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HomeCode of Conduct for Recovery Coaches

Code of Conduct for Recovery Coaches

The RCI Code of Conduct printed below is the Code that is currently active.  
In keeping with the spirit and intent of the recently-revised ICF Code of Conduct, RCI will continue to make adjustments, changes and improvements to help improve and clarify what is expected of RCI-certified coaches.

Table of Contents

I. Introduction and Purpose
II. Respect for Persons
III. Professional Conduct
IV. Professional Development
V. Ethical Violations


I. Introduction and Purpose

Members of Recovery Coaches International (RCI) have established ethics, standards, and principles to ensure that our clients receive the highest quality coaching services from RCI Recovery Coaches. This Code of Conduct also informs coach/client, coach/mentor, collegial, and third-party relationships so that we can provide the greatest opportunity for learning and development for our ourselves, for the mentors who provide supervision, and for the third-party sponsors who hire us.

RCI Recovery Coaches and mentors agree to uphold professional standards of conduct and to be clear about their professional obligations and roles. This Code of Conduct clarifies what clients, mentors, coaches and third-party sponsors can expect in a coach/client, coach/mentor, or supervisory relationship, and therefore may be a starting point for written contracts. RCI members are encouraged to give a copy of this Code of Conduct to each client.


II. Respect for Persons

RCI Recovery Coaches support equality, choice, freedom, and volunteerism.

Preventing Harm

Aware of the suffering caused by addiction, RCI Recovery Coaches strive to benefit those with whom we work and to safeguard the rights and well-being of each client. We accept responsibility for our choices and actions and avoid conflicts of interest that could lead to exploitation or harm.

RCI Recovery Coaches understand that each decision we make and each action we take can benefit or harm clients, third-party sponsors, and ourselves. Therefore, we carefully consider the ethical implications of our decisions and actions, taking care to avoid harm of a physical, psychological, financial, legal, political, organizational, or spiritual nature. When problems arise, we make every effort to reconcile and resolve all conflicts, however small, and seek supervision and constructive consultation whenever helpful.


Aware of the stigma and repercussions surrounding addiction, RCI Recovery Coaches make every effort to protect the confidentiality of each client. We inform clients in writing of how their confidentiality will be protected and clearly describe the limits of confidentiality determined by law, which may require mandatory reporting of child abuse, threats of suicide, physical harm, elder abuse, and threats to harm self or others. We abide by local laws for mandatory reporting requirements.

When coaching groups, families, couples, or minors, the breadth and limits of confidentiality must be reviewed and outlined in writing, with each person receiving a copy of the confidentiality agreement. Clear agreements about reporting to third parties (insurance companies, courts, probation officers, lawyers, etc.) should be established at the beginning of the relationship, or as soon as a request for information is made. Valid consent to share or disclose confidential information must be given in writing.

Non-Discrimination: Respect for People’s Rights and Dignity

Aware of the suffering caused by discrimination, RCI Recovery Coaches and mentors strive to acknowledge the dignity and equality of all people and conduct ourselves in ways that respect diversity and promote equal opportunities. We respect the rights of individuals to privacy, confidentiality, and self-determination. RCI Recovery Coaches are aware that special efforts may be necessary to protect the rights of those whose addictions or other vulnerabilities have impaired, if only temporarily, their autonomous decision-making capability.

RCI Recovery Coaches and mentors are aware of and respect cultural, individual, and role differences, including those of age, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, race, culture, national origin, religion, disability, language, and socioeconomic status. We consider such differences when working with clients and strive to eliminate biases based on these factors. We do not condone or participate in activities based upon prejudices against any group.

Working with Minors or Dependents

Aware that childhood and youth are unique and valuable stages of life and that minors who use or abuse substances are at significantly higher risk for depression, suicide, homicide, and accidents, RCI Recovery Coaches who coach minors will make every effort to provide coaching that is age-appropriate, respectful, supportive, and responsive. We understand that additional education or training may be needed to be competent to meet the developmental coaching needs of minors.

RCI Recovery Coaches who work with minors seek to ensure that our clients have the power of decision-making, privacy, and autonomy in the coaching relationship and that we advocate for the client whenever necessary.

When we are required to disclose information to third parties (schools, courts, insurance companies, etc.) it is recommended that we disclose only the minor’s level of attendance. Should additional information be required, with the client’s consent, we will respond briefly and use neutral language to avoid misinterpretations that may harm the client.

Sexual Relations with Clients

Aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct, RCI believes that under no circumstances should RCI Recovery Coaches or mentors have sexual relations with clients. We are aware that the consequences of having sexual relations with clients can be harsh. It is our responsibility to understand the laws of our state or province.

RCI strongly recommends that coaches and mentors avoid behaviors with clients that might be perceived to indicate a sexual relationship (see Ending the Client Relationship for the definition of “client”). Examples include but are not limited to the following: a) coach-initiated personal contact outside regular sessions, b) initiating hugs with clients, and c) giving gifts.


III. Professional Conduct

RCI Coaches and Mentors strive to model and promote healthy recovery in their professional conduct, to manage conflicts of interest that could lead to exploitation or harm, and to accept responsibility for their choices and actions.


Aware of the suffering caused by lying, cheating, and stealing, RCI Recovery Coaches understand that the effectiveness of the recovery coaching profession requires that each of us be worthy of trust; therefore, we will not misrepresent our experience, education, or credentials. We will consistently respect the intellectual property of others and will not present the ideas or formulations of others as our own. We will consistently give credit to originators both in written and spoken communication. We will not offer our opinions as fact or engage in any fraud, subterfuge, or intentional misrepresentation.


Aware of the suffering caused by ignorance, RCI Recovery Coaches and mentors commit to being life-long learners to ensure that our level of experience and knowledge of recovery techniques, theories, and ethics are current and sufficient to meet the needs of clients. We commit to operating according to applicable laws and this Code of Conduct.

RCI Recovery Coaches and mentors agree to deepen and enhance our abilities by meeting RCI continuing education requirements. We scrupulously avoid practicing in any area outside our area of competence or legal scope of practice.


Aware that our personal experiences with recovery may or may not be helpful to a given client, RCI Recovery Coaches share or disclose personal information only when it seems pertinent and helpful to the client, taking care not to take the client’s reactions personally.

Ending the Coaching Relationship

RCI Recovery Coaches are aware that not all persons will benefit from coaching; therefore, we respect the client’s right to end coaching at any time, subject to the provisions of the agreement or contract.

We remain alert to the possibility that current clients may not benefit from coaching, or may need additional support in order to be coachable (for example, they may need therapeutic or medical support or may become impaired). We respectfully and appropriately make referrals and/or terminate coaching with clients who do not receive benefit from coaching.

RCI Recovery Coaches understand that professional responsibilities continue beyond the termination of any active coach/mentoring relationship. We agree to provide any follow-up that is necessary or has been agreed to, maintain agreed-upon confidentiality, maintain records and data safely and securely, and not exploit the former relationship.

RCI considers the coaching relationship terminated when for two years there has been a) no exchange of money, b) no paid or unpaid individual or group coaching sessions, c) the client has not received coaching support from the coach, or d) the client has been referred to other professionals and has appropriate outside support. We have a responsibility to learn the legal definition of the coach/client relationship in our state or province. In cases in which the definitions of client relationship outlined in this document conflict with the legal definitions, the legal definitions take precedence.

Legal Compliance

Aware that laws and regulations exist for the good of society and for the restraint of harm and wrongdoing, we stay up to date on those laws and regulations that are relevant professionally and personally.

Mandatory Reporting

Aware of the vulnerability of children, senior citizens, disabled persons, and others, RCI Recovery Coaches and mentors agree to report any financial, physical, sexual, or other types of abuse that have been observed or reported, when there is knowledge of such an incident, or when there is an imminent risk of serious harm. We are aware that should we fail to do so we may be held liable by civil and criminal justice systems.

Conscientious Refusal

Aware that determining that a law or regulation is unjust is not merely a matter of preference or opinion, when our ethical responsibilities appear to conflict with laws, regulations, or directives we will take care to examine the situation rationally. The RCI Ethics Advisory Committee is available to help us deliberate. We will clarify the nature of the conflict and make known our commitment to human rights, to our conscience, and to this Code of Conduct. We will take all reasonable efforts to resolve such conflicts legally and reasonably, yet we reserve the right to conscientious refusal to avoid violation of human rights.

We understand and accept that there may be some penalty for conscientious refusal, and we will weigh the personal harm of that penalty against the good done by civil protest.

Boundary Management/Dual Relations/Conflicts of Interest

Aware of the suffering caused by exploitation and boundary violations, RCI Recovery Coaches seek to nurture and support the development of a relationship of equals and to protect the client’s confidences rather than take unfair advantage of individuals who are vulnerable.

RCI Recovery Coaches recognize that dual relations may blur boundaries or encourage dependence, thus impairing our ability to effectively coach our clients. Should there be a dual relation, we should identify when we are acting in a capacity other than that of a coach.

RCI Recovery Coaches do not exploit relationships with current or former clients for personal gain, including social or business relationships. We barter for non-monetary remuneration of services only when it will not impair the coaching relationship. We do not engage in personal or professional relationships with anyone whose welfare might be jeopardized by such a dual relationship. We do not accept substantial gifts from clients, third-party payers, or recovery organizations.

RCI Recovery Coaches who work face to face with recovery clients recognize the need for boundaries since we may encounter clients at meetings, churches, grocery stores, etc. In such circumstances, we protect the client’s confidentiality by allowing the client to approach, acknowledge, or avoid us. When we encounter a client in public we do not introduce any mention of the coaching relationship.

RCI Recovery Coaches avoid conflicts of interest and openly discuss any such conflicts. Should such a conflict arise, we seek mentoring or professional help to take appropriate action, which may include voluntarily removing ourselves from conflict or terminating or suspending the coaching relationship.


IV. Professional Development

Aware that mentoring and supervision improves client care, develops professionalism, and helps bridge the gap between education, theory, and business and professional practices, RCI Recovery Coaches recognize our right to mentoring and supervision and seek and welcome such support from qualified recovery coaches.

RCI Recovery Coaches who work individually are encouraged to schedule regular mentoring sessions with someone who has more recovery coaching experience, join qualified supervision groups, or form peer-mentoring groups with other coaches.

RCI Recovery Coaches who work in agencies or centers are encouraged to ask for appropriate supervision from a qualified recovery coach supervisor, who will regularly consult with us about client concerns and issues, assess our competencies, support ethical decision-making, help prevent burnout, and support our ongoing development.

RCI Recovery Coaches who are hired by third-party payers should require the third party to provide appropriate supervision from a qualified supervisor, who will regularly assess our competence and support our ongoing development.

RCI Recovery Coaches who mentor or supervise others will be bound by the requirements of confidentiality referred to in this Code of Conduct. Those who mentor or supervise others will make a reasonable effort to supervise through timely and constructive evaluation and consultation using accurate, up-to-date information that supports ongoing development of the coach and ensures quality client care.


V. Ethical Violations

RCI Ethics Advisory Committee

Aware that some members may want or need support sorting out ethical quandaries, RCI has a created the Ethics Advisory Committee. This Committee offers confidential support through problem solving for RCI members or their clients who are facing ethical dilemmas. The Ethics Advisory Committee makes recommendations but does not take action unless the complaint concerns an illegal act that requires reporting. Members or clients can contact Ethics Advisory Committee members anonymously.

Code of Conduct Breaches

When a client, coach, mentor, or third party believes that an RCI member has harmed a client or acted in a way that is in breach of this Code of Conduct, they should discuss it with a member of the Ethics Advisory Committee or another trusted person. If appropriate, they may seek resolution with the member concerned. Either party can ask the Ethics Advisory Committee to assist in the process of achieving resolution. If the client or sponsor remains unsatisfied they are entitled to make a formal complaint. Complaints will be dealt with according to the RCI’s “Complaints and Disciplinary Procedure” manual.

Complaints Against Members

Formal complaints against RCI members from clients or the public will go directly to the Board of RCI for consideration in accordance with RCI’s “Complaints and Disciplinary Procedure” manual. In the event that a complaint should be made against a member of RCI, that member must cooperate in resolving such a complaint.

We are encouraged to confront colleagues when we have reasonable cause to believe they are acting in an unethical manner. Failing resolution, we will report that colleague to the RCI Ethics Advisory Committee by sending an email to

If the RCI Board learns that a member is having sexual relations with a client, being physically violent, perpetrating financial fraud, or causing any other direct harm to a client, then RCI will report it to appropriate state, provincial, or federal government agencies for investigation and prosecution.


Recovery Coaches International