What kind of certification do I need to be a recovery coach?

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Melissa Killeen

I published my book Recovery Coaching – A Guide to Coaching People in Recovery from Addictions in 2013. Since then, recovery coach or peer-recovery specialist certification training has become one of the fastest growing aspects of the coaching field. So what kind of certification do I need to be a recovery coach?

In 2013, the organizations that offer recovery coach or peer-recovery specialist training numbered around 50. Today, the number has grown to 250. Many state certification boards have established recovery coach and peer-recovery support specialist certifications. Yet, for many people that seek to be a recovery coach the qualifications, the training, the requirements for certification, or credentialing seem baffling. So I would like to attempt to clear up this confusion and will answer these questions in this post:

  • What is the process for certification as a recovery coach or peer recovery specialist?
  • What kind of certification should I be focusing on?

What is the process of being qualified, getting training and then credentialed as a recovery coach or peer-recovery support specialist?

If you are investigating becoming a recovery coach, I suggest you follow these steps:

  1. Research the training organizations that offer recovery coach training you can afford. Go to http://www.mkrecoverycoaching.com/recovery-coach-training-organizations/ for a list of addiction recovery coach training organizations
  2. Verify that you meet the qualifications to apply for the course (e.g. be 18-years-old, have a GED or high school diploma, one year sobriety from any addiction)
  3. Take and pass the course, retain the coaching certificate for future purposes
  4. Research places like Recovery Community Organizations or treatment centers to work or volunteer as a recovery-coach-in-training
  5. Apply to your state certification board for recovery coach certification (a fee may apply)
  6. Complete the recovery-coach-in-training supervised practice hours that are required by the state board
  7. Send in your application with paperwork verifying the completion of practice hours to the state credentialing board with a certification fee (fee varies for every state, from $100-$250)
  8. Receive your recovery coaching or peer-recovery support specialist certificate
  9. In the next 2 – 5 years take the required courses for renewing this certificate. Refer to your state board for more information on courses and renewal time frames. A renewal fee will be required.

What kind of certification do I need to be a recovery coach?

For an addiction recovery coach, the certification and training is prefaced with the terms: peer-support specialist, certified peer-recovery practitioner, recovery coach or peer-recovery specialist. Every state is different and every state uses different names for these certifications. Look for courses that offer the training needed for an addictions coach and a peer working with people in mental health recovery certification. It is the exact same training, in the same exact classroom, for two different jobs descriptions! It may be confusing now, and quite possibly the content and descriptions of  these courses may change going forward. But I would have to have a crystal ball to predict that for certain.

I suggest you first take a certification training course. You can make the decision after the training is completed to apply for state board certification. As a coach if you are interested in being your own business person, certification by a training organization should be adequate. If you want to work in a treatment center, with a recovery community organization, social services agency or hospital, certification issued by the state’s certification board or the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium (IC&RC) is required by the institution hiring you. If you want to carry professional liability insurance, or be reimbursed by Medicaid for your services, certification by a state certification board is mandatory.

What is a state certification board?

The process for receiving a certificate as a recovery coach is overseen by a state’s certification or licensing board. A state certification board tests and renews practitioner’s (coaches, therapists, nurses, etc.) certificates to ensure their knowledge is up to par. Also, that they have the ethical knowledge to practice in their profession. These processes for certification, such as training, educational requirements, exams and renewal guidelines, varies from state to state. These certification standards are recognized by health care companies, insurance companies, Medicaid, Medicare as well as companies that hire these practitioners.

These state certification boards are the same boards that issue licenses or certifications for drug and alcohol counselors, and therapists. Some states have combined licenses and certifications boards all in one office, so it could be the same office in which nurses or hairdressers receive their licenses. I suggest you search the Internet for drug and alcohol certification for your state. Then search for the state board website for recovery coach or peer-recovery support specialist certification. As of May 2008, thirty state credentialing boards had developed criteria for the training and deployment of recovery coaches and peer-recovery specialists, so you should have no trouble finding these boards on the Internet.

What is Reciprocity?

Reciprocity is a term you will see used often on these board sites. When you are certified through your home state’s certification board, you may have the ability to transfer that credential to another state. This is called reciprocity. State certification boards may offer reciprocity to certified coaches in other states. The state boards have the authority to set reciprocity requirements for coaches to practice in their state. Not all certifications are eligible for reciprocity. It is vitally important that you investigate reciprocity guidelines prior to relocating to another state, because it can be a very complicated process.

There are national and international recovery coach certifications available. In 2013, the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium (IC&RC) developed a peer recovery credential. The application for the peer-recovery certification appears on the IC & RC web site. An IC & RC credential is accepted by many agencies and treatment centers when they are hiring recovery coaches.

In next week’s post I will review what kind of training you need to have in order to apply for recovery coach certification.

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2 Responses to What kind of certification do I need to be a recovery coach?

  1. Hi Melissa,

    Thank you for writing such a clear, helpful and informative article to help people find their way. I would like to add Santa Barbara California to your training list under East Meets West. We have two locations, Rochester New York and Santa Barbara. Thanks for all that you do for our community of recovery coaches.
    D. Robbin O’Neill-Gregory CRC, PRSS #RecoveryFusion.com #eastmeetswestrct.com

    • Melissa Killeen says:

      Thanks Robbin,
      I will create the East Meets West link in California for Santa Barbara. I saw on your web site there was a training in June 2015 in San Diego. Are you planning on continuing training in San Diego? Should I list that location as well?
      Please advise.

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