy drawn at the start of this article, the fact that relationship is essential to growth is the extent of that correlation. A sponsor is not a therapist or a mental health counselor. For that reason, it is best to also work with a therapist in recovery. A mental health professional can provide sober help in the recovery process, safely help you unearth any unresolved trauma, and work through the ambivalence that comes with breaking an addiction.
Of course, you always have the option of choosing another sponsor at any point. Sadly, there are sponsor/sponsee relationships that grow to be dysfunctional, for instance, when a sponsor begins to take advantage of the sponsee. Yet, one of the greatest advantages to getting sober is reclaiming your freedom and empowerment. And here’s a place to exercise that freedom. When you’re with a sponsor who is not supporting you the way that you need, find another one.
Finding sober mentoring and help is not easy, but with time, trust, and your intuition, you’ll find a sponsor who is just right for you.