A collegiate recovery community, also known as a collegiate recovery program, is a school supported community of students in recovery. The purpose of a CRC is to provide support and help student members complete their education while staying sober in college. The first year in college can be especially difficult for a person in recovery who is suddenly confronted with the college-culture of substance use. Brett Watson, UCF CRC Founding Member, explains that “navigating a college campus while you’re new in recovery can be a very daunting task.”  Whether a recent graduate of a teen substance abuse treatment program or an adult student returning to school in recovery, the challenges of being a student in recovery are unique. These programs provide an added level of support to promote success. 

What are Collegiate Recovery Communities?

Collegiate recovery communities (CRCs) are sometimes referred to as collegiate recovery programs (CRPs). The two terms are interchangeable. Either can be used to describe a supportive program in higher education institutions for students in recovery. Some essential components of CRC programs include:

  • University staff participation
  • Specific space on campus to be used exclusively for CRC services 
  • An abstinence-based approach to recovery
  • Peer support

Brett Watson says CRCs are intended “to provide a safe supportive place on campus for students in recovery.” These communities are not only a place for support but also act as a point-of-contact for students seeking outside resources. 

Benefits of CRCs

Allison Walsh, VP of Business Development and Branding at Advanced Recovery Systems explains that involvement in these communities for recovery provides an “extra layer of support and community [for students in recovery] so that they feel a part of the university experience.” Walsh asserts that this level of recovery support  “will sustain their recovery for the long term.” 

While people in early recovery may stand to gain the most from CRCs, all students in recovery can benefit. CRCs provide the opportunity to build relationships while receiving academic support, leadership workshops, health and wellness activities and other events intended to give students opportunities for sober social interaction. 

How to Find and Join A CRC

Addiction recovery resources such as CRC programs are becoming increasingly common on college campuses. There are currently 131 programs on campuses across the U.S. that provide CRC student services. Directories of CRC programs are available online through organizations such as the Association of Recovery in Higher Education (ARHE)

Every school has different guidelines regarding who may participate in a CRC. In most cases, this includes a desire to abstain from substance use of any kind. However, some schools require further qualifications such as letters of recommendation, evidence of treatment program completion, or participation in specific meetings or projects.

How to Start A CRC

While CRCs are becoming more common, there are still many campuses without these specialized support systems. If you’re interested in learning how to start a CRC, there are many available resources. There are several steps that can assist in the CRC development process, which can help support teen recovery

Advocate for Addiction Awareness

Students in recovery who organize to raise addiction awareness can bring the importance of collegiate recovery support to school officials. Often simply realizing the sheer number of students who would benefit from a CRC can influence a school’s decision to research and support a CRC on campus.

Each existing CRC began in a slightly different way. Whether advocating directly to the university’s president, the student health center, or leadership within specific education departments or student organizations, raising awareness of the benefits of a CRC can go a long way. Providing specific data regarding outcomes such as CRC student graduation rates, GPAs, and other measures of success can convince leadership of the benefits. 

Infographic one advising to advocate for addiction awareness

Raise Funding

A significant challenge can be CRC funding. School administrators need to recognize the benefits of investing in the education of students in recovery. While grassroots fundraising can help build awareness and initial support, there are organizations like Transforming Youth Recovery that offer grant programs to schools looking for CRP funding.

Infographic number two stating the second step of starting a CRC

Find Supportive Staff

An essential component of any CRC is finding supportive and effective staff. CRC staff do not necessarily require any particular licensure or training. Depending on the department that oversees the CRC, the staff guidelines may reflect the values of the individual department. 

If the CRC provides counseling services, a licensed professional will be on staff or the CRC will have a relationship with a reputable off-campus source they can refer individuals looking for counseling too. 

Third Infographic stating the third step involved with starting a CRC

Locate Preexisting Support Groups

When starting a CRC, it may be helpful to connect with existing support groups and resources on and near campus. These other college support groups may help you find other students who would be interested in participating in a CRC. 

The type of group may vary significantly but some of the most common are 12-step fellowships, especially those with meetings for young people. AA meetings for teens and NA meetings for teens can help connect these young people who may soon be entering college with the CRC that can help support them on campus. 

Fourth Infographic stating the fourth step of starting a crc

College Can Trigger Relapse

The sometimes difficult and even overwhelming experience of being a student in recovery on a college campus can be one of many relapse triggers. Recovery for young people can be difficult due to the high number of triggers they may encounter in their day-to-day lives. As is often discussed in teen drug rehab, youth culture can glamorize substance use. This is no different on college campuses, where binge drinking and other forms of substance use are considered the norm or can even be celebrated, in some cases. Without a support system, including those provided by a CRC, it may be difficult for students to navigate these pressures. 

Learning common signs of relapse can assist in recognizing a problem before it results in return to use. Early warning signs of relapse, which may occur before a person even begins to consciously think about returning to use, include:

  • Isolating oneself
  • Bottling up emotions
  • Poor self-care
  • Avoidance of participation in recovery activities
  • Focusing on other people or having a self-centered focus of interpersonal relationships

At this point, it is imperative that a person in recovery seeks support to prevent relapse. Support can mean attending aftercare sessions, going to recovery support meetings and sharing, or reaching out to other trusted individuals, such as those met in a CRC. 

If you or a loved one is a young person seeking recovery or recovery support, there is help available. The Recovery Village provides treatment and aftercare services for substance use and co-occurring disorders. To learn more, reach out to a representative today.

  • Sources

    Melemis, Steven M. “Relapse Prevention and the Five Rules of Recovery.” The Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, September 3, 2015. Accessed July 5, 2019.

    Association of Recovery in Higher Education. “Starting a CRP.” Accessed July 5, 2019.

    Association of Recovery in Higher Education. “FAQ.” Accessed July 5, 2019.

    Transforming Youth Recovery. “Areas of Focus.” Accessed July 5, 2019.

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