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Commentary: Peer Recovery Coaches: Expanding the Career Ladder


In a coffee shop. In a treatment center. At the library. At a sober living home. These are all settings where peer recovery services take place. Whether volunteers or staff, the role of a Peer Recovery Coach (PRC) is a legitimate and important one within the continuum of care, and IC&RC is proud to be developing the first, international credential for PRCs.

In recent years, a rapidly growing segment of the addiction recovery workforce has been made up of PRCs, who use their personal experiences of recovery to facilitate it and build resilience of persons with addiction, mental illness, or co-occurring substance and mental disorders. Many PRCs provide these valuable services as volunteers and in community settings, but seek the objective verification that certification provides.

A 2008 report from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment wrote:

“Recovery support services are non-clinical services. Many recovery community organizations have established recovery community centers where educational, advocacy and sober social activities are organized. Peer recovery support services are also offered in churches and other faith-based institutions, recovery homes/sober housing.”

Wherever they are, PRCs form the connecting tissue between professional systems of care and indigenous communities of recovery. They are specifically trained to assist people in accessing a broad range of support services including education, employment, health care, housing, day care, transportation and counseling for co-occurring problems.

Unlike a sponsor, the PRC usually works – as a volunteer or staff member – within a formal organization that is bound by accreditation, licensing and funding guidelines. Another distinction is that PRCs start coaching clients before they have formally entered recovery, continue the relationship even in the face of relapse and check-in with clients after they have disengaged from active participation in mutual aid groups.

Responding to demand in their jurisdictions, several IC&RC Member Boards – Florida, Georgia, Illinois and Pennsylvania – developed Peer Recovery credentials, and it soon became clear that there is a growing need for a credentialing process at the reciprocal level.

An IC&RC Task Force, headed by Kristie Schmiege of Michigan, explored and recommended standards for two levels of PRC, which were adopted by board vote in October, 2011. The organization is in the process of developing the formal job task analysis and written examination for the credential.

The 2008 report emphasized that “maintaining the peer-ness of peer recovery support services and resisting the pressure to professionalize these services is a key challenge.” As we developed the standards for the first-ever international PRC credential, IC&RC believes we have met this challenge.

Mary Jo Mather is the Executive Director of IC&RC, the largest addiction and prevention credentialing organization in the world. Today, IC&RC represents 78 member boards and 45,000 professionals from 25 countries and 47 U.S. states and territories. IC&RC’s seven credentials include counselors, clinical supervisors, prevention specialists, criminal justice and co-occurring disorders professionals.

6 Responses to this article

  1. Avatar of Manuel Vasquez
    Manuel Vasquez / April 22, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    I try to get it classes to coaching of recovery(Links-finant. aid) Can do you some about? Tky

  2. Avatar of Cheryl Olden
    Cheryl Olden / July 12, 2012 at 9:54 am

    Legitimizing Peer Recovery Coaching……We’ve Come Full Circle
    Degree in hand, my first job was with a large substance abuse agency in which it often felt like I was a party to ‘peddling methadone’. The favorite refrain of the time; 1970′S and 80′s was: ‘it takes one to treat one’ pushing me and my degree to the out field. I saw a lot and learned even more from the ‘clients’. The level of committment to helping other addicts was the equivalent of an exclusive fraternity/sorority of which non-users were excluded. In my post education, education I had to earn my stripes (via time on the job, a demonstrated committment to the client population and a demonstrated grasp of what recovery was truly all about and how to be one who helped and did not hurt) becoming an honorary member of the recovery team.
    Requiring credentials displaced the recovery coaches of the past, thus expanding the role of ‘sponsoring’ those in early recovery;an effective unpaid position in 12 step programs throughout the ccountry.
    Point being: Peer Recovery Coaches do have a place in the recovery process and on the recovery team. They also need to earn their stripes and demonstrate a level of understanding of the recovery process, embrace the ethical rules and standards of the field and remain committed to learning and applying what is learned. They too need on-going mentoring,support and advocacy!

    Cheryl Olden

  3. Patti Herndon / June 6, 2012 at 11:45 am

    Thanks for this article!

    I have been interested in this type of Peer Specialist certification for a few years. Unfortunately, after much researching in my state of Texas, I have found that there are not sources for Peer Support/Peer Recovery Coaching training. I am hopeful that this will change in time.

    Rachel Witmer (contact information below)was my contact at IC&RC. I’ve included her response to my email inquiry – from last August. I hope the info. serves to help any of you who are interested in investing your time/heart/energies in this kind of specialization. Best wishes to you!

    Hi Patti,

    Unfortunately, at this point in time IC&RC does not have a Peer Recovery Credential. We are looking to adopt such a credential, but are unable to provide any sort of timeline for how long it make take. That being said, there are many states and credentialing bodies throughout the United States that already offer a Peer Recovery credential. I believe our credentialing body in Texas is one of those states, but because it is not an IC&RC credential, I am not 100% sure. I suggest that you contact them for specifics. Their contact information can be found at this link:

    I hope this helps and if you need any further information please do not hesitate to contact me.


    Rachel R. Witmer
    IC&RC Assistant Director
    P:(717)-540-4457 ex 105 F:(717)-540-4458


  4. Avatar of Paula Ellison
    Paula Ellison / June 6, 2012 at 8:26 am

    Where do I get the training to become a Peer Recovery Coach in Illinois? I am in the far west suburbs of Chicago. Please let me know. Thank you.

  5. Candice Besson / June 6, 2012 at 11:16 am

    Hi Paula,

    The IC&RC has a url you can use to look up where to find a credentialing board near you. Please find it here:

  6. Avatar of Eric McCray
    Eric McCray / June 10, 2013 at 2:59 pm

    Hello Miss Paula Ellison I’m a Certified Recovery Coach and I’m looking to network with companies that are hiring for Recovery Coaches In the northern New Jersey area or the southeastern Pennsylvania area.If you have any info regarding jobs/careers please let me know thanks

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