The Collegiate Recovery Movement: A History


The origins of the movement (1977-1997) are explained succinctly by White & Finch:

The collegiate recovery school movement began with the development of school-based recovery support services at Brown University (1977) and Rutgers University (1983) and evolved into more fully developed recovery communities at Texas Tech University (Center for the Study of Addictions)(1986) and Augsburg College (StepUP Program)(1997)¦ Early pioneers in the collegiate recovery school movement included Bruce Donovan (Brown), Lisa Laitman (Rutgers), Carl Anderson (Texas Tech) and Don Warren (Augsburg College). (2006)

The features of programs in this foundational period are also explained in Laudet et al. (2014):

Collegiate Recovery Programs (CRPs) started at a few universities in the 1980s to meet recovering students’ support needs, as part of a broader effort to address substance use on campus. CRPs generally offered onsite sober housing, self-help meetings (e.g. 12-step), and counseling provided by a small staff (Botzet et al., 2007; Cleveland et al., 2010; Smock, Baker, Harris, & D’sauza, 2011; White & Finch, 2006). CRPs’ strive to create a campus-based “recovery friendly’ space and a supportive social community to enhance educational opportunities while supporting students’ recovery and emotional growth (Harris et al., 2008). The model fits into the continuing care paradigm of a “recovery management’ system (Godley, Godley, Dennis, Funk, & Passetti, 2002). (p.2)

These programs belonged to no consortium and thus their models varied substantially from one to another. All aimed to improve outcomes for students who had developed dependencies on alcohol and other substances. Students participating in these trailblazing early programs had superior outcomes to those were not participants, which was later confirmed by an emerging body of research.


The next group 1997-2004 comprise a sort of middle period, or second wave, as White & Finch explained in 2006:

In the past five years, additional collegiate recovery programs have been organized at Dana College (2001), Grand Valley State University (2002), Case Western Reserve University (2004), University of Texas at Austin (2004), and Loyola College in Maryland (2004). (Harris, Baker & Cleveland, 2010, p. 12)

In addition, Laudet et al. (2014) list The University of Massachusetts in 2004.

During this period research confirmed that these CRCs provided successful support to college students in recovery:

Site-level records from a handful of CRPs suggest encouraging outcomes (Cleveland et al., 2007), as do data from the site survey arm of this study (Laudet, Harris, Winters, Moberg, & Kimball, 2013): across the 29 CRPs nationwide, annual relapse rates range from 0 to 25% (mean = 8%), and academic achievement (GPA and graduation) surpasses the host institution’s overall outcomes. (Laudet et al., 2014, p. 2)

Additional research has documented reduced numbers of drinkers in students’ social circles, increased accomplishment of developmental and transitional milestones, and increased social supports (Smock et al., 2011; Cleveland et al., 2007; Botzet et al. 2007; Bell et al. 2009; Wiebe, Cleveland & Dean, 2010; Cleveland, Wiebe, Wiersma, 2010; Wiebe et al., 2010; Cleveland and Groenendyk, 2010; Laudet Morgan & White, 2006; Noone, Dua and Markham, 1996; Project Match Research Group, 1997; Rumpf, Bischof, Hapke, Meyer and John, 2002; Casiraghi and Muslow, 2010).   All-important social supports, identified as academic supports, peer-to-peer recovery supports, and 12-Step recovery supports, are speculated to be the main mechanism of these programs effectiveness (Smock et al., 2011).

The sudden explosion in CRCs and CRPs nationwide benefitted from previously existing successful models. The Texas Tech CRC model was operationalized, and a description of the model was passed along via a curriculum that was made freely available to others, such as which greatly aided replication (Harris, Baker & Thompson, 2005).  Some notable examples of CRCs that grew out of the TTU model are Georgia Southern University, Kennesaw State University, and University of Texas- Austin (Smock et al. 2011).  Others that are based on a supervised residence are often said to be following Rutger’s model.

The Federal government by recognizing that CRCs fit their endorsement of community-based support networks, may have aided in their expansion:

Federal agencies recently called for the expansion of community-based recovery support models to extend the continuum of care, including in schools and colleges (Office of National Drug Control Policy, 2010; U.S. Dept. of Education, 2010) Several factors lead to increased interest in CRPs about a decade ago. This includes academic institutions and federal agencies’ growing recognition of youth substance use and in particular, campus-based use, as a major public health concern, and federal agencies’ shift to a recovery-oriented “chronic care.’ (Laudet et al., p.1)


In 2005, three cites, Tulsa Community College, The University of Colorado at Boulder, and Vanderbilt) opened as SAMSHA Funded Pilot Programs.


In addition, the following colleges established CRCs and CRPs in this later period and participated in Laudet et al.’s œCollegiate Recovery Communities Programs: What Do We Know and What Do We Need to Know (2013).

University of Virginia, 2006
Kennesaw State University 2007
Georgia Southern University 2008
The College of St. Scholastica 2008
James Madison University 2009
William Patterson University 2009
Baylor University 2010
Greenfield Community College 2010
Ohio University 2010
Southern Oregon University 2010
University of Michigan 2010
University of Mississippi 2010
University of Vermont 2010
Vanderbilt University 2010
University of California, Riverside 2011
St. Cloud State University 2011
Penn State University 2011
University of North Carolina 2011
University of Southern Mississippi 2011
Wayne State University 2012
Auburn University 2012
Midland College 2012
University of Alabama 2012
University of California, Santa Barbara 2012
University of Nevada, Reno 2012
University of Oklahoma 2012
(Laudet et al. 2014, p. 91)

Many of these sites benefitted from private start-up funds made available by Stacey Mathewson of Transforming Youth Recovery. Her organization has made grants of as much as $10,000 available to groups who wanted to start a new CRC or CRP.

These new sites vary in where they are housed administratively, whether they have a staff member, whether they have a physical place to meet, or whether they are student organizations. An important thing to understand is that the needs of students and the campus environments are not alike across all of these sites. Some have access to millions of dollars while others are still looking for regular sources of funding. Although CRCs arise from a tradition and share a great deal in common, they are not all alike, nor are they expected to be. In the words of Wiebe, Cleveland & Harris œAny recovery program should account for and be understood in regard to the unique characteristics and needs of the individuals it serves (2010, p. 5).


Transforming Youth Recovery and their Grant Initiative œmore than tripled the number of recovery program efforts on college campuses, a complete list of which can be found at These programs recent development represents the exponential growth of this movement in this recent period and is a testament to the surging popularity of the Collegiate Recovery movement. Although many of these communities are currently in their planning phases, others have become established well into their intermediate stages and beyond. The groundswell these many efforts represent is testament to the broad support for recovery supports on campuses and the health of the movement going forward.

Cleveland, H. Harrington, Kitty S. Harris, Amanda K. Baker, Richard Herbert, and Lukas R. Dean. œCharacteristics of a Collegiate Recovery Community: Maintaining Recovery in an Abstinence-Hostile Environment. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment 33, no. 1 (July 2007): 13-23.

Cleveland, H. Harrington, Kitty S. Harris, and Richard P. Wiebe, eds. Substance Abuse Recovery in College: Community Supported Abstinence. Advancing Responsible Adolescent Development. New York: Springer, 2010).

Knight, John R., Henry Wechsler, Meichun Kuo, Mark Seibring, Elissa R. Weitzman, and Marc A. Schuckit. œAlcohol Abuse and Dependence among U.S. College Students. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs 63, no. 3 (May 1, 2002): 263.

Laudet, Alexandre, Kitty Harris, Thomas Kimball, Ken C. Winters, and D. Paul Moberg. œCollegiate Recovery Communities Programs: What Do We Know and What Do We Need to Know? Journal of Social Work Practice in the Addictions 14, no. 1 (January 2014): 84-100.

Laudet, Alexandre B., Kitty Harris, Thomas Kimball, Ken C. Winters, and D. Paul Moberg. œCharacteristics of Students Participating in Collegiate Recovery Programs: A National Survey. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment. Accessed January 16, 2015.

Smock, Sara A., Amanda K. Baker, Kitty S. Harris, and Cynthia D’Sauza. œThe Role of Social Support in Collegiate Recovery Communities: A Review of the Literature. Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly 29, no. 1 (January 2011): 35-44.

White, W., and A. Finch. “The recovery school movement: Its history and future.” Counselor 7.2 (2006): 54-57.