The Difference Between A Therapist And A 12 Step Sponsor

The difference between therapist and sponsor

In 12 step recovery people get confused about what it means to have a sponsor versus having a therapist. Put some thought into picking your "support posse" because they will be vital to the quality of your recovery! This blog shows the difference between a therapist and a sponsor. Both can be vital to the recovery process.

What is a sponsor?

How to know if you need a therapist or a sponsor if you're in 12 step recovery

A sponsor is someone who is in active recovery and has had success working the program. They're working the steps, attending meetings regularly and have found some serenity. Basically you want what they have - because of their recovery.

Sponsors share their recovery by helping others. It reinforces their sobriety and gives them a chance to give back. 

They can listen, reason things out, and sometimes make suggestions that might be helpful. They walk their talk and are willing to share their experience, strength and hope.

This is very important in the first few years of recovery when learning how to live sober and confront the past is necessary for continued sobriety.

Qualities to look for:

  • Are they reliable and dependable?

  • Do they have what you want?

  • Are they supportive and encouraging?

  • Are they available for you on a regular basis (not 24 -7)?

  • Do they treat you with respect?

Watch if they seem negative or controlling. They're not supposed to be "a critical parent" though at times they may be confrontive if you're off track. Make sure they are a good fit is important because without trust, working the steps is much harder.

What is a psychotherapist? 

A psychotherapist has a Master's Degree in Counseling and has gone through extensive training. The relationship is completely focused on the client's needs and goals. The therapist is not a peer or friend though they develop an emotional bond that is based on trust.

A therapist helps to identify problematic issues that can minimize relapse. If you feel stuck or need to make changes but don't know how, a therapist can guide you towards possible solutions. They can give advice but it is based on your desired goals.

Therapy teaches the tools to increase self-esteem, set boundaries, handle anger and develop healthy communication. These are vital skills for building a strong recovery program. Therapy also deals with the underlying reasons for the addiction such as past abuse, childhood trauma, difficulty managing emotions.

Qualities to look for:

  • Do they seem empathetic about your situation?

  • Do you feel comfortable with them?

  • Do they understand the problem you are seeking help for?

  • Do you feel like you could benefit from their approach?

A therapist helps navigate the road of recovery by providing individualized help. Addressing childhood issues and past traumas is not the sponsor's role. They can share what's worked for them but they are not trained in these issues.

A sponsor is a mentor that guides you through the steps and walks their talk. They have their own recovery so there are times they aren't available because they are going through their own pain. 

If you'd like more help , feel free to call or text or email me at (408)800-5736 for a free 15 minute consultation. Want more? 

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