Recovery Support Specialist Program

Substance abuse and mental health disorders cause disruption and pain in so many lives. If you’ve personally faced addiction and/or mental illness, you have a unique perspective on what it takes to overcome it. Your lived experience can provide insight and encouragement to people working on their own recoveries.

Ready to change lives? Consider becoming a recovery support specialist (RSS). Recovery support specialists serve as role models and advocates for people in recovery, sharing personal experiences and providing encouragement and support.

Our program will prepare you to begin this rewarding career in just two semesters.  

Flexible Schedule

Our online courses will fit into your schedule. You’ll also get hands-on experience working with local organizations and attending in-person workshops.

Financial Support

You’ll pay nothing for this life-changing program. All expenses are covered by the state. And you’ll get paid for completing training and internship hours.

Unlimited Potential

Recovery support specialists are in demand in Illinois. Our program is part of the state’s efforts to increase the number of people working in this important role.

How to Apply

It doesn’t matter if you already work in substance abuse/mental health or are new to the field. You can apply if:

  • You’ve had a substance abuse and/or mental health disorder.
  • You have a high school diploma or GED.

Follow these steps:

  1. Apply to NIU as a visiting student.
  2. Complete the RSS application (PDF) after you’re accepted to NIU.

If you attended NIU in the past, read about the readmission process. If you were academically dismissed, you’ll need to apply to be reinstated.

Get Started

Join us to use your personal experiences to help others on the road to recovery.

Questions? Contact us at 815-753-6270 or RecoverySupport@niu.edu.

Request Information

Courses and Workshops

Our two-semester program includes online classes and in-person workshops. You’ll attend two workshops on campus each semester. Workshops begin on Friday afternoon and end on Sunday at noon. Hotel rooms are provided for Friday and Saturday nights. Dinner is provided Friday, as well as all meals on Saturday and breakfast on Sunday.

Career Outlook

When you finish the program, you’ll be ready to take the state certification exam and begin your career in a treatment program for mental health and/or substance abuse disorders. You could work in settings like mental health centers, community health centers, prisons and private practice. Some possible job titles include:

  • Recovery support specialist
  • Peer support specialist
  • Health education specialist
  • Probation officer/correctional treatment specialist
  • Rehabilitation counselor
  • Social and human service assistant

Whatever path you choose, you’ll be in demand. The state is actively increasing the number of recovery support specialists working in Illinois, often as part of community support and mental health/homeless intervention teams. In fact, substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health counselor jobs are projected to grow by 23% by 2030—much faster than average (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Contact Us

College of Health and Human Sciences
Wirtz Hall 227
815-753-1891
chhs@niu.edu
The Dean's Office is open for face-to-face meetings by appointment only.

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