Empowering Families in Recovery Blog
Introduction: Habits are hard to break, and bad habits like smoking, drinking, sedentary lifestyle, and overeating are making our population sick. While doctors are trained to diagnose and treat, they aren't trained to help people change their behavior. This is where recovery support specialists come in.
What Are Recovery Support Specialists? Recovery support specialists are healthcare para-professionals who help people change their lifestyles using a tailored approach and the tools of compassion, motivation, and self-efficacy building. They're not trained in medicine, but they're trained to fill the gap in the healthcare system by working with patients in the days and weeks between appointments or post inpatient treatment.
The Role of Recovery Support Specialists: According to Timothy Harrington, Chief Empowerment Officer of Sustainable Recovery, recovery support specialists require a large skill set to be effective. For people transitioning from other medical disciplines, it requires a deprogramming from the role of expert advisor to that of health facilitator. Unlike physicians, who serve as advisors, defining agendas, and treating disease, recovery support specialists serve as partners, eliciting patient's agendas and co-discovering solutions.
Outcomes Achieved by Recovery Support Specialists: Recovery support specialists have achieved good outcomes in programs for smoking cessation, weight loss, and diabetes management. Corporate America is also catching on, with some of the nation's biggest employers such as Johnson & Johnson hiring health coaches for their workforce to cut down on medical expenses and lost productivity.
Challenges Faced by Recovery Support Specialists: Despite these gains, the practice hasn't quite hit the mainstream and in most cases it is not covered by health insurance. One reason for this is that the field is still highly fragmented in terms of certification and education. Unlike seeing a board-certified physician, when you work with a recovery support specialist, you don't always know what you are going to get.
Standardizing the Field of Recovery Support Specialists: In order to standardize the emerging field of recovery support specialists, Timothy Harrington, is hopeful that soon there will be, at a national level, uniform educational standards, core competencies, and more research demonstrating cost savings. According to Harrington, part of the need is for us to come up with a cohesive definition and clarification of credentials to be able to hold our own in this ground where there is a lot of confusion.
The Future of Recovery Support Specialists: When asked if health coaching was an outsider movement, Timothy Harrington asserted that in the future recovery support specialists will have a place in the conventional primary care system, especially if there is an overhaul of the pay-per-service reimbursement model. Who will fix healthcare? The answer to this is still unclear, but recovery support specialists are certainly priming themselves to be an important part of the solution.