Becoming a Recovery Coach in North Carolina

A recovery coach (sometimes called a peer support specialist or mentor) is an individual with a mental health or addiction-related disorder which helps clients overcome similar challenges. It can be anybody in society, from military veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to ordinary people recovering from the effects of alcohol or illicit drug consumption. Having experienced similar psychiatric or behavioral health issues, they all have one thing in common–the ability to relate to and inspire their peers to recover.

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Certification Requirements for North Carolina Recovery Coaches

Empathy from a shared mental illness or substance use problem comes naturally for most recovery coaches. Having empathy can work wonders in your efforts to build rapport with clients. Other necessary skills to succeed in the field include interpersonal, communication and active listening.

Most states don’t usually have specific formal requirements for employment or volunteering as a recovery coach. However, as critical stakeholders in mental health/substance abuse services, they may endorse, sponsor or even set training standards for peer support specialist training. This is the case in North Carolina, where the Division of Mental Health Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services oversees a state-wide certification program.     

To become an NC-certified peer support specialist or CPSS, you must be 18 years or older and have a verifiable one-year recovery experience to share with peers. You’ll write about it in the application form for state certification (including any resources or tools that helped you in the process). You need not have received any professional mental health or drug rehabilitation services to be eligible.

Include two letters of recommendation when applying to become a certified North Carolina recovery coach. One must have known you for at least 12 months, and the other should testify to your recovery from their involvement.

The education criteria include having a high school diploma, GED or college/university transcript. Applicants must also provide a certificate proving 40 hours of state-approved NCCPSS training (completed within the past two years). Additional 20-hour coursework in relevant topics like psychology, counseling, substance use and social work is mandatory for certification. Those with only eight extra hours of children or adolescent-related education can also apply.

Peer Support Specialist Training Under the NCCPSS Program

Before enrolling in a 40-hour peer support specialist training approved by the state, check if it meets the minimum instructor-to-participant ratio that the NCCPSS program requires. The official policy is to have one certified trainer for a class of 15 and two for larger classes.

The organizations below have peer support specialist courses that follow the training policies and curriculum guidelines of the NCCPSS program.

Little Gerald Services

Little Gerald provides community-based services to individuals facing challenges within society, home or school. For $275, you can enroll in the “Empowered Life: Recovery Support Peer Training” program that the organization offers multiple times throughout the year. The 40-hour course incorporates real-life experiences to equip participants with the knowledge they need to effectively provide services to people with mental health or addiction-related complications. It prepares trainees to become certified recovery coaches and find suitable employment immediately after certification.

The Monroe-based organization offers Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) training for $55. Topics covered during the 20-hour course include minimizing intrusive or troubling thoughts, personal empowerment and life goals. You need the additional course to qualify for PSS certification.

Empowered Life: Recovery Support classes are in-person and held in various locations such as Monroe, Burlington and Winston-Salem. If you need any special accommodations, such as a price reduction, you can request them and provide an explanation for them on the application form.

Therapeutic Advances, PLLC

Therapeutic Advances trains people in various community service areas, including therapy, behavioral health and clinical supervision. It has scheduled dozens of “Extending your Portfolio: Certified Peer Support Training” classes for different times of the year in locations such as Charlotte, Greensboro and Durham. The course is 40 hours long and is offered in 20-hour phases over two consecutive weekends.

It introduces trainees to the history of peer support and encourages interactive participation. North Carolina residents pay $330 to $370 to complete the state-approved training in preparation for recovery service delivery in the community. They acquire mission-critical skills in the program, such as crisis intervention, communication and creative expression.

To meet the 20-hour additional training prerequisite for NC-certified peer support specialists, you can take up the Therapeutic Advances WRAP course for $155. You’ll learn how to cope with difficulties and emotive issues that may impact various aspects of your everyday life, such as your career or relationships. 

On Track Wellness and Recovery Center

Annie R. Hasan, whose professional credentials include a doctor of education degree and WRAP Facilitator, designed this recovery coach course. The 50-hour training helps participants meet the minimum criteria for becoming a North Carolina certified peer support specialist. Trainees complete at least 40 hours of the program in-person in various locations throughout the state, including Fayetteville and Charlotte. The remaining study time is self-paced and may include some homework.

Adoption of adult learning principles, experiential exercises and didactic information make this course format ideal for precertification training and participants’ personal growth. Instructional material and resources offered include textbooks, handouts and video or PowerPoint presentations. The course costs $375.

On Track Wellness and Recovery Center also offers WRAP, the other mandatory precertification training. You’ll pay $175 for the 8-hour in-person class.   

Vaya Health

Vaya Health has an intensive peer support specialist course that features interactive sessions and requires participants to share their behavioral health experiences. The in-person classes take 40 hours to complete and are available in multiple locations throughout the state, including Asheville. Trainees pay $30 for the course, which helps them satisfy critical requirements to become a North Carolina CPSS.

They learn to do more than just mentor and support peers facing similar struggles. The program teaches them how to continue checking their mental health and staying on the recovery path. 

When applying for a slot in the peer support specialist course, you must indicate your willingness to identify as a recipient of addiction recovery or mental health services. Also, two references should each fill out a separate form supporting your application to the training.

Vaya Health may provide special accommodations to participants living with a disability per the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). You can request any reasonable program modifications that you may require to participate.

NC-HOPE (Helping Our Peers Excel)

The 40-hour peer support specialist curriculum at NC-HOPE meets the state’s minimum requirement for NCCPSS certification. V.O.I.C.E. Therapeutic Solutions of Raleigh developed the week-long class held in various locations, such as Chapel Hill and Raleigh. It is designed to nurture optimistic thinking–a powerful driver of positive life outcomes in people recovering from a mental illness or substance use-related challenges.

A supportive and fun environment with sufficient creative space allows participants to grow, learn and meaningfully interact with one another. Future recovery coaches receive professional guidance and resources to later empower and inspire their peers.   

The CPSS training fee is $365, although it costs $465 when combined with the WRAP course. If you’re only interested in the 20-hour extra class, you’ll pay $125 instead. NC-HOPE collaborates with A New Start While Empowering Recovery (A.N.S.W.E.R.) to conduct the monthly training in the North Raleigh area.

Prospective participants can request any special accommodations necessary to attend in-person classes smoothly.

Recovery Coach Work Settings, Income and Job Growth

North Carolina has over 4000 certified peer support specialists, including 432 with military experience. About 1446 specialize in addiction-related disorders, while 1565 are mental health experts. They generally work for organizations that provide behavioral health services in diverse environments such as recovery and rehabilitation centers, primary care offices and inpatient medical establishments.

When you become a certified North Carolina recovery coach, numerous part-time and full-time employment opportunities will await you. Your job may entail driving to treatment or recovery facilities to help clients in person. Sometimes you’ll be communicating with them over the phone or virtual chat. 

Most recovery coaches in North Carolina earn between $21,083 and $28,892 a year, according to ZipRecruiter. However, you can realistically expect annual compensation as low as $13,665 or as high as $35,139, depending on your employer, experience, location and other relevant variables.

The city of Charlotte has one of the highest mean wage rates per hour for certified peer support specialists and recovery coaches in the state ($15.58). Mount Gilead is at the opposite end of the pay scale at $13.28 on average.

Occupational growth projections for 2021-2031 from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics allude to the growing importance of recovery coaches to the behavioral health field. As community health workers, these specialists are in a professional group forecasted to expand at 12% over the decade. Their unique, inherent capacity to empathically engage individuals with mental disorders or addiction troubles helps to cement their vital role in the sector for years to come.