Becoming a recovery coach is a meaningful way for people to use their lived experience in recovery to support others. Peer support organizations are growing, and they need the contributions of knowledgeable and compassionate recovery coaches to meet their goals and achieve their mission.
To become a certified recovery coach in North Dakota, individuals must meet some basic eligibility requirements, complete a mandatory training program, participate in supervised hours of peer support work, and abide by the peer support Code of Ethics.
Recovery coaches are essential in recovery from substance abuse and related behavioral health issues. They are not therapists or mental health professionals but have direct, personal experience with addiction, mental health conditions and recovery.
Some of the job responsibilities of a recovery coach include:
- Developing self-empowerment strategies with recoverees
- Providing insights on the recovery process to recovering individuals and their care teams
- Supporting, advocating for, coaching, and mentoring those in recovery
- Helping with the development of recovery action plans
- Setting and assessing goals with recoverees
- Maintaining boundaries
- Abiding by a strong code of ethics for peer support specialists
- Serving as a compassionate and knowledgeable listener
North Dakota’s Behavioral Health and Human Services division provides oversight and credentialing for peer support coaches. They offer two peer support options for recovery coaches: Certified Peer Support Specialist I (PRSS I) and Certified Peer Support Specialist II (PRSS II). The critical difference between PRSS I and PRSS II is that the second level requires far more fieldwork hours. People at the second level can also supervise people at the first level.
To qualify for credentialing as a PRSS I, applicants must meet the following criteria:
- Be a resident of or work in North Dakota
- Self-attest to having personal experience with recovery from a mental health disorder, brain injury, history of substance use, or any combination of these things
- Be willing to share their experiences in recovery with the public and with clients
- Be at least 18 years old
- Have a High School diploma, GED, or equivalent academic record
- Be able to read, write, and complete the required training courses
PRSS II applicants must meet all of the above eligibility requirements as well as these additional qualifications:
- Completion of a peer support supervisory training course
- Completion of at least 500 hours of service as a peer support specialist
After confirming that you are eligible, applicants must fill out the application available on the North Dakota Behavioral Health and Human Services website. A $50 application fee must accompany the application.
Applicants must also submit a list of required attachments:
- Proof that you completed mandatory peer support training
- Three letters of recommendation (one personal reference, one professional, and one that attests to the individual’s commitment to recovery)
- A personal statement about the applicant’s lived experience with recovery
- A signed copy of the Code of Ethics
Applications may take up to 30 days to be processed.
Upcoming training sessions will be listed on the state’s Peer Support website. These sessions are in-person, although refresher courses are available online for individuals seeking recertification.
Prospective peer recovery coaches must apply to be admitted to the training program. Applicants who have already secured a job or volunteer position will be prioritized over those still looking for a position.
People may participate in training if:
- They will be supervising or working with peer support specialists in a work or volunteer capacity
- They self-attest to being in recovery from one or more of the following: brain injury, mental health disorder or substance use disorder
- They have a family member who lives with one or more of the following: brain injury, mental health disorder or substance use disorder
Training is also available from three other approved programs: the University of North Dakota, the Center for Addiction Recovery (CCAR) and the Federation of Families.
The University of North Dakota offers a Professional Recovery Coach training program. This program is available entirely online through the Ed2go program. The cost of this program is $1695, and it consists of 60-course hours that can be completed in approximately six months.
UND’s Professional Recovery Coach training program is certified by the International Association for Professional Recovery Coaches (IAPRC). The course can also be used for continuing education since the CEUs provided in this course are recognized by the Association for Addiction Professionals (NAADAC) and the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium (IC&RC).
The Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery (CCAR) program is one of the nation’s most respected recovery training programs. CCAR also offers live, virtual training via Zoom. This makes it an excellent option for individuals living in rural communities who cannot easily travel to Fargo or another in-person training location. Training sessions last several days, and participants must attend the entire session.
Here is the complete list of learning outcomes directly from the CCAR training site:
- Describe the Recovery Coach’s role and functions
- List the components, core values and guiding principles of recovery
- Build skills to enhance relationships
- Explore many dimensions of recovery and recovery coaching
- Discover attitudes about self-disclosure and sharing your story
- Understand the stages of recovery
- Describe the stages of change and their applications
- Increase their awareness of culture, power and privilege
- Address ethical and boundaries issues
- Experience recovery wellness planning
- Practice newly acquired skills
As you can see from the provided list, CCAR training provides coaches with a comprehensive approach to providing recovery support.
Another training option for those seeking to become a recovery coach in North Dakota is to obtain national certification from the National Federation of Families. A Certified Family Peer Specialist (CFPS) is the parent or family member of a person in recovery who offers support and guidance to other families of recovering individuals.
Applicants for CFPS must submit the following electronically:
- A resume
- Documentation of 1000+ hours of peer support to family members within five years
- Documentation of 88 hours of training
- A signed supervision verification form that shows at least 20 hours of supervised family peer support work
- $350 in fees ($50 application fee + $300 certification fee)
The training for CFPS through the National Federation of Families covers five key competency areas: Wellness and Resiliency, Effecting Change, Resources and Natural Supports, Systems Knowledge and Navigation, and Professional Responsibilities.
Peer recovery specialists and recovery coaches in North Dakota must be recertified every two years, which requires at least 20 hours of Continuing Education Units (CEU) within that time frame. Of those 20 hours, two or more hours must be focused on peer support ethics.
There are recorded continuing education training opportunities on the “Recorded Trainings” tab of the DHS peer support site.
- Peer Support Refresher (Four CEUs)
- Peer Support Ethics and Values in the Workplace (Four CEUs)
- Integration and Supervision of Peer Support Services in the workplace (Four CEUs)
Peer recovery support is a growing field of addiction and mental health treatment. Even though peer support specialists and recovery coaches are neither therapists nor clinicians, they still play an essential role in aiding North Dakotans in their recovery journeys.
People with PRSS I & II qualifications are eligible for more positions, including positions with higher pay. While some recovery coaches work on a volunteer basis because they are passionate about the cause, certified coaches and support specialists can turn their passion into a meaningful and essential career.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn’t have a unique data category for recovery coaches. Instead, they include them as part of the broader category of Health Education Specialists and Community Health Workers.
This field is growing, with a projected increase of 12% between 2021 and 2031. Any industry or field with a projected 12% growth is growing faster than the average industry. For recovery coaches, more positions will open every year.
In 2021, the median annual pay for this category was $48,860, which is $23.49 per hour. The pay rate for peer support specialists is dependent on location, employer, funding, and experience level.
Coaches and support specialists can be hired by several different organizations, including:
- State governments
- Municipal or local governments
- Mental health clinics
- Inpatient facilities
- Outpatient treatment facilities
- Religious Ministries
- Nonprofit community organizations
Many employers will hire coaches-in-training, who will spend their employment or volunteer hours gaining experience toward certification.
North Dakota needs more recovery coaches and peer support workers. Every year, countless North Dakota residents enter the first stages of their recovery process. Together with clinicians, therapists, court-appointed services, and community organizations, peer recovery support coaches offer hope to these individuals.
People who have already been through the same challenges have so much to offer! Recovery coaches and support specialists bring their lived experiences to the table, and they have the opportunity to use their own life circumstances to help others.