While individuals in governance positions are leaders, the recovery community often uses the term “peer-led” or “peer operated” in contrast to “peer governed.” Whereas governance creates the broader framework and structure, management is the administration and implementation within the governance container.
Some prefer the term “leadership” over “management” because it better reflects the social model. “Management” can conjure an image of controlling a group to accomplish a goal, whereas “leadership” can include an individual’s ability to influence, motivate, and enable others to contribute toward a commonly held mission and vision. Many recovery residences use these terms interchangeably, but from a cultural perspective, it can be helpful to know the intent behind the word choice explicitly.
Many different leadership roles exist across one or more Levels of Support, but all recovery residence leaders should reflect recovery principles.
Resident leadership is elevated and valued in all recovery residences. As a resident grows in their recovery, they are rewarded with more responsibility. However, resident leadership roles and responsibilities can look different across the different types of recovery residences (known as Levels of Support). Below are a few examples:
- House Officers – Officers are most commonly found in Level I recovery residences, which are democratically run. The residents elect Officers, such as House President and House Treasure.
- Senior Resident – Within the social model, more significant recovery is rewarded with greater responsibility. It is common for residents who have reached a level of seniority either through tenure and/or some other milestone to be given more leadership or governance responsibilities.
- Activity Facilitator – Recovery homes typically have a formal or informal schedule of activities. As appropriate, residents can facilitate those activities.
- Event Coordinator – Recovery homes often host or participate in events, for example, a Holiday party. This creates leadership opportunities for residents.
- Team Captain – Residents work together with a functionally equivalent family, doing various activities such as house chores. It is common for a Resident to rotate responsibilities such as Chore Captain, Kitchen Captain, or Room Captain. They may develop family-like bonds by participating in activities within the community, such as softball tournaments or advocacy rallies. This creates an opportunity for a resident to serve as Team Captain or House Captain.
- Newcomer Buddy – Because the first few days or weeks can be disorienting for new house members; some recovery homes establish a Buddy program. A more senior resident is assigned to a Newcomer as their guide.
Recovery House Manager is the primary direct care staff role in Level II, III, and Level IV recovery residences. Their responsibilities range based on the type of recovery residence, the size of the organization, and the division of labor. Their compensation should correspond to their level of responsibilities. It can range from a salary to free or discounted rent to an opportunity to volunteer as a leader within the household.
House Managers are critical to the success of a recovery residence. Their skills, knowledge, and abilities significantly impact:
- Household’s health and recovery culture – It is often said that the health and recovery of the home reflect the health and recovery of the manager.
- Turnover and occupancy rates – Owner-operators are very aware that a manager can dramatically impact the turnover and occupancy rates of the home.
- Risk and liability – A manager’s actions or lack of action can significantly impact the risk and liability of operating a recovery residence.
- Sustainability, profitability – From a business perspective, the manager has a massive impact on the sustainability and profitability of a recovery residence.
- Recovery outcomes – More importantly, the manager has a significant impact on a resident’s short-term and long-term recovery outcomes.
Peer Specialists, also known as Recovery Coaches or Recovery Specialists, focus on person-centered recovery support. Peer Specialists are found within Level III and IV recovery residences because, by definition, person-centered recovery support is offered in addition to social model recovery in these higher levels of support.
Since the House Manager role focuses on social models and the Peer Specialist role focuses on person-centered recovery, role conflict can often occur. This means the same person should not serve in both of these roles for the same resident.
Many states have developed Peer Specialists training programs and credentials.
Performance Supervision Role
As per NARR standards, Level III and Level IV recovery residences provide performance supervision to direct support staff (e.g., house managers, peer specialists, and clinicians) because these higher levels of support serve individuals with higher, more complex needs. Who provides this within an organization varies. Although the term “supervision” can mean several things, we explicitly refer to performance support such as professional development plans, training, boundary management, role clarity and fidelity, and burnout prevention (aka self-care and resiliency).
Clinical professionals provide clinical services. Since Level IV recovery residences offer clinical services, their staff will include clinical professionals and clinical supervision. Laws and regulations that apply to clinical professionals and services differ from state to state.
Clinicians living, working, or volunteering in nonclinical recovery residences (Level Is, IIs and IIIs) must be mindful not to deliver or be perceived as providing clinical services. Slipping into a clinical role could have legal and ethical ramifications.
A growing number of states and NARR affiliates require someone within the organization to formally serve as the Administrator of a certified recovery residence. Administrators are trained on best practice standards and codes of ethics. They are responsible for completing forms related to certification and attesting to the information they provide. They are also responsible for upholding the standards over time. They may have compliance officers reporting to them.
Role Comparison and Clarity