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Recovery Support Specialist

Recovery Support Specialist providing assistance.

Department: Recovery Support Specialist

Program Type: Human and Public Services

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Recovery Support Specialists (RSS) draw on their own life experiences to help others develop and maintain their recovery from substance abuse disorders (SUD), mental health disorders (MHD), or dual diagnoses.

RSS is a relatively recent addition to the treatment of individuals in recovery and ECC is excited to be among the first community colleges in Illinois to offer this program. Often times former addicts act as mentors or role models to motivate and monitor other addicts to promote long-term recovery and prevent relapse.

Prepare for Immediate Employment

The employment outlook for Recovery Support Specialists is positive. Growth is driven by increased awareness and acceptance of substance abuse and mental health issues and increased access to health care and support services.

Additionally, the opioid epidemic has increased the need for addiction treatment and recovery support services. Roughly 43,600 job openings are projected each year over the decade. Refer to Career Coach for related occupations and compensation.


Plan of Study and Course Descriptions

Review the ECC catalog for details about the Recovery Support Specialist plan of study and course descriptions.

Basic Vocational Certificate

What is a Recovery Support Specialist?

A Recovery Support Specialist is a professional who supports and assists individuals in recovery from substance abuse, mental health issues, or other behavioral health challenges. They may work in hospitals, outpatient treatment centers, rehabilitation facilities, and community-based organizations. They may provide one-on-one support, facilitate support groups, and connect clients with resources and services to help them maintain their recovery and improve their overall health and well-being. Recovery Support Specialists may also provide education about recovery and help clients develop coping skills and strategies to manage their challenges.

Who can become a recovery support specialist?

The RSS program is unique because it is only available to people with a “lived experience” of having a SUD, MHD, or Dual Disorder (a SUD combined with an MHD). This position requires a high school diploma or GED and demonstrates personal knowledge or advocacy in recovery to obtain the credential.

This program is for people entering the field and those already working in either the SUD or mental health fields who wish to transition from their current clinical or administrative role to work as an RSS.

Why become a recovery support specialist?

The demand for RSS is quickly growing. The State of Illinois strongly encourages treatment providers to supplement existing treatment staff with RSS. It has been written into the Medicaid Rules of the State of Illinois to require that a Community Support Team consists of at least one RSS. Each Assertive Community Action Team consists of at least one recovery support specialist. Some communities have also created mental health/homeless intervention teams, normally consisting of an RSS, a Master’s trained clinician, and a paramedic.

How long does it take to become a recovery support specialist?

This is a three-semester basic vocational certification program for Recovery Support Specialist students. ECC will prepare you for this exciting career as a recovery coach with a combination of classroom and field experiences in area organizations. Courses are offered both in-person and online to accommodate your schedule. Plus, field experiences can be completed close to home. Afterward, you'll be ready for a job as a recovery support specialist with local organizations.

What sets ECC’s recovery support program apart?

ECC is among the first community colleges in Illinois to offer this cutting-edge program. Individuals completing this program will be eligible to take the state certification exam through the Illinois Certification Board (ICB). They will be eligible for employment as Certified Recovery Support Specialists (CRSS) in primarily MHD or Dual Diagnosis treatment programs or as Certified Peer Recovery Support Specialists (CPRS) in a SUD or Dual Diagnosis treatment program.

What do recovery support specialists do?

  • Form a helping relationship with a person in recovery from a mental illness, a substance use disorder, or a combination of both (dual diagnosis).
  • Develop Wellness Recovery Action Plans (WRAP) for individuals in recovery.
  • Function as an advocate for persons in recovery by identifying how they have advocated for themselves.
  • Practice active listening, encourage self-care, and promote positive mindsets.

How is a recovery support specialist different from a therapist?

The RSS does not provide therapy; rather, they serve as a living role model, conduct advocacy within and outside the treatment program, serve as mentors, and provide case management services.

Getting a Job as a Recovery Support Specialist

Jobs that may be available to students who complete a recovery support specialist certificate include the following:

  • Recovery Support Specialist
  • Peer Support Specialist
  • Health Education Specialist
  • Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists
  • Rehabilitation Counselors
  • Social and Human Service Assistants

Learn more about the Recovery Support Specialist department at ECC!

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Video Overview

Recovery Support Specialist Program

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