What kind of training and certificate do I need to be a peer recovery support-specialist?


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 support-specialist training has become one of the fastest growing aspects of the coaching field. So, what kind of training and certificate do you need to be a peer recovery support specialist ?

In 2013, the organizations that offered 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.

The definition of a recovery coach, and a peer recovery support-specialist has changed significantly, as well. Now, the term peer-to-peer recovery support-specialist defines a coach that works with people in mental health recovery and/or people that are in co-occurring recovery (co-occurring describes when a person has an addiction and a mental health diagnosis). Commonly the coach in this job is called a “peer.”

Even though most of the state certification boards issue a certificate with the same “title,” (such as certified peer recovery support-specialist) the agencies that are looking for coaches to work with addicts advertise for recovery coaches and the agencies that are looking for coaches to work with people with behavioral or mental health disorders advertise for peers.

In the treatment field it is common to have states use different terminology and acronyms for a certificate of the same job description. For example, the terminology for a certified recovery coach or peer in New Jersey is Certified Peer Support-Practitioner (CRSP).The Alcohol and Drug Abuse Certification Board of Georgia calls this credential a Certified Peer Recovery Coach (CPRC). The Minnesota Certification Board offers a Certified Peer Recovery Specialist (CPRS) credential. There are several different terms for certificates for the same job description throughout the United States.

As of March 2014, 38 states and the District of Columbia have established programs to train and certify peer-to-peer recovery support-specialist working with people in mental health recovery. Eight states are in the process of developing and/or implementing a peer program. For information on locating these agencies go to the International Association of Peer Specialists at: http://inaops.org/training-and-certification/.

The International Association of Peer Specialists web site features a PDF document that is downloadable, with a list of all of the peer training organizations. This document is entitled: Peer Specialist Training and Certification Programs: A National Overview, and was compiled by the Texas Institute for Excellence in Mental Health, in the School of Social Work at the University of Texas at Austin. This PDF breaks down the peer certifications for every state, gives a web site and email contact for the training organizations as well as the required domains to master, in order to receive the certification. As an adjunct to this PDF, an additional list of recognized peer support training providers is available. The link is: http://inaops.org/training-providers/. If your area is not served by training organizations featured in these two documents, email: training@naops.org to find training in your area.

What are the peer recovery support-specialist guidelines for receiving certification?

The peer recovery support-specialist application for certification will vary from state to state but essentially the guidelines are similar. Individuals can qualify to become certified peer-to-peer recovery support-specialist by meeting the following guidelines:

  • Have a minimum of one year demonstrated recovery time from a significant mental health and/or substance use disorder at the date of application.
  • Be at least 18 years of age.
  • Must have a minimum of at least a high school diploma or GED.
  • Have attended and successfully completed a recognized training curriculum (face to face in a classroom setting or on-line) that totals 40 hours at a minimum and have a valid certificate of completion from that training.
  • Have completed an additional 20 hours of training and have valid certificates verifying attendance and participation in the following training categories: Wellness Recovery Action Planning (WRAP), Person Centered Thinking, Personal Assistance in Community Existence (PACE), Crisis Prevention, Veteran supports and interventions. Applicants can also use other college coursework, if related to the work of a Certified Peer Support-Specialist, if it will enhance the ability to provide services to people with mental health and/or substance use disorders. The applicant must submit an official transcript for review with the application.
  • Acknowledge the peer will follow the ethical guidelines of a peer recovery support-specialist by signing a form stating they have read and comprehend the guidelines
  • Submit two (2) personal reference letters

What are the costs of Certified Peer Recovery Support-Specialist Training?

Costs for Certified Peer Specialist training range from $400-$1,000. There are several ways to pay for Certified Peer Specialist (CPS) training. There are a number of programs and organizations that sponsor free Peer Recovery Support-Specialists certification training, continuing education classes, and supervisor training classes. As follows, are some suggestions:

Offices of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) help people with disabilities prepare for and achieve an employment goal. OVR has many offices located throughout United States. If you qualify for OVR services, OVR may pay up to $900 for you to receive certification training.

County Mental Health and Developmental Services is another source of possible funding. Some county MH/DS offices contract with training vendors to provide a Certified Peer Specialist class in that county. When this happens, a county purchases an entire class (20 seats) from a training vendor. The county then accepts applications from people who want to attend the training. In these cases, the training is usually only open to people who reside in that county.

The Mental Health Associations of your state may provide low cost Certified Peer Specialist training.

Review the document, Peer Specialist Training and Certification Programs—A National Overview (http://www.dbsalliance.org/pdfs/training/Peer-Specialist-Training-and-Certification-Programs-A-National-Overview%20UT%202013.pdf ). There are many states, Alabama, Ohio, and North Carolina, to name a few that offer free training and are listed in this document.

Next week’s blog post will review what certification is required to be a professional recovery coach working as a coach that has a variety of coaching credentials.

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