What is a Collegiate Recovery Programme? (From the people who really know!)

Three visitors from Texas Tech University spoke to us about Collegiate Recovery Programmes at their university, and others, and how they perceive the development of the programmes in the UK.

At the point of writing, there are just three recognised Collegiate Recovery Programme (CRPs) active in the UK. When compared to the volume of CRPs in the US (150 and counting), you can see that there is work to be done on the movement which began in the UK at Teesside University, in 2017, and has since expanded into The University of Birmingham's Better Than Well Project. 

And now, with The University of Sunderland officially signing the Recovery Friendly Pledge this year, real progress is being made. And it was following the signing of the Pledge that we caught up with several experts in the field of Addiction Recovery Sciences and Collegiate Recovery Communities.  

Exploring their own perception of what CRPs are, do, and how they benefit students in recovery, and others, the interviewees were Dr Tom Kimball, Dr Nichole Morelock and Vincent Sanchez, from Texas Tech University.  

What was your first experience of a Collegiate Recovery Programme? 

Dr Tom Kimball: 

I was working in outpatient programmes, at what’s called the Texas Tech Health Science Center. I was providing groups and support to men coming out of prison and integrating back into life. I heard about Collegiate Recovery and applied for a faculty position to teach, but also to be part of the Collegiate Recovery Program. 

When I first heard about it, I was pretty shocked actually. About what the program was and what it was doing. I thought it was just an amazing idea and then, when you get working in it, you get to see how service-oriented they are, you see [students] come in from the beginning, and you see this transformation. It is just exceptional, but I didn’t know how great it was until I was in it. 

And what is a Collegiate Recovery Programme, in your experience? 

Dr Tom Kimball: 

It is a support program for students pursuing a recovery journey. Meaning is provides a scaffolding of support across a broad range. From academic support, to financial support, community and emotional support. And all on campus to help the students navigate their journey. 

Vince Sanchez: 

I would say it’s a program that runs from start to finish to serve the student that’s returning to school. So, we basically help them get everything in order, prior to coming to Texas Tech, so that they can expect some the barriers and pitfalls they may face. And we give them the skills to deal with them. Sometimes they’re not very confident in their ability, as they come back to school. So we do a lot to make that as smooth and painless as possible. 

Dr Nichole Morelock 

I’m a marriage and family therapist by trade, so for me at the center [of a CRP] is a source of hope for students who’ve been hurting. It really takes that hope and energy that comes from early recovery, and translates it into action and a pathway into a different life. So I think it’s a great concept and I’m a huge supporter. I see what it does for our students and you can’t hear their stories and see their success and not love what’s happening.

And what do these stories and successes look like? 

Vince Sanchez: 

In all the years I’ve been there, it’s just seeing them have the opportunity to grow up and emotionally mature from the person that you work with on the front end, where they’re scared. Where they don’t believe in themselves, or don’t think they have what’s necessary to be successful in academia. 

Then, you see them flourish and really have a drive and a faith, not only in their ability, but in their intelligence. They feel smart, you know, and so that part is amazing because you see them go further than they expected. That’s the biggest thing. They always end up going further than they had intended to, initially. 

We’ve also developed enough funding to retain students through their graduate work, Masters and PhD level work, that we’re able to witness a mentor-type influence, which is passed on to others. Sometimes it’s a sponsor-sponsee kind of relationship, but nine times out of 10 it’s them modelling what’s possible – and that’s huge! 

And what about the students who work with Recovery Connections each summer, as part of their practicum? 

Dr Nichole Morelock: 

They developed their professional identity in a richer and, I would say, faster way than our stateside students. But Stephanie and AD, who were here last summer, were able to really see themselves as professional, a little bit faster than the other students. 

It was such a privilege to hear their description of the work they were going, and everything they were learning. And they very much comment on how they feel like they’re part of the Recovery Connections Family. It’s been a lasting, transformative experience, and it will always be part of who they are. 

Vincent Sanchez: 

I felt like they grew, personally and professionally. I don’t think they would have walked away from a practicum in the States with that much confidence in their new abiliities. Because there was something about being here and being on their own, under the direction of such a great organisation, that really gave them a lot of professional power. 

Dr Tom Kimball: 

There’s two components to it. I think one if that Recovery Connections is just exceptional, right? And the breadth of experiences that they can have is comprehensive; that recovery-oriented system of care is rare to see. 

The second part of it is that they come in and have to immerse themselves in a whole different culture. So, the two of them, combined, just creates this opportunity to grow in ways, in a short period of time, that you wouldn’t get without coming to a different country. 

To read more about the journeys of Texas Tech students visiting Recovery Connections, click here.

Dr Tom Kimball is the Director of the Center for Collegiate Recovery Communities and a Professor at Texas Tech University

Vince Sanchez is the Associate Director of the Center for Collegiate Recovery Communities at Texas Tech University

Dr Nichole Morelock is the Program Director for the Counselling Addiction Recovery Science Undergraduate Major, and a Professor at Texas Tech University