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Difference Between Certified Behavioral Health Technicians and Certified Recovery Support Specialists

When prospective students call us looking for an entry-level certification in the behavioral health industry, they have more often than not heard of the Certified Behavioral Health Technician or CBHT. Many times, however, they do not know much about the Certified Recovery Support Specialist or CRSS, or are not quite sure what exactly the CRSS does.

First let’s discuss the similarities between the two certifications:

  • Both the CBHT and the CRSS require 1000 hours of work experience. However, the CBHT requires formal work experience and volunteer work is not eligible, while the CRSS allows volunteer work to be applied to the work experience total.
  • Both certifications are also considered entry-level in that certified individuals often use these as a steppingstone to other certifications and careers within the industry
  • Both certified professionals are bound by the same ethical and professional codes as outlined by the Florida Certification Board. These include privacy and proper documentation as well as setting proper boundaries and following ethical practices

However, that is where the similarities end. Some of the key differences are:

Scope of work

The CBHT is largely responsible for the day-to-day well-being of clients at the treatment center. This may include transportation to and from therapy or activities such as going to the beach, to the gym, or grocery shopping. The CBHT will also do periodic supervisory rounds at the facility to ensure that rules of the treatment center are being followed and that no inappropriate behavior is occurring either at the residence or the treatment facility. In this regard, CBHTs represent the eyes and ears of the treatment staff at the facility. Further, CBHTs have important documentation requirements and must both observe and document client behavior objectively to assist in the therapeutic process giving clinicians valuable background on their clients.

The CRSS, on the other hand, is more often involved in the clinical side of treatment. They may assist the therapist, other licensed clinicians, or medical team members directly, or they may be used in various capacities outside the treatment center to assist in crises – whether medical or otherwise. Oftentimes, the CRSS is the link between the medical community and the treatment center in advocating for individuals seeking appropriate behavioral health treatment.

Number of hours required to gain certification

While both certifications do not require extraordinary amount of time to complete, the CRSS requires 75 hours of training and education while the CBHT requires only 30.

Experience with behavioral health issues

While getting the CBHT does not need past direct experience with addiction or mental health issues, the Florida Certification Board outlines that the CRSS must have had some exposure to behavioral health issues in their lives. This does not mean lived experience in the form of their own addiction, but rather being around behavioral health issues whether it is family, close friends, or part of their prior work experience. The very definition of a support specialist means that they must have direct knowledge of addiction and how it affects people.

So which certification is best?

In the end, the certification one chooses to pursue is based on very personal decisions and career goals. Those who have spent some time working in the industry and want to pursue an entry-level certification can’t go wrong with either of these options.

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