Peer counseling: growing career trend in addiction recovery

Published: Dec. 19, 2016 at 4:59 PM EST
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Twenty-eight recovering addicts filled a classroom inside Bluegrass.Org in Lexington. "We're not throwaways," one man said to the class. "And I had to understand that and all it took was somebody to just care about me," he said. Now he, and the others in the class are switching roles, and becoming the ones that saved them.

"When these guys come in, if you just show them just an ounce of compassion and show them you care about them, they latch on to you. Then they are willing to listen to anything you want to suggest," explained Kelly Boston. Boston is in recovery at The Isaiah House, an addiction recovery center which WKYT toured earlier this year. "I was doing $600 to $700 a day worth of percocet 30s," he told WKYT's Miranda Combs. "I bought a house in Florida so I would have a residence. I took it to the whole next level. It was bad," he laughed. His humor about his past is a comfort to those trying to get sober. He is relatable--a perfect fit for peer counseling.

Right now there are a little more than 200 certified peer counselors in Kentucky. "Just within the last year or so has that become a real recognized profession that you can bill for those services," explained Bluegrass.Org Regional Director of Substance Abuse Operations Tara Stanfield. Stanfield organized the first training for Bluegrass.Org. "The treatment and benefit for clinical outcomes for us we believe is worth the investment to do these kinds of certifications," she said.

It's a field where the need is not slowing down. "This is unprecedented times that we've not seen before," Stanfield said. Those in the training class said the helps them as much as they will help others. "They kind of come from different places but all have a similar story," explained Stanfield. "They are able to engage patients in a way that no other member of the treatment team can."