How to Become a Recovery Coach in Iowa

Recovery coaches play an important role in helping Iowa residents recover from substance use and behavioral health concerns. Peer recovery coaches are individuals who have made progress in their own recovery and are now ready to help others by coaching them toward further success.

There are a few different paths that potential recovery coaches can take in the state of Iowa. Regardless of which path you choose, one of the remarkable things about peer recovery work is that it allows people to use their lived experience of recovery to build a meaningful career.

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What are the Responsibilities of a Recovery Coach?

A recovery coach’s primary responsibility is to help guide people with substance use or behavioral addiction issues to develop a recovery plan and stick with it.

Job duties may include:

  • Meeting one-on-one with people in recovery to talk, share and provide support
  • Helping clients with things like budgeting, goal making and other life management skills
  • Supporting clients to develop strong self-care habits
  • Providing advice to families about how to support their loved ones in recovery
  • Observing the client’s progress on recovery and personal goals
  • Filing documentation of progress
  • Sharing personal experiences related to recovery
  • Leading group discussion sessions
  • Adhering to all privacy guidelines, especially HIPAA
  • Maintaining a strong code of ethics

Recovery coaches are employed in various settings, including nonprofit organizations, schools, ministries and medical facilities. To become a certified recovery coach, you need a handful of basic qualifications, including a training program, a passing IC&RC exam score, and supervised work hours in the field. 

Recovery Coaching Guidelines in Iowa

The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) requires the following credentials for certification as a recovery coach:

  • At least 18 years old
  • Recovery coaches can work on an employment or volunteer basis, but their supervisory organization must have a contract with IDPH
  • Must have personal experience in recovery
  • Must have been in recovery for at least 12 months
  • Must be willing to share those personal, lived experiences with other recoverees/clients
  • Must have completed training, either through a listed Recovery Peer Coaching program or another IDPH-approved program
  • Must be covered under the supervisory organization’s liability insurance

Additionally, if a behavioral health professional wants to be a peer recovery coach, their peer recovery coach training must have occurred before their behavioral health training.

Getting Certified as a Recovery Coach in Iowa

The first step in getting certified as a recovery coach in Iowa is to look at the Iowa Board of Certification’s guidance. Certification qualifies you for more positions and a better salary.

The Certified Peer Recovery Specialist (PRS) Handbook provides the criteria and requirements for certification, information about the application process, details about fees and timelines, recertification information, details about Continuing Education credits, the Code of Ethics and the process that coaches go through if they have violated the ethics code.

Application Requirements

To apply to be a PRS through the Iowa Board of Certifications (IBC), prospective coaches must:

  • Complete the entire application process
  • Provide a High School diploma or GED certificate
  • Submit a certification of completion program from one of the following training programs:
    • The University of Iowa
    • The Georgia Model training program (IPSTA)
    • Life Connections
    • An equivalent model that the IBC approves
  • Have 500+ hours of documented coaching time as a volunteer, employee, or practicum student under approved supervision
  • Work 25 hours of direct supervision
  • Pass the IC&RC Peer Recovery (PR) examination

Whether you choose the University of Iowa, the Georgia Model training program, Life Connections, or another approved training program, 46 hours of training must be specific to the four domains of peer coaching: Advocacy, Mentoring/Education, Recovery Support/Wellness, and Ethical Responsibility.

Three Options for Pursuing Training in Iowa

The three training options accepted by the state of Iowa are from the University of Iowa, IPSTA, and Life Connections. Each program helps prospective coaches prepare for credentialing, including the IC&RC exam.

University of Iowa

The University of Iowa offers the Peer Workforce Collaborative program, which offers training for Peer Support Specialists, Family Peer Support Specialists, and Peer Recovery Coaches.

A collaboration between the following  groups facilitates training:

  • University of Iowa National Resource Center for Family Centered Practice (UI-NRC)
  • Life Connections Peer Recovery Services
  • University of Iowa Department of Pediatrics
  • Division of Child and Community Health (UI-DCCH)
  • Child Healthy Special Clinics (CHSC)

Funding for this program is provided by the Iowa Department of Human Services.

Georgia Model Training (IPSTA)

The Georgia Model, as described by the UPENN Collaborative on Community Integration, is based on the work of Larry Fricks, founder of the Georgia Mental Health Consumer Network and Georgia’s Peer Specialist Training and Certification program.

This model trains prospective recovery coaches and helps them to find employment. It does not provide ongoing continuing education, so recovery coaches will need to find ways to earn those continuing credits on their own.

The curriculum of the Georgia model has four topic areas:

  • Clinical Supervision
  • Emergency Procedures
  • Basic Diagnoses and the DSM
  • Basic Communication Skills

Applicants must self-identify as being in recovery to be eligible for enrollment. Supervision in a Georgia Model program is provided biweekly by someone from the mental health organization, which serves as the trainee’s employer or volunteer placement.

Life Connections Peer Recovery Services

Life Connections defines its mission this way: “Life Connections supports individuals who are experiencing Mental Health and Substance addiction issues and want to work on their recovery goals and situations before getting into a crisis situation.”

They operate as a peer-owned, peer-run organization focusing on peer support services.

Recovery coaches at Life Connections run the Wellness Recovery Center and a peer respite facility called Rhonda’s House. They also help to write wellness plans and support recoverees on their continuing journey towards health and wellness. 

IC&RC Exam

After completing training and 500 hours of service in a peer recovery role, including 25 supervised hours, prospective recovery coaches must also pass the IC&RC examination.

Passing the exam demonstrates competency in the following areas:

  • Advocacy
  • Recovery
  • Wellness
  • Mentoring
  • Education
  • Ethical Responsibility

To prepare for the IC&RC exam, you can use the exam study materials provided by the organization. Contact the Iowa Board of Certification to find an IC&RC exam location and time.

Continuing Education After Passing the IC&RC Exam

In order to stay current on best practices and new research into peer recovery coaching practices, coaches must take continuing education credits.

Coaches must be recertified every two years, and the recertification application must document:

  • 20+ clock hours of continuing education credits
  • 6 of the 20 hours must be in ethics
  • The remaining hours must be in relevant areas

Of the 20 hours, no more than 10 of those hours may be earned through distance or online education platforms. If courses were taken at the university level, the student must have earned a C grade at a minimum. One semester hour is equivalent to 15 clock hours, which means that a 3-hr semester course is the same as 45 hours of continuing education. If the school runs on quarters, then a one-quarter hour is the equivalent of 10 clock hours.

The IBC requires transcripts of all college-level courses.

The Career Outlook for Iowa Recovery Coaches

Becoming a recovery coach is an incredible choice for compassionate individuals who want to take their experience with recovery and turn it into a meaningful career. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not analyze career stats for recovery coaches. Still, they do include them in their analysis of Health Education Specialists and Community Health Workers.

In 2021, the median annual pay for community health workers was $48,860, with an hourly rate of $23.49. There were 126,700 community health workers in the U.S. in 2021, with a projected growth of 12% between 2021 and 2031. This is considered much faster than average industry growth.

This is a growing field. More and more peer recovery advocates and coaches are needed as more people enter recovery and work to maintain their physical and mental health related to addiction and substance use issues.

Recovery coaches work in many environments, including:

  • Mental health clinics
  • Hospitals
  • Schools
  • Religious ministries
  • Nonprofit community organizations
  • Local and state governments
  • Residential treatment facilities

While many recovery coaches start out in volunteer roles, there are many career options for part-time and full-time work. Getting certified helps improve your chances of building a career by helping others with peer recovery coaching.

Iowa Needs Professional Recovery Coaches

Iowa’s Bureau of Substance Abuse in the Department of Health provides current data on the realities of substance use and problem gambling. These data reports demonstrate the need for recovery support as more Iowa natives enter recovery.

People who have already lived through the challenges of substance use, behavioral health issues, and addiction provide a unique and essential support system to those who are entering recovery today. Getting certified as a recovery coach is a step toward helping others on their path to recovery.