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.