As the ‘system’ applies increasing pressure for certification, it might be time for the recovery community to resist, especially the recovery coach field.
Hear me out.
I’m not against training recovery coaches. Of course not. Training enhances the service, helps us stay in our lanes and improves our profession. Strong proponents within the certification bureaucracy declare the same intention.
But I’m not so sure.
I view their pronounced motives warily, and with cynicism. I feel systems and administrators seek control over recovery coaches. They believe that certification/credentialing of individuals is the best way to keep us in line. Often, it’s the only way they are aware of.
I raised this issue in other blogs. In my opinion most certification processes possess serious flaws. The testing procedure serves as the primary shortcoming.
Ask yourself, “Is a written test the best way to determine if an individual has the necessary skills to serve as an effective recovery coach?”
I think not. Yet we perpetuate this practice.
What’s really going on? Recently, with the influx of financial resources, treatment providers, hospitals, managed care organizations hired recovery coaches (peers) and demanded a specific certification. Why? So they could bill for the service. Or fulfill a grant requirement.
Follow the money. Always follow the money.
Folks are often hired because of their credentials. The person with the credentials checks all the right boxes. Often people become employed through shoddy hiring practices. The combination of ineffectual certification processes and below standard wages often results in setting the position up for failure. People are still shocked when some recovery coaches breach ethics, stride across boundaries, and/or treat people disrespectfully.
Certification does not prevent this from happening. And ethical breaches are not a reason to eliminate or vilify recovery coaching. If that were true, we’d need to eliminate the psychiatric profession, or the clergy, or all attorneys, or… well name something. Ethical breaches abound everywhere.
When ethical breaches occur in other professions, do we call for more training? More certification? Stricter licensure? Sometimes, but the system always does with recovery coaches. The trend today calls for more and more hoops for recovery coaches to jump through.
In my opinion, ethical breaches are not a certification/credentialing issue. Poor performance is not a certification/credentialing issue.
Simply, it’s a hiring issue. Hire fantastic people, generate fantastic results.
Many, many years ago, I sat in a small, family-owned Italian restaurant in Washington, DC, the food delicious and the conversation profound. Founding members of Faces & Voices of Recovery discussed the idea of recovery coach certification. We agreed that credentialing individuals would not benefit the emerging field of peer-based recovery support services. Instead, we talked about accrediting organizations. Once vetted, the organization would assure the competency of their employees to provide services.
The Council on Accreditation of Peer Recovery Support Services (CAPRSS), established by Faces & Voices of Recovery, offers a rigorous accreditation. CCAR, an established recovery community organization (RCO), earned the accreditation. In my opinion, I think the process may be a bit too rigorous and arduous, so I’d like to see RCO accreditation become more accessible.
At CCAR, we’ve been hiring people for 20 years. In the last few years, we’ve grown from a staff of 15 to 42. Many of these are Emergency Department Recovery Coaches. Most of them (if not all) did not have any “credentials” when we hired them. Some volunteered with CCAR, some had attended the CCAR Recovery Coach Academy©, some had never heard of CCAR until they saw the job posted. Yet they became CCAR staff because they all had common personality traits – humility, kindness and gratitude. While we ask candidates about their interest in the position, employment history and skills, we assess their character.
It’s the art of hiring, isn't it?
Before I get into our actual procedure for hiring, here are some practices to avoid.
- Avoid the temptation to hire someone you know who you think would be a good fit. Or that you’d like to work with them. This includes family members and friends.
- Avoid shortcuts. For example, not publicly posting the job so you won’t have to review a bunch of resumes.
- Avoid rushing to fill positions because your newly awarded grant says your start date is in 2 weeks. Or you were supposed to start last month!
- Avoid creating new processes for different positions. Assure everyone goes through the same process.
Speaking of processes, here’s CCAR’s.
- Assess the need.
- Create a job description. CCAR works backwards. First we assess the Duties and Responsibilities, and then determine the skills (qualifications) needed to perform them. Finally, we create the Position Summary. Side note: CCAR removes all academic requirements for all positions.
- Create a job posting.
- Distribute the job posting over a variety of sources. Adhere to the deadline in the job posting.
- Blindly review all applications (names and addresses redacted).
- Do a telephone pre-screen for all candidates of interest.
- Conduct a 1st interview for those that passed the pre-screen using the same questions for all.
- Conduct a 2nd round interview with actual job scenarios for those you’re still interested in.
- Select a candidate and make a job offer. Do not settle. If no one rises to the top, repeat the process.
- Establish a full onboarding process for the new employee.
In summary, it’s my belief that many Recovery Community Organizations (RCOs) do not have exemplary hiring practices. The same can be said for many organizations working within the addiction and recovery field. They grab people with certain credentials quickly in order to fulfill a grant and/or billing necessity.
Unfortunately, the credential does not guarantee a competent employee. If you seek skilled, caring, capable and authentic employees, build a solid, artful hiring practice.
“In looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities; integrity, intelligence and energy. And if they don't have the first, the other two will kill you.” ~Warren Buffet
In 2015, I finished a thruhike of the entire Appalachian Trail, a trek of 2,189.2 miles. It took 189 days and 6 pairs of boots. During that sacred time, my purpose in life became more precisely defined. I am, simply, to coach recovery. Recovery saved me from an early demise and brought purpose to my tattered life. I have learned that I’m a coach to my very core. I am blessed to put the two together. I started work at the Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery (CCAR) in January 1999. I became the Executive Director of this recovery community organization in 2004. I have trained the CCAR Recovery Coach Academy© dozens of times and have a hand in modifying, improving and adapting various recovery coach curricula. I’m old enough now to start considering my legacy. This is one way for me to share lessons learned in my recovery, in my role as Executive Director and a trainer. When I engage with others, I present the same messages repeatedly. It’s time to write them down.
Phil “Right Click” Valentine
Recovery established 12.28.87