What is a Peer Recovery Coach?

When you’re struggling, it helps to talk to someone who’s been there. A Peer Recovery Coach can be that person. Learn how.

In substance use disorder recovery, a Peer Recovery Coach with personal experience can provide relatable support and understanding. But how does a Peer Recovery Coach help?

We talked with Matthew Ferrell from Turning Point Recovery Center in Pontiac, who’s been a Peer Recovery Coach for about five years. Nearing his seventh year of being “clean,” Ferrell says this accomplishment feels amazing.

“I get to be a good father to my son, who is 10,” Ferrell says. Read our Q&A with Ferrell to learn more about the work of a Peer Recovery Coach.

Q: What is a Peer Recovery Coach?

A Peer Recovery Coach is a person who supports the journey of recovery from a substance use disorder or co-occurring disorders based on shared life experience. Often, we role model the many pathways to recovery as each beneficiary determines his or her own way. 

Q: What’s a more surprising way a Peer Recovery Coach can help?

We remove barriers to resources in the recovery community. People who are struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder may need to get an ID, a driver’s license or a birth certificate to get housing or a job, and they don’t know how. We help with things like this.

Q: Who makes a good candidate to work with a Peer Recovery Coach?

Any individual who is struggling to navigate through recovery and needs help regaining control of their life and the damage caused by addiction. It’s good to have someone you can call who will be there for you and knows what you are going through. It’s a great help to hear “It’s hard right now, but it will pass.” 

Q: Is a Peer Recovery Coach trained?

Yes, and my training was awesome. Along with like-minded people, we learned a lot of skills to help beneficiaries. We role-played different situations that we have all been through and can relate to. The training helps me determine the best resources a beneficiary may need, whether that’s detox or residential treatment, for example.

Q: Does a Peer Recovery Coach benefit, too?

Of course! It’s a reminder every day of the fact that people are struggling, and if I’m not vigilant in my own recovery, that could be me if I make the wrong decision. I didn’t go into being a Peer Recovery Coach thinking it would help me. I am in it to help others. But as I’m helping more and more beneficiaries, I’m realizing how lucky I am to not be going through it anymore and that I can help others. 

Q: What’s the ideal outcome?

I can honestly say that it’s the same outcome anyone with a substance use disorder can hope for, and that’s long-term sobriety. 

Q: What else do you want people to know?

There are people struggling. If you reach out for help from somebody who has been through the same experience, you may have more hands reaching back than you think. There’s a lot of stigma, but people experiencing substance use disorders are still people and they need help just like anyone going through physical pain needs help.

OCHN is contracted by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) to manage and fund a service provider network for approximately 29,000Oakland County residents at more than 400 service sites across the county. People who receive public behavioral health services through OCHN’s provider network include those who have an intellectual or developmental disability, mental health concerns or substance use disorder. Most of these individuals have Medicaid insurance coverage.       

OCHN’s goal is to ensure these individuals are aware of and have access to services and supports that will improve their health and quality of life, as well as ensure their engagement in full community participation. Its mission to “inspire hope, empower people, and strengthen communities” reflects an unyielding belief in a “Valuable System for Valued People.” 

Programs and supports provided by OCHN’s service network are available at oaklandchn.org.


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