How to Become a Recovery Coach in Hawaii

Often the road to recovery is long and winding, walked upon by a singular person. However, recovery does not have to be a solo journey. There are people within the mental health industry who are trained to be a partner on this road so those in recovery do not feel like they are alone and powerless.

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What is a Recovery Coach?

A recovery coach is a person who is trained to be a mentor and coach throughout the frequently taxing process of a person’s recovery from addiction. A recovery coach may lead a group of people within a peer-involved environment such as AA or via a one-on-one scenario.

Hawaii Requirements to Become a Recovery Coach

Hawaii is different than most states. Hawaii’s certified peer specialist (HPSC) program has the same model as Georgia’s. The program’s core focuses on the person’s well-being rather than just the addiction.

HPSC is also a peer-to-peer program for individuals who have been diagnosed with mental illness or other behavioral disorders. After attending an HPSC training program and passing an oral and written examination, one can earn certification.

What Does a Certified Peer Specialist Do?

HPSCs promote the growth of self-worth and personal determination and helps the recovering person ease back into the community. They also do their best to provide hope as mentors and life coaches and act as partners along the road to recovery. The certified HPSC is not a licensed clinician and does not possess the ability to make diagnoses or provide medication or other mental health services.

Certification and Guidelines

Applicants must complete the minimum requirements outlined in the HPCS procedures and guidelines listed below. The certification processing time is about six weeks. After the application has been reviewed, the applicant will receive their certification by mail.

The following are listed qualifications for the HPCS certification:

  • Must be 18 years or older
  • Possess a high school diploma or GED equivalent
  • Have been previously diagnosed with a mental illness or re-occurring disorder, not including a single or primary diagnosis of substance abuse
  • Be a person who has received or is receiving mental health services as part of their recovery
  • Have been a part of documented self-recovery for at least twelve months within the last two years. This includes leadership experience, peer support, and mentorship.
  • Must pass a state-oriented peer training program

Competencies needed for certification:

  • Working knowledge of the mental health organization and its policies
  • A strong understanding of HPCS membership and its activities
  • Strong knowledge and understanding of the state’s code of ethics
  • Know what it means to provide peer-to-peer support
  • The ability to create and lead group activities meant to strengthen and aid recovery
  • Must be able to document peer-to-peer activities related to supporting services
  • Must be able to combat peers’ negative self-talk, fears, anxiety, and stress to solve problems better
  • Help peers visualize, set, and put their goals into action
  • Be a leader in prioritizing mental health and directing peers to seek the services of mental health clinicians and professionals

The applicant must demonstrate an understanding of resilience and recovery to help form an appropriate leadership level. There are many stages of recovery, and the applicant must understand and demonstrate the ability to aid their peer in working towards their goals. As a leader, it is helpful to use one’s recovery journey as long as you adhere to rehabilitation ethics.

Being a leader is an important position, and one must understand the dynamics of the relationship. Integrity is vastly important when working with the general public. Remember this when working with those in a more vulnerable position. It is important to ask open-ended questions so patients feel they can better establish common ground with applicants to aid their recovery.

The applicant must be able to participate in healing conversations and provide a safe space when dealing with conflict and negative self-talk. Also, the applicant must be sensitive when it comes to the needs of their peers in their recovery. The applicant must know that people come from many walks of life and should hold themselves to a standard of cultural sensitivity.

To better serve their peers, the applicant must recognize the importance of self-care, which includes:

  • Recognizing stress and burnout
  • The role of their recovery plan
  • The importance of having a support network

Application Process

To obtain an application, applicants need to contact the board of consumer affairs. To become certified for HPCS, one needs to read through and agree to the training program’s competencies, the HPCS code of conduct and ethics, the HPCS spectrum of activities, and engage in volunteer or paid work experiences.

Enclosed along with the completed application should be:

  • Signed acknowledgment of the HPCS range of activities
  • Signed compliance with the HPCS code of ethics and conduct
  • Three signed professional references

The completed packet of information should then be sent to Hawaii’s office of the consumer affairs department of health services.

If all information is not completed, the office of consumer affairs will reach out by sending a request for the rest of the documentation within 14 days of receipt. All requested information must be returned within 30 business days of the original deficiency letter.

The application processing time for completed applications is six weeks. After this time, a decision will be made, and the applicant will be contacted.

Renewing Your Certification

Certifications are renewed annually. To do this, one must have documented demonstration of following the HPCS code of ethics and conduct, including no conduct violations upon their record and submit a completed application for renewal. Applicants have 45 days before the end of their certification to turn in all of the proper documentation.

In addition to recertification, an applicant must report any changes to the office of consumer affairs, including:

  • Name, address, or contact information
  • Change in supervisory staff
  • If HPCS no longer wishes to provide peer-to-peer services
  • Any violation that has been stricken from the applicant’s record

If the applicant fails to report any of these changes, it can mean suspension of their certification.

An applicant may also request inactive status at any point, as long as their certification is in good standing and they have met all of the required competencies. A request application must be sent to the Office of Consumer Affairs to receive inactive status.

Should You Get a Degree?

While a degree isn’t necessary for every facility, continued education is necessary, given the nature of the peer-to-peer certification. Applicants must complete at least 16 further hours of continued education a year, including, but not limited to: seminars, training classes, and workshops.

Topics for continuing education.

  • Recovery in the field of mental health and re-occurring disorders
  • Crisis management
  • Occurring mental health disorders
  • The impact and importance of a diagnosis
  • Understanding treatment
  • Mental health in rural settings.
  • Peer Support to foster recovery and resiliency
  • Peer guided recovery
  • Illness management and recovery
  • Creating a wellness action plan
  • Individual-centered planning and relapse prevention and recovery
  • Assisting peers in creating and sustaining self-help workgroups
  • How to build self-esteem
  • Mental health and substance abuse
  • Relapse prevention
  • Self-guided recovery and resiliency
  • Reducing stress
  • Recognizing burnout
  • Identifying triggers leading to relapse
  • Conflict resolution
  • Coping skills
  • Cultural competencies, grief and spirituality
  • Cultural differences and belief systems
  • How to cope with grief and loss
  • How grief ties into recovery
  • Spirituality and recovery
  • The impacts of beliefs in spirituality on recovery

Job Outlook within the State of Hawaii

Once certified, a peer recovery counselor can work within mental health facilities and hospitals and make home visits. Currently, available positions are desired on the Big Island, Honolulu, and Kapolei, with salaries ranging from $31k-60k a year. The national average is $56.416.

Some positions present benefits such as a 401k, medical, dental and referral program. 

  • Sample of Job Description:

A peer support team member helps foster a sense of support for those recovering, setting and working toward goals, and building resiliency. Must have the ability to provide security in developing new coping skills, self-monitoring techniques, and discovering problem-solving techniques. As a role model, the peer support specialist brings together recovering members within group or solo sessions to show support as they build personal resiliency within the community.

  • Job Duties:
    • The peer support specialist will be the first to make initial contact to conduct education and welcome calls to members within the space of their own home and provider visits as needed.
    • Coordinate with health specialists to complete initial member assessments.
    • Peer support specialists will head non-clinical interventions supervised by licensed clinicians.
    • Facilitate timely access to services
    • Ensure that there is no block between care and medications
    • Aid in providing and assisting in transportation services
    • Schedule and complete initial intake assessments
    • Monitor assessments to keep track of member signs or health changes
    • Coordinate with proper departments as required by member’s needs

Recovery coaching is an important role. These are caring people looking to put forth what they have learned about recovery to help others in need. For more information on taking the first steps toward this rewarding career, don’t hesitate to contact the AMHD Office of Consumer Affairs at 808-586-4688.