Recovery Support Specialist


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.

Who can become a recovery support specialist?

The RSS program is unique in that 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, demonstrates personal knowledge or advocacy in recovery in order to obtain the credential.

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

Why become a recovery support specialist?

The demand for RSS is quickly growing. The State of Illinois is strongly encouraging 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, which normally consist of an RSS, a Master’s trained clinician, and a paramedic.

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

For Recovery Support Specialist students, this is a three-semester basic vocational certification program. 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 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 a Certified Peer Recovery Support Specialist (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 ways in which 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 external to the treatment program, serve as mentors, and provide case management services.

Plan of Study and Course Descriptions

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

Basic Certificates

Getting a Job as a Recovery Support Specialist

Recovery support specialists are needed throughout organizations in the Northern Illinois region, including mental health centers, community health centers, prisons, and private practice. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselor jobs will grow by 23 percent by 2030, which is much faster than average. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors, (accessed February 17, 2022).

You can find the median wage and income potential for Recovery Support Specialists on Elgin's Career Coach site.

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 Recovery Support Specialist Training at ECC!

Earning a certificate at Elgin Community College can set your career in motion.

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