What Is Collegiate Recovery?

To promote research-based best practices, seven standards were developed for collegiate recovery programs to strive toward. Although not every CRP embodies all the criteria, all are in the process of moving in this direction to provide the utmost support for college students in recovery. You can find more details on the ARHE website,

The seven standards for CRPs for best practices are:

  1. CRPs are housed within an institution of higher education that confers academic degrees.
  2. CRPs are nonprofit entities.
  3. CRPs embrace abstinence-based recovery as the standard.
  4. CRPs have paid, qualified, trained and dedicated professionals employed by the school who support students in recovery.
  5. CRPs provide a variety of recovery support services to assist students in maintaining and protecting their recovery.
  6. CRPs have within them a collegiate recovery community with students in recovery from substance use as the primary focus.
  7. CRPs do best with a dedicated physical space for students in recovery to gather and offer peer support to one another.

Sober Housing on or Near Campus

The second category of collegiate recovery support can be described as sober housing on or near the college campus that strives to provide a safe space and a sense of community connected to a collegiate experience. These organizations are not staffed by college or university employees but partner with schools who are otherwise unable to provide these resources.

The services offered by this type of program are like collegiate recovery programs and may include any of the following: sober housing, recovery supervision and support, a mobile app, urinalysis testing, structure in the house that promotes responsibility, community service requirements, and organized social, recreational and community activities. Because they are not college- or university-run programs, they are not collegiate recovery programs but are still very supportive of college students in recovery. It’s the hope of ARHE that these programs help colleges and universities to realize the need and the value of such programs and motivate them to invest in collegiate recovery programs from within.

Treatment Programs with Extended Aftercare and Academic Opportunities

The third category can be described as residential treatment with extended aftercare that provides academic opportunities. These programs provide clinical treatment services to young adults who do not want their education interrupted by a treatment episode. Their full continuum generally includes primary treatment, outpatient treatment, academically focused aftercare and integration into local collegiate recovery communities. These programs provide a launching pad for students in recovery to continue their academics, recognize their ability to be sober through college and find a college with a collegiate recovery program when they are ready to return to school full time.

Treatment Programs That Specialize in the College-age Population The fourth resource that supports collegiate recovery is a residential treatment program that specializes in the college-aged population and has a specific focus on substance use. These programs come in a variety of shapes, sizes, specialties and styles. Some programs are adventure-based, some have a religious foundation and others specialize in serving veterans. Many of these centers also provide services to address co-occurring disorders. These programs are supportive of collegiate recovery by providing the opportunity to support students struggling with behavioral health issues.

The True Definition of Collegiate Recovery

The number of people struggling with substance use has increased exponentially in the past 10 years. In the recovery field, we are constantly striving to provide more resources to empower others to find recovery and to pave the way for others. ARHE is incredibly grateful that there are so many resources available to help students seeking recovery and to assist those students in finding collegiate recovery programs post-treatment.

But we need to minimize the confusion about what collegiate recovery programs are. We are asking that treatment centers, sober houses and auxiliary services that focus on recovery support for college students describe themselves as services supportive of collegiate recovery rather than as collegiate recovery programs.

By working together, we provide a necessary continuum of care and support that allows college students to thrive in their recovery for a lifetime.

Written by Amy Boyd Austin, MSS

Amy Boyd Austin is the president of the Association of Recovery in Higher Education and the director of the Catamount Recovery Program at the University of Vermont. She has her master’s in social service management from Bryn Mawr College and her bachelor’s in criminal justice from the University of Delaware. Boyd Austin has worked in the field of addiction and recovery for the past 25 years. She is passionate about supporting students in recovery from both a micro and macro level and believes this fits well within her social justice lens of seeking equity for underrepresented identities in pursuit of higher education and an overall level playing field.

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