Frequently Asked Questions about the Certified Recovery Support Specialist and Certified Peer Recovery Specialist Credentials

1. What are the CRSS and CPRS?

The acronyms CRSS and CPRS can be used to refer to either the credential itself (e.g., "how do I earn my CRSS?"), or the person who holds the credential (e.g., "I am a CPRS"). People who have earned the CRSS or CPRS credential are professionals trained to incorporate their unique personal recovery experiences with mental health and/or substance use challenges to support the recovery of others. The CRSS and CPRS credentials are for people in recovery who provide professional peer support services for persons recovering from mental health and/or substance use challenges. They are also credentials that verify that a person has the knowledge and skills that meet minimum acceptable standards of the recovery support profession, regardless of whether they have an academic degree or not.

2. Does my lived experience make the CRSS or CPRS credential a good fit for me?

Only you can determine whether you are eligible to pursue the CRSS or CPRS credentials. No documentation of your lived experience is required. Here are a few questions you might ask yourself to determine if one of these credentials are a good fit.

  • Am I comfortable with my present and/or past challenges with mental health or co-occurring mental health and substance use challenges being known by my colleagues and the people I serve?
  • Am I able to share information about how I am/was able to overcome these challenges? Am I willing to do so?
  • Do I feel that my experiences related to dealing with mental health or co-occurring mental health and substance use challenges have value for others going through similar challenges?
  • Am I willing to learn how to share my experiences in a way that promotes hope and supports another person in their journey toward recovery?

If you feel you can confidently answer yes to 3 out of 4 of the above, you may want to pursue the CRSS or CPRS. If more than 1 of the above gives you pause, then they may not be the credentials for you.

3. How does a person obtain the CRSS or CPRS?

Here are the steps that are recommended for you to take if you are interested in earning either the CRSS or CPRS credentials:

Start out by watching the CRSS/CPRS Orientation Video1 on the Illinois Department of Human Services website. It is an excellent overview of the full process and can answer many questions that you might have before taking any further steps.

  • Next, visit the Illinois Certification Board website at, click on credentialing, scroll down to Recovery Support Specialist (for CRSS) or Peer Recovery Specialist (for CPRS). You'll want to download all listed documents for the applicable credential (Model, Application, etc.), print or save them, and carefully read the Model, which explains the requirements for the credential.
  • Once you have read and familiarized yourself with the Model, you can begin to gather the necessary documentation for your application. To help you keep track of what you will submit, you can fill out the application as you go.
  • Submit the completed application, required documentation, and application fee to the Illinois Certification Board via postal mail (see #6 for details on fees). Applications will not be accepted by email. ICB will review your application. After their review, they will reply with either an approval to take the exam, or a list of any missing or incomplete documentation. Applicants have up to one year to supply any missing or incomplete documentation.

4. What are the application requirements for the CRSS and CPRS credentials?

The work experience and supervision requirements for both credentials are the same, but the education requirements are slightly different:

  • Work Experience (CRSS & CPRS)

    • 2,000 hours (completed within the past 4 years)
    • Can be either paid or volunteer (or a combination of both)
    • Must be supervised, whether paid or volunteer
    • Clinically supervised by individual knowledgeable in Performance Domains
    • 51% of work duties must involve providing recovery support services
    • Primary responsibilities should be providing recovery support services to an individual/group, such as preparing recovery plans or documenting client progress
  • Supervision (CRSS & CPRS)

    • 100 hours of supervision in Performance Domains from paid or volunteer work
    • Supervision includes:
  • Time individual spends being observed, directly or indirectly, performing services
  • Time spent with supervisor discussing work performance and/or topics relevant to job duties
  • Education

    • Both CRSS & CPRS require either a High School Diploma or GED
    • CRSS requires 100 total clock hours, divided as follows:
  • 40 hours CRSS Specific (10 in each CRSS Performance Domain)
  • 6 hours Professional Ethics and Responsibility
  • 54 hours Core Functions
    • CPRS requires 100 total clock hours, divided as follows:
  • 40 hours CPRS Specific (10 in each CPRS Performance Domain)
  • 16 hours Professional Ethics and Responsibility
  • 44 hours Core Functions (must include 5 hours specific to family and 5 hours specific to youth)

5. What are the questions on the CRSS and CPRS exams?

The questions on both exams measure competency in the CRSS & CPRS Performance Domains (Advocacy, Professional/Ethical Responsibility, Mentoring/Education, & Wellness/Recovery Support).

 Competencies are the measurable knowledge, skills, abilities, and behaviors critical to successful job performance. Therefore, the CRSS & CPRS exams measure both an individual's knowledge and their ability to make decisions based on recovery support principles. In other words, the exam questions test an applicant's knowledge of "facts" that can be memorized and the applicant's ability to understand and apply those "facts" to the tasks of recovery support.

There are three types of questions on the exams:

  • Recall: Remember facts, concepts, and ideas
  • Comprehension: Demonstrate your understanding of the meaning of facts, concepts, and ideas
  • Application: Show you understand how to apply your understanding of facts, concepts, and ideas to a sample scenario

Both exams:

  • Consist of 100 multiple choice questions
  • Allow applicants up to two hours to complete
  • Provide the applicant with their score immediately upon completion

Information specific to the CRSS Exam:

  • Owned by the Illinois Certification Board
  • CRSS Study Guide2 available (from the Illinois Certification Board)
  • Exam may be available remotely if travel to testing site presents a significant hardship
  • Exam questions are confidential; no approved "sample tests" are available
  • 100 questions randomized from a pool of 200; each test-taker will have a different set of questions
  • Minimum passing score: 68
  • Scores range from 0-100 points.

Information specific to the CPRS Exam:

6. Why are the CRSS and CPRS exams different and offered at different sites?

The exams and testing sites are different because one credential is owned by ICB and the other is owned by IC&RC. ICB owns the CRSS, whereas they serve as the administrator of the CPRS. For the CRSS, ICB must find qualified testing sites that are willing to provide the CRSS exam for a reasonable cost. For the CPRS, there are a larger number of testing sites pre-approved by IC&RC.

7. How much do the CRSS and CPRS exams cost? Can I take both exams? Can I take the exam(s) more than once?

The exam fee is $125. Individuals who are eligible for both credentials can choose to apply for both and take both exams. A separate exam fee is required for each, and separate annual fees are required to maintain both credentials. There may also be a separate 'proctor fee' that is charged by the testing site, but that fee will vary from site to site. Proctor fees range from $7-$32. Scholarship funds may be available to cover exam and proctor fees. For more information and to apply for a scholarship, please contact any of the colleges listed on the CRSS Success Program page on the DHS website6 . If an applicant does not pass the exam, they may test again but must pay the fee again. There is no limit to the number of times an applicant can take the exam, and there is no minimum wait time before requesting to retest.

If a person needs to retake the exam, they would have received a new pre-registration form with their exam scores. That form needs to be completed and sent back to ICB with the exam fee. A person has 1 year from the date they last took the exam to retest. If they do not test in a years' time, then their file will expire and they will need to reapply with a new application.

8. What if I need an accommodation to take either of the CRSS or CPRS exams?

ICB policy states, "Accommodations for individuals with disabilities and/or religious obligations must be submitted in writing no less than thirty days prior to the examination date. Official documentation of the disability or religious issue must be provided with the written request."

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), "private entities offering covered examinations need to make sure that any request for required documentation is reasonable and limited to the need for the requested modification, accommodation, or auxiliary aid or service."

With documentation that supports the need for the requested modification and written notice no later than thirty days prior to the exam date, ICB will offer appropriate modifications to the exam process.

9. What training courses are required to fulfill the 100 hours of education?

There are no required courses; there are required hours. Each individual is responsible for seeking out training and education that meets the requirements as described in the CRSS and CPRS Models and as approved by ICB. The Division of Mental Health provides free training opportunities that meet the ICB requirements for CRSS-specific and CPRS-specific hours. In addition, multiple other free training opportunities exist. For further information on how to obtain education hours, please see the Obtaining Education Hours video on the DHS website7

10.  What are the CRSS & CPRS Performance Domains and Core Functions?

The Performance Domains/Core Functions are the four areas of competency in which CRSS and CPRS professionals are expected to perform tasks and demonstrate knowledge.

  • Performance Domains include actions or tasks, which start with words such as assist, promote, maintain, or utilize.
  • Core Functions include corresponding areas of knowledge, which start with words such as define, explain, identify, or understand.

As described in the CRSS & CPRS Models, the actions & tasks listed under the Performance Domains are performed through knowledge of the corresponding Core Functions.

The titles of the four Performance Domains/Core Functions are slightly different between the CRSS and CPRS. Please see the CRSS and CPRS Model documents for detailed lists of examples for each area.

  • CRSS

    • Advocacy
    • Professional Responsibility
    • Mentoring
    • Recovery Support
  • CPRS

    • Advocacy
    • Ethical Responsibility
    • Mentoring & Education
    • Recovery/Wellness Support

11.  What is the difference between CRSS/CPRS I and CRSS/CPRS II?

CRSS I & II and CPRS I & II are Categories of the continuing education units (CEUs) that are required to renew these credentials every two years. They do not refer to different "levels" of the credentials.

Category I CEUs must be specific to the knowledge and skills in the CRSS/CPRS Performance Domains/Core Functions (as described in the answer to #4, above).

Category II CEUs do not need to be specific to those knowledge and skills, but they must still be relevant to them, and can include a wide variety of support services skills such as communication, leadership, crisis intervention, trauma-informed care, confidentiality, cultural competency, conflict resolution, or evidence-based practices.

Some continuing education may be recognized by ICB for both categories. As Category I is more specific than Category II, any CEUs earned in Category I would also be applicable to Category II, but each CEU can only be counted once.

12.  What does it cost to obtain and maintain the CRSS and/or CPRS credentials?

The costs for the CRSS and CPRS are the same for both credentials. To obtain the credential, an applicant must first pay the Application Fee ($85), and once approved to sit for the exam, the Examination Fee ($125). To maintain the credential, the CRSS or CPRS must pay the Annual Certification Fee ($70) each year by the anniversary of their certification date. An invoice will be sent to the email address on file as a reminder, 60 days before the due date. Financial assistance may be available for these fees as part of a scholarship fund that is administered by several colleges and universities across the State of Illinois. You do not have to be a student of these institutions to apply for financial assistance. For questions about these funds, please see contact information for these institutions on the CRSS Success Program page on the IDHS website6

The only other potential costs of maintaining the CRSS and/or CPRS credential are associated with earning and submitting required continuing education hours. Some sources of CEUs charge for their courses; however, there are numerous free and low-cost courses available online that are suitable for fulfilling these requirements. A list of courses that ICB has pre-approved for CEUs is available on their website8 Another list of relevant courses is maintained on the CRSS page9 of the Illinois Mental Health Collaborative website, although not all of these listings have been pre-approved by ICB.

A reminder of the due date for CEUs will be sent via email, along with the invoice for your annual fee, 60 days before the due date (every two years). When requesting renewal of your credential, if you choose to submit a CEU that was not on the ICB pre-approved list, you will be asked to pay a CEU Petition Fee of $10. If your credential is set to expire and you need more time to earn/gather/submit the required CEUs, you will be asked to pay a CEU Extension Fee of $10 for each month past your expiration date, with a maximum of six months of extension allowed.

13.  How is CRSS defined in Rule 132 and Rule 140?

Rule 132, Section 132.25: "A recovery support specialist certified by, and in good standing with, the Illinois Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Professional Certification Association, Inc. [Illinois Certification Board, dba IAODAPCA]."

Rule 140, Section 140.453: "A recovery support specialist with a current certification from the Illinois Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Professional Certification Association, Inc. [Illinois Certification Board, dba IAODAPCA]."

Note: CPRS is not included in Rule 132 or Rule 140.

14.  Is a CRSS or CPRS equivalent to an MHP according to Rule 132 and Rule 140?

A CRSS who provides services under the supervision of a Qualified Mental Health Professional (QMHP) does meet the qualifications to be designated as a Mental Health Professional (MHP) in both Rule 132 (Section 132.25) and Rule 140 (Section 140.453). This designation does not include CPRS.

15.  What should a person do to get started if they want to get their CRSS or CPRS?

Watch the video on the CRSS Orientation Video page1 on the IDHS website and then continue through the instructions described in #2 above.


1. CRSS/CPRS Orientation Video

2. CRSS Study Guide

3. The International Certification & Reciprocity Consortium 

4. CPRS Candidates Guide 

5. CPRS Study Guide 

6. CRSS Success Grant Program and Scholarship Fund

7. Obtaining Education Hours

8. ICB-Approved CEUs

9. IL Mental Health Collaborative CEUs

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