How to Become a Recovery Coach in Rhode Island
If you’ve experienced recovery yourself, you know better than anyone that people in recovery need support to succeed. By working as a peer recovery coach, you can use your experience to assist others who might deal with mental health or substance abuse issues.
A trained peer recovery coach (also called a certified peer recovery specialist) provides caring support, mentoring, encouragement and much more to people in recovery. Recovery coaches don’t take the place of physicians, psychologists, addiction specialists or other professionals. Instead, they provide a valuable supplement to clinical care by focusing on each person’s individual needs.
With training and certification, you can be ready to extend a much-needed hand to those in recovery. In Rhode Island, the State Department of Health and Human Services (DHS) oversees peer recovery services and the Department of Behavior Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals (BHDDH) processes certifications.
Working as a Recovery Coach
Peer recovery specialists are employed by community centers, hospitals, addiction centers, mental health facilities and organizations that serve veterans and the homeless. You may work full-time or part-time. You will work under the supervision of a clinician or someone trained in peer recovery services.
As a peer recovery coach, you act as a mentor, role model and guide to individuals learning to manage recovery and self-help skills. Each person’s needs will be different, but some of the tasks you may have include:
- Listening with empathy to the individual’s concerns
- Sharing your personal story and experiences when appropriate
- Encouraging others in recovery as they develop job skills and independence
- Connecting the person to resources that can assist with child care, education or other practical matters
- Fostering a positive outlook with relationships and social activities
- Discussing strategies for managing medical needs and self-care
Unlike physicians, psychologists, or counselors, peer recovery specialists are peers—they are equal partners in another person’s recovery. They work alongside them and build a positive relationship with them as they work to improve their health and reach their goals.
While the individual directs their own recovery, the peer recovery specialist can provide vital support. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) explains that the peer recovery coach may assist those in recovery with physical and emotional health, safe living arrangements, and life activities such as going to school or gaining financial independence. In training, the peer recovery coach becomes informed about community resources available for those in recovery.
How to Qualify as a Recovery Coach in Rhode Island
The Peer Recovery Specialist certificate is designed for those with at least two years of lived experience in recovery and who wish to use their knowledge and understanding to assist others on their recovery paths.
While you don’t need a college degree to become a recovery coach, you must have a high school diploma or its equivalent. Before applying for certification, you must complete 46 hours of specialized education in all four peer recovery specialist domains.
These are broken down as follows:
- Advocacy: 10 hours
- Mentoring/Education: 10 hours
- Recovery/Wellness Support: 10 hours
- Ethical Responsibility: 16 hours
Advocacy involves asserting the individual’s rights, choices, and responsibilities. Your training will help you improve your communication skills and learn strategies for encouraging self-advocacy.
Mentoring/Education consists of understanding your role as a mentor. You will learn when and how to share your personal experiences. You will also study conflict resolution and problem-solving.
In Recovery/Wellness Support training, you learn ways to assist the individual as they work on behavior changes and find their own path in recovery.
Ethical responsibility covers understanding factors that may put individuals at risk and identifying signs of abuse. You will learn to set boundaries, honor cultural differences, maintain confidentiality and keep records.
You can receive your education through college or university courses, workshops, seminars or other types of training, including online courses. You must submit transcripts or other documentation showing that you have successfully completed each training hour.
Recovery Coach Training in Rhode Island
The Anchor Recovery Community Center offers a training program that supplies all 46 required hours. The 10-day training program is held in Providence.
In addition to education, you will also need the following:
- Experience. You will need a total of 500 hours of experience working with individuals in recovery and their family members. This can be either paid or volunteer experience, or a combination of both. For your application, you’ll submit documentation from each employer or supervisor you work with.
- Employment. You will need to be employed in a peer recovery services role when you apply. Your supervisor will complete a document verifying your employment and your job description.
- Supervision. You will submit documentation of 25 hours of supervised work in peer recovery services. Your supervisor will provide evaluation and feedback.
- Examination. You will need a passing score on the International Certification & Reciprocity Consortium (IC&RC) Peer Recovery examination.
Taking the Certification Exam
The IC&RC is a computer-based exam that consists of 75 multiple-choice questions to assess your knowledge of the four domains of peer recovery. The exam also covers peer recovery principles, the role of the peer recovery specialist, relationships and communication skills, cultural competence, confidentiality and ethical responsibilities.
You must register on the Rhode Island Certification Board (RICB) website to take the exam. The RICB will review your qualifications and approve your readiness for the exam. You’ll receive an email about how to set up a date, location, and time to take the test. In Rhode Island, testing centers are located in Cumberland, Lincoln, Newport, Providence and Warwick.
A written exam is offered four times a year. Special accommodations are also available if needed. Arrangements must be made in advance.
You will have two hours to complete the exam. The exam is scored on a scale of 200–800, and you need a minimum score of 500 to pass. It’s essential to prepare before taking the exam, even if you have worked in peer recovery for several years.
You can download a free study guide from the BHDDH website. The study guide was developed in Rhode Island but is used nationwide. The guide reviews the material and gives test-taking tips. It also includes a practice exam that contains questions similar to the ones on the test.
After completing the test, you will receive an unofficial score, but you need to submit official scores with your application.
If you fail the test, you will be given feedback about which domains you need to study. You must wait 90 days before retaking the test. Candidates who do not pass after four attempts must take additional training before trying again.
Applying for and Maintaining Recovery Coach Certification
Once you have met all qualifications and passed the exam, you can submit your application for certification. You can download an application on the RICB website.
The application consists of six main parts:
- Education. You will need to send your diploma or GED and official transcripts of any college or university courses you have taken. You can report your peer recovery training hours on a form provided in the application packet. Your instructor or supervisor must sign the form.
- Work experience. You must document your 500 hours of qualifying work experience on a form signed by your supervisor or employer.
- Current job. You must be employed as a peer recovery specialist at the time of application. Your employer must provide a job description that details your duties.
- Supervised experience. The 25 hours of supervised experienced must also be documented on a provided form, signed by the person or persons who supervised you.
- Exam scores.
- Fee. The fee is usually $150 but may be waived under certain circumstances. Check the current policy at the RICB website.
Suppose you have been convicted of a felony or been subject to disciplinary action. In that case, you are not automatically excluded from certification. However, you must include letters explaining the situation.
The application also includes an Acknowledgements and Release page that must be notarized. You must certify that you agree to the RICB Code of Ethics, that you live in Rhode Island at least 51% of the time and that you give the RICB permission to review your application and interview others if necessary. You can submit the application by email, postal mail, or fax.
Your certificate must be renewed every two years. You need to complete 20 hours of qualified continuing education before applying for renewal.
Becoming a Peer Recovery Specialist Supervisor
After working as a peer recovery specialist for at least two years, you are eligible to become a peer recovery specialist supervisor. Supervision involves working with peer recovery specialists to ensure they follow guiding principles, uphold ethical responsibilities and maintain records.
As a supervisor, you will meet regularly with peer recovery specialists and take responsibility for supporting and advising them in their activities. You may also assist with and conduct training and performance evaluations. You need to earn eight hours of specialized supervisor training to qualify as a supervisor.