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Recovering students need support as they transition

January 20, 2015
by Brian Coon
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Brian Coon

Positive results in recovery support are reported among those serving two special populations: college students1 and licensed healthcare and other major professionals.2 But are the staff members working within collegiate recovery programs (CRPs) and professional monitoring organizations (PMOs) aware of each other? When they are, do they effectively collaborate when necessary?

Do these recovery support systems work together in an effective and integrated way? Or are recovering individuals on their own to discover, come to understand, and effectively engage and navigate between these unique systems of support over the course of their academic and professional career? These questions are of vital importance when considering the life trajectory of the individual being served. Consider the path of a student pictured in the hypothetical timeline below.

When viewed from this perspective, it is clearly in the interest of the individual student that addiction treatment professionals, staffs of various undergraduate and graduate wellness programs, and professional monitoring organizations network and collaborate effectively.

Commonalities and differences

Considered separately, CRPs and PMOs both support recovery from addiction with positive effects on remission rates for those they serve. Both CRPs and PMOs have existed for decades, and have developed and refined their respective and relatively unique models of recovery support. At first glance, one sees many aspects of recovery support3 that are shared between these two efforts. CRPs and PMOs both:

  • Take a chronic disease/recovery management approach with long-term engagement, rather than acute intervention, as their basic model;

  • Follow each individual in an ongoing way, over a period of years, with multiple indicators of progress and regress over time;

  • Consider the family, cultural milieu, and person served as collectively central to the focus of service provision;

  • Seek to maximize the long-term optimal outcome of the recovering individual, with disease management, recovery management, and overall health, wellness and life function of the person served in focus;

  • Provide recovery supports both inside and outside clinical settings, with a special emphasis on service provision within the recovering individual's natural environment; and

  • Evaluate service provision and effectiveness for each individual over a number of years.

The long-term recovery support outcomes of both CRPs and PMOs are in no small measure accounted for by these and other powerful structural and functional components.

A closer look, however, reveals key differences between CRPs and PMOs. These differences are important and necessary, given the particular distinctions between the populations they serve. These differences extend to both the philosophical and practical aspects of their work with recovering individuals.

Collegiate recovery communities protect individuals already in recovery from the generally pervasive and toxic threats against sustained addiction recovery found on college campuses. This is accomplished primarily through advocacy, and secondarily through accountability. CRPs excel in providing indigenous recovery support within the student’s milieu, in spite of the nature of the college campus. Their advocacy of and for recovering individuals extends to school administration, yielding positive impacts on academic entrance decisions, academic outcomes, and championing of real fellowship connections and related activities that support ongoing recovery.

The fact that their work takes place on college campuses and is highly effective at supporting recovery should be noticed by other recovery advocates, as their approaches could be extended in some version to other populations in other settings. Accountability may be found within CRPs. Examples may include a required minimum of six months of ongoing sobriety and active addiction recovery within a recovery fellowship for entrance to a collegiate recovery community, as well as ongoing adherence to a set of defined behavioral and academic standards.

Residency wellness programs4 offer a model of support for those in post-graduate training within their respective disciplines. Such efforts counter the significant problems found in that phase of training5 and promote overall wellness. As such, these programs extend recovery support beyond the reach of the undergraduate campus wellness program.

Professional monitoring organizations, by contrast, exist primarily to protect public safety through accountability and support, and secondarily to provide advocacy to their individual participant. PMOs regularly interact with those in the severely symptomatic phase of active and prolonged addiction, as well as those in both early and long-term recovery. They assist in identifying individuals with active addiction, placing them within systems of clinical care when necessary, and ensuring their participation in structures of accountability and support necessary to initiate and sustain recovery.

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Well stated Brian. Both sides of the proverbial fence or in this case, recovery path, i.e., CRPs and alternative programs (PMOs) - along with treatment programs - need to converse with one another more fully about each other's needs and goals in order to provide services that are effective and sensible over time. Discerning what is needed or not through each phase is critical, e.g., what does academia and the licensing board really need to attend to when reviewing a student background check? As many of us can appreciate, addressing personal/student recovery needs on the one side will not always, by itself, address or satisfy public/professional safety needs of the other. But we need to answer the who, what, when, where and why for both. For example, in 2002 both the American Nurses Association and the National Student Nurses Association passed resolutions that supported utilizing PMOs with professional nursing student programs. Yet now, over a decade later, comprehensive exchange and transition of student nurses from collegiate recovery to their professional role, e.g., CRPs to PMOs, remains largely unrealized. We owe it to both the individual and the community at large to engage in the deliberation and pursuit of practices and research that promote prudent standards and pathways of care, support and monitoring. - Michael Van Doren, MSN, RN, CARN, Program Director, Texas Peer Assistance Program for Nurses.

Addiction is really a worst part of human life if it converts the addiction of negative things. Positive addiction brings several of benefits but negative addiction is really harmful for us; therefore we used to take the support of different sources those are able to provide us good motivational path to overcome from our negative addictions. In different recovery center we have found different people with different addiction and after treatment they are able to recover soon from their addiction.

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