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Recovery Support Services

Written by Robert Ashford, MSW, PhD-C
Published on October 26, 2020

Recovery Support Services (RSS) refers to an array of nonclinical services which support individuals or family members (recoverees) affected by substance use, mental health or other behavioral health disorders in initiating or sustaining recovery. SAMHSA defines recovery from substance use, behavioral health disorders and mental health challenges as “a process of change through which people improve their health and wellness, live self-directed lives, and strive to reach their full potential”. Recovery support services are typically community-based, as the community is the optimal environment for recovery. Recovery support services can help to fill gaps in the service system and provide increased access to services for many recoverees.

Individuals and families can both benefit from recovery support services, and each has better outcomes when the other is supported. RSS can be initiated before, during, after, or in lieu of clinical treatment and can provide support at any stage of a person’s recovery. These services offer brokerage of human services such as: housing, employment, case management, childcare, education and training by local experts. They can also include access to community resources and supports such as mutual aid recovery meetings, prosocial activities, and community involvement. In this sense, any aspect of a community which makes it “recovery ready” can be considered a recovery support. 

RSS can also include nontraditional resources such as merchants or employers who are “recovery friendly”. These informal supports are often best known and understood by members of the recovery community. RSS are often delivered by trained peers, and can also be delivered by community allies, faith-based organizations and other service providers. When delivered by peers in recovery, the elements of shared lived experience and mentorship are added, giving recovery supports an authentic feel that make them especially appealing to the recoveree. Formal recovery support services often involve a service plan called a recovery plan, which outlines a recoveree’s long-term recovery goals as well as resources and supports needed to achieve them. Research has shown that community-level social support for people in early recovery can make a significant difference in recovery outcomes. In the last twenty years, recovery support services have been increasingly used to create communities which support long-term recovery.

Recovery support services can make all of the elements of community that support lasting, fulfilling long-term recovery available to individuals and families. To learn more about recovery support services in your community, contact your local recovery community organization