By Bridget Bauer

Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders.

–Tom Peters, American writer on business management practices

With the Joplin recovery community moving forward in opening a recovery outreach community center (ROCC), Teddy Steen, executive director of ASCENT Recovery Residences, wants to make sure the public knows the difference between a ROCC and a traditional treatment center.

Recovery centers are a safe, stigma-free place for people living with substance abuse use disorder and mental health issues. The unique thing about recovery centers is they are led by certified peer specialists, which means the leaders have been there, done that and know what those who take advantage of the centers have endured. The recovery community is starting to see the benefits of using people who have been through the substance abuse and recovery journey as paid professionals. Several states have started programs for certified peer specialists.

“Missouri has a program, and it is a combination for mental health and substance abuse,” Steen said. “The peers guide the ones seeking help through the complicated systems that are needed to get their life back on track. One of the causes of recidivism and relapse is they can’t face all the barriers to straighten their lives out, and they give up. On top of that, the centers are designed to give tools and skills so they can become self-sufficient, successful and productive members of the community.”

On April 1, Dr. Thomas G Kimball, co-author of Six Essentials to Achieve Lasting Recovery, published an article on The Doctor Weighs In website titled The Benefits of Peer Support Providers in Addiction Treatment. The article highlighted seven benefits of having peer support providers in the treatment spectrum.

Lived Experience with Recovery and Substance Abuse Disorder—Certified peer specialists have lived through the substance abuse recovery and have an intuition that can help those seeking guidance.

Early Intervention and Relapse Prevention–Because of their experiences, certified peer specialists can see triggers for relapse and intervene to avoid a relapse.

Extensive Training and Certification Process—Certified peer specialists go through intensive training and certification processes, which can put individuals in recovery at ease.

Helping Family Members and Primary Supports–Additionally, the certified peer specialist can be the primary contact if someone does not have immediate family or is not in contact with family.

Reduction of Cost—Certified peer specialists’ care can help reduce the overall cost of treatment, especially through video- and tele-conferencing.

Longitudinal SUD treatment and outcomes data—from the website:

In addition to recovery support, certified peer specialists can also gather meaningful data over the period of time they are offering support.

Because they have their own unique experiences with substance abuse disorder, they are also open to using these experiences to create connections. Because of this, they are able to build trust with the individuals they support. This type of trust increases the probability of effectively providing needed support while also gathering more accurate data with the consent of the person in recovery.

Augmenting Treatment—from the website:

Collectively, we still don’t know a great deal about recovery and how a person stays in recovery long-term. Certified peer specialists, due to their skill and the cost-effectiveness of their services, can work in tandem with treatment care professionals and providers to extend the continuum of care. 

Kimball used the following quote in his article: In the words of William White (White and PRO-ACT Ethics Workgroup), an elder statesman of the recovery field, “Many people have acquired experiential knowledge about recovery, but only those who have the added dimension of experiential expertise are ideal candidates for the role of recovery coach.”