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Navigating the Collegiate Recovery and Treatment World


As more and more college-aged students are taking a break to go into treatment programs, it’s becoming harder as a Therapeutic Consultant (aka Educational Consultant) to sift through to ensure treatment/recovery programs are what they say they are. Some programs boast partnerships with Collegiate Recovery Programs on the college campus, while others help residents continue college coursework while in treatment. Each program is fighting to provide an opportunity for their clients to see that college is not just possible, but a definite for someone in recovery. The bottom-line question is: how do we ensure that when we’re recommending these types of treatment programs, that they’re ethical, licensed and focused on the client?

The easiest way to begin this conversation is to breakdown accreditations and memberships.The first organization I want to highlight is the Association for Recovery in Higher Education (ARHE). They put Collegiate Recovery Programs (CRC’s) across the nation on the map. Fun fact: they’ve been around for over nine years! In case you missed this movement, you might want to get caught up. Colleges and universities are introducing recovery on campus in varying ways. This organization sends out a quarterly magazine titled “Recovery Campus” which includes research, announcements, and advertisements from treatment programs that specifically work with college-aged residents. I can’t help but notice that there is overlap in some programs advertising in Recovery Campus who are also members of NATSAP, NAATP or both. 

ski team

The second organization is the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP). They just went through a major overhaul in 2018 and ended up dropping over 100 members who weren’t upholding their ethical standards. Although a pleasantly surprising move on their part and simultaneously a significant financial risk, they are managing to thrive as an organization. Currently there are over 931 programs in their member directory, ranging in what services they provide from detox, residential, Intensive Outpatient (IOP), Outpatient (OP), and Sober Living. I am extremely cautious when touring a program that declares it can provide a one-stop-intervention from detox all the way down to Sober Living.

Accreditations that matter:
In addition to a program’s membership, if a program has a CARF (Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities) International Accreditation or Joint Commission Accreditation, to me, a referring professional, that means that the program took time and energy and resources to complete an independent accreditation process. CARF or Joint Commission seal on a website can mean numerous things. As CARF rightly claims, “CARF accreditation signals a service provider’s commitment to continually improving services, encouraging feedback, and serving the community.” As opposed to a program who has achieved a Gold Seal of Approval through the Joint Commission, what we can glean through this process of accreditation is “the highest standards in the field.” Both accreditations represent a program’s effort in demonstrating quality care and third party assessment. If the program doesn’t have either, I will genuinely steer away.

As we professionals continue to tap into this network of treatment/recovery options, we really start to blur the lines between college counseling and therapeutic consulting. There are programs out there that are partnered with the colleges or are stand alone places. In the end, how can you be certain who’s client-driven versus who is motivated by college retention pressures versus insurance dollars? This complex determination is the reason an expert in the field is needed, to sort out the needs of the client, the needs of the family and the designs and treatment practices of the diverse programs. It is a constantly evolving puzzle.


About the Author

joanna lilley

Joanna Lilley, MA, NCC holds a Master’s in Counseling and has served on a suspension deferral treatment team in higher education, coached students on Academic Probation at two large universities, guided at two wilderness therapy programs, and coordinated College Access initiatives in a large urban school district. She is currently a Therapeutic Consultant for Lilley Consulting, specializing in working with young adults throughout the US and abroad. This is Joanna’s first contribution to this blog, and has written for several organizations and websites like and Internet Special Education Resources (