People who have lived experience with substance abuse and addictions have always played various and important roles in the treatment and recovery system (especially in residential treatment). Recently, peer-related roles have begun emerging in different ways in the field, particularly as Recovery Coaching has begun to catch on.
Possible titles: Recovery Coach, Peer, Peer Support Specialist, Peer Mentor.
A peer is someone with some lived experience of substance abuse or addictions.
Not all recovery support providers are people with lived experience, but they have training in addictions and know how to connect with people at all stages of recovery.
Cornerstones of Recovery Support work:
- Lived experience is deeply valued.
- Many people need help engaging into addiction treatment.
- Long-term treatment outcomes are improved when people have help linking to community-based recovery supports.
Peer and Recovery Support workers may:
- Provide outreach and engagement that offers an introduction to recovery, and some hope, to people thinking about but not yet in recovery.
- Guide people in early recovery through difficult adjustments and challenging milestones.
- Run and/or volunteer in Peer Recovery Support Centers.
- Work in Recovery Community Service Programs, as well as some clinics and other settings.
Other activities may include:
- Assistance in housing, educational, and employment opportunities.
- Building constructive family and other personal relationships.
- Educating about and supporting stress management techniques.
- Organizing and attending alcohol- and drug-free social and recreational activities.
- Helping to manage the process of obtaining services from multiple systems (such as primary and mental health care, child welfare, and criminal justice).
Recovery Support/Peer workers may provide:
- Recovery Coaching
- Emotional support
- Help filling out forms
Peer workers must learn to support others without putting their own recovery at risk, and without imposing their own recovery framework on those they assist.
Generally, there are no educational requirements, although often a high school diploma or GED is preferred.
Training for Recovery Coaches
The MA Bureau of Substance Addiction Services offers a Recovery Coach Academy through AdCare Educational Institute (Recovery Coach Training Calendar). In order to be eligible to apply for training, one must have access to a Recovery Coach Supervisor (someone who has completed RC Supervisor training), and a concrete plan to begin working or volunteering as a Recovery Coach, if they are not currently doing so.
Massachusetts Recovery Support/Peer workers can apply to become Certified Addiction Recovery Coaches (CARCs) through the MA Board of Substance Abuse Counselor Certification (MBSACC). See this brief description. An exam waiver period is currently in place, during which qualified applicants can become certified without taking the exam. This period runs from January, 2016 through June, 2018.
For those who wish to take the exam, the Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals put together a Study Guide (some of the information is specific to Rhode Island, but the study guide is applicable to the exam used in Massachusetts).
A Recovery Coach wishing to be reimbursed through the MA-ATR grant is required to receive a certificate through the Recovery Coach Academy (available in MA through AdCare Educational Institute's Training Calendar).
NAADAC the Association for Addiction Professionals offers a Nationally Certified Peer Recovery Support Specialist (NCPRSS) certification.
Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling
190 High Street, Suite 5
Boston, MA 02110
Phone: 617.426.4554; Fax: 617.426.4555
BSAS also funds Recovery Support Centers in Massachusetts in Boston, Brockton, Greenfield, Lawrence, Marlborough and Worcester.
National Practice Guidelines for Peer Supporters - draft guidelines created by the International Association of Peer Supporters
The Peer Provider Workforce in Behavioral Health: A Landscape Analysis from the UCSF Health Workforce Research Center on Long-Term Care (November, 2015)
National Survey of Compensation Among Peer Support Specialists from The College for Behavioral Health Leadership (January, 2016)
The Provider's Handbook in Developing and Implementing Peer Roles, by Lynn Legere with contributions from the Western Massachusetts Peer Network and Western Massachusetts Recovery Learning community
Recovery Support/Peer workers may grow to
- Lead a recovery support center
- Seek further training and education to become a counselor, community health worker, or prevention specialist.
- Become advocates.