The Who, Where and How
Recently a mutual aid group member, specifically a “12 Stepper” asked “What’s a recovery coach/peer advocate? And how is that different from a sponsor or a counselor?” We realized that even in the world of recovery, not everyone knows about peer recovery professionals!

The disease of addiction is multi-faceted requiring multiple ways to address it. Some people seeking recovery use a traditional treatment facility. Others will choose mutual aid groups, their fitness or yoga community, or a combination of these pathways. The possibilities to seek out and attain recovery are endless! A peer recovery professional is another option in the list that may include a sponsor from their 12 step program or a professional counselor.

Many will be familiar with the concept of sponsorship from 12 step programs (Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, AA, NA, etc.). An important part of what makes those programs work is the concept of giving back. Sponsorship is a way of participating in recovery and supporting others. According to AA’s Tradition Eight “Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever nonprofessional.” This means that sponsors are unpaid. They should also work completely within the philosophy of the 12 step program to which they belong.

Professional counselors may be LCSWs (licensed clinical social workers), psychologists, psychotherapists, or have other qualifications and work within a particular therapeutic framework. These professionals must be licensed in the state of New York and may treat people with addiction and often with a co-occurring mental illness such as anxiety, depression or bi-polar disorder. Seeking a professional for counseling can be very helpful to address underlying issues, but of course, is not necessary for everyone.

A new way to support recovery is utilizing a certified addiction recovery coach (CARC) or certified recovery peer advocate (CRPA). Coaches (CARC) or peer advocates (CRPA) walk alongside you on your journey, and guide you as you create your action plan for recovery. They can link you to 12 step programs, professional counselors, school or employment services, social services such as housing and SNAP benefits, and other services to help support and maintain your recovery. They do not assess, treat, or diagnose addiction or mental health issues. Neither should they receive a fee for referring you to a treatment service.

CRPAs and CARCs are similar to professional counselors, in that they are professionals. Like professional counselors they have ethical and legal obligations they need to abide by. However, unlike counselors, they may meet with and form more personal relationships with the person seeking their services outside of a professional office setting. These professionals are different from sponsors in many ways as well. First, although most are in recovery themselves and use their own “lived experience”, they are not necessarily connected specifically to any one mutual aid group or 12 step program and do not “work the steps” of that program with their “coachee.” They are resource liaisons and respect the many pathways of recovery.

Another way that CRPAs and CARCs differ from sponsors is that they can be paid, and must be certified in the State of New York. More on that below.

Certified Recovery Peer Advocates (CRPAs) can work in OASAS licensed treatment facilities and recovery support services; such as outpatient clinics, Recovery Community & Outreach Centers (RCOCs) and other home and community based services (HCBS). These agencies can be reimbursed by insurance companies, including Medicaid, for their non-clinical services. These peer professionals need to be supervised on a regular basis.

Certified Addiction Recovery Coaches (CARCs) are not necessarily tied to an OASAS licensed treatment or recovery facility and often work in community based settings. Some individuals in addiction recovery and other professions obtain this 60 hour certification to enhance their existing skills to specialize in addiction recovery coaching (i.e. Life Coaches, etc.). All must seek out professional supervision.

Pursuing the path to become a peer recovery professional can be an empowering way to help others, maintain one’s own recovery and re-enter the workforce. Friends of Recovery – NY can connect you to resources needed to become certified. In a previous issue of Recovery Talk we outlined the necessary steps. For an easy to understand article about certification go to:

Check our website for times and dates and to register for upcoming Recovery Coach Academy and other CARC & CRPA trainings:

For information about certification for CRPA and CARC and scholarships for certification fees for CRPA: Contact New York Certifications Board: or New York Certifications Association: (for scholarship money for training & certification fees for CRPA only.)
For more information on recovery coaching you can visit our website:

Stay tuned to find out how to apply for funding for certification and training! Although it is recommended that each person make a financial investment in their own career we know that that may pose a hardship for some. New York State has made monies available in the past for training, certification and testing fees. When that happens again, we’ll let you know.

Please contact us for more information.