A Seamless Transition: Linking College-bound Emerging Adults with Collegiate Recovery Programs

Collegiate recovery programs (CRP’s) are rapidly expanding across the United States, with new programs opening their doors every year. From 2000-2010, the United States experienced a large increase in the number of collegiate recovery communities (Laudet, 2016). Along with this increase, emerging adults (ages 18 – 24), are also seeking treatment for substance use disorders with more frequency (SAMHSA, 2015).

As a result, addiction treatment providers are experiencing an increased opportunity to link emerging adults in early recovery (who plan to enter or return to college), with collegiate recovery programs – that provide recovery-safe fun on a college campus, recovery support, and academic support.  Linking emerging adults with collegiate recovery programs during primary addiction treatment can be a daunting task: considerations include school admissions deadlines, program fit for the particular individual, and school location. Here, we outline strategies and tools to link college-bound emerging adults to collegiate recovery programs in order to provide a seamless transition and maximal recovery support following residential treatment.

Collegiate recovery programs provide college students with a campus-based, recovery- friendly space and a supportive, sober community (Laudet, 2016). These programs provide “educational opportunities alongside recovery support to ensure students do not have to sacrifice one for the other” (Allison, 2015). The services and supports offered with these programs vary. Collegiate recovery programs differ in availability of: academic support, space on campus for students to spend free time, sober leisure activities, and on-campus or off-campus sober housing (Laudet et al, 2014).

Defining an optimal outcome of treatment and support as both full remission and full recovery five years after the conclusion of all professional support provides a goal, standard and framework within which clinicians and CRP’s can function (DuPont, Compton, and McLellan, 2015) to heighten recovery rates of those served.  Likewise, conducting recovery planning from both a person-centered approach and a multi-year vantage point can provide emerging adults with a concrete goal and process to follow.  One trajectory to consider would begin in residential treatment, and then transition to a sober living community near a collegiate recovery community.

For example, a 21 year old male who completed two years of college began his recovery experience in residential treatment for his substance use disorder.  Following residential treatment, he transferred to a sober living residence. Because he planned to return to a University, it was helpful for him to choose sober living near the school that he was interested in attending.  This allowed for integration into the local recovery community, the opportunity to gain valuable recovery time in that social context, and time to clarify hoped-for and feared “possible selves”, and related educational goals (Dunkle, C., Kelts, D. & Coon, B. 2006). He engaged in a collegiate recovery program for the duration of his undergraduate degree and lived in on-campus recovery support housing. This provided him with the structure, accountability, and support he needed during his first five years of recovery in an otherwise “abstinence-hostile” environment (Russell, Cleveland, & Wiebe, 2010).

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