Lessons from Collegiate Recovery Programs

The field of addiction treatment is fraught with issues, from unethical providers, to a lack of evidence-based practices, still there are many programs that provide quality care and have successful outcomes in the short-term. Yet despite the short-term success of helping people find recovery, many people experience a recurrence of symptoms at alarming rates. It is said that anywhere from 40-60% of people relapse after Substance Use Disorder treatment, and that people seek treatment an average of 6-7 times before finding long-term recovery. During a time when people are dying at alarming rates from Substance Use Disorder, there is one resource that seems to have found the key to helping people establish long-term recovery, Collegiate Recovery Programs (also known as CRP).

Collegiate Recovery programs get their students from treatment centers, jails, community colleges, and high schools. There are no dramatic difference between the people who go to a collegiate recovery program and those who don’t. What is different is the level of support.

Collegiate Recovery Programs offer individual and group therapy, mentoring, recovery-centric social spaces, sober living spaces, and access to other people in recovery. Recovery (especially early recovery) can be a lonely and scary time, Collegiate Recovery Programs offer wrap around support services. When most people are discharged from treatment they are told to use what they learned, go to meetings, and “work the program”, if they are lucky they are scheduled for a therapy appointment. Collegiate Recovery Programs assume that people need support in recovery and provide the supports necessary to ensure success. How successful are Collegiate Recovery Programs at reducing risk and relapse? Less than 10% of people who participate in CRP’s experience a recurrence of symptoms. So how do people who aren’t college bound establish this type of support to promote long-term recovery?

The treatment industry needs to buy into the idea that there is a continuum of care and that treatment isn’t the be all/end all of establishing recovery. There needs to be a commitment from the treatment providers to write appropriate discharge plans that include referrals to therapists, addiction psychiatrists, recovery coaches, as well as helping people find recovery-centric supports like recovery centers, and recovery “meetup” groups in their local communities. When people in early recovery have social and therapeutic supports, self-efficacy is increased, and the likelihood of establishing long-term recovery improved.