(Keithie pictured second from the left with the Recovery Services team)

The Peer Recovery Training Institute at the Center for Recovery and Wellness (CRW) is cultivating the next generation of Certified Peer Recovery Advocates (CRPA’s). Peers are professionals that draw on their own life experiences to provide non-clinical support to people in recovery, helping them to develop recovery plans, effective coping habits, and life skills for navigating recovery.

The Training Institute is part of our commitment to providing professional development opportunities to the community. Keithie Lawrence, CRW’s Director of Recovery Services, has been one of the main facilitators for the trainings ever since the Training Institute began three years ago. “The Training Institute gives people an opportunity to get a career based on their lived experience and really helps people in their recovery process. I think it’s enriching, a lot of people can benefit from this opportunity, and it’s a win-win,” he said.

Recovery Coaching has become more popular in the behavioral health field as a uniquely effective way to help people progress in their recovery and maintain sobriety. “It builds retention and just statistically works because the person builds a relationship with the people going through this process. And through that relationship, they help the people stay on the course, and focus on the here and now,” said Keithie.

Keithie takes an interactive approach to the trainings he facilitates by putting the trainees in small groups and having them role play based on the concepts in the curriculum. “From what I’ve seen, they really appreciate that, and there’s a lot of team building and relationship building that happens after that.” For Keithie, a great part of the experience is the camaraderie he sees at the end of the training. “I love the last day because it’s a different bunch of folks that you’re looking at and talking to. You see them interacting and talking like they’ve known each other for years. That in itself is rewarding. And just knowing that I’ve created a pathway to success for some of these people that really thought there wasn’t any pathways left for them.” 

Andres Gomez, a former client of Pride Site, began peer training with Keithie while still in treatment at Pride Site. While he didn’t have the funds at the time to pay for the training, he was able to take it because of a grant the Training Institute received. “I was talking to Arnette Scott (Motivational and Stabilization Support Specialist) and she was telling me about this grant that was going on in the program for peer advocate training. I signed up and they put me in the program. I was so excited and grateful that I was chosen for the grant and started working with Keithie,” he said.  

“It was a great experience! Keithie gave us a lot of information and made it easy to understand. He always was giving us little tests to see how we were doing in the training and how could we be the best Peer that we can be. He was always on call if we had any questions that we needed to ask, so he was very hands on with the courses. I learned a lot from the process for sure.” Since Andres completed the training and received his CRPA certification, he has been working as a peer at our partner organization, the Lower East Side Services Center (LESC). “I’m loving the peer work and it just keeps getting better. It’s a learning experience, every day I’m dealing with different people, and I just keep learning different ways to help others.”  

CRW’s Training institute offers a variety of trainings, with a total of three necessary to receive the official CRPA credential. Keithie facilitates the Recovery Coach Academy Training (30 hours), Professional Peer Ethics (16 hours), Peer Supervision training (12 hours), and MAT/MAR training (four hours). Soon there will also be trainings to become a Credentialed Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counselor (CASAC) offered by John Gordon (Associate Executive Director of Community and Recovery Services), which is a more clinical version of the CRPA. 

To learn more about the Training Institute, please reach out to Keithie by email: klawrence@edalliance.org or by phone: 646-395-4412. To learn more about Recovery Services at CRW, please visit our website.