Learn about Peer Specialists

Becoming a Peer Specialist turns what I've been through as a result of mental illness into something positive, powerful and useful.
–Michele, Certified Peer Specialist

What's a Peer Specialist?

A Peer Specialist is an individual with lived recovery experience who has been trained and certified to help their peers gain hope and move forward in their own recovery.

The Peer Specialist:

  • Cultivates their peers’ ability to make informed, independent choices
  • Helps their peers identify and build on their strengths
  • Assists their peers in gaining information and support from the community to make their goals a reality

As a person who has traveled a similar path, Peer Specialists foster hope for recovery and role models that reality to the peers they serve.

Peer Specialists go by different names in different settings—for example, peer support specialists, certified recovery support specialists, and in the Department of Veterans Affairs, peer support technicians—but they have a common commitment to assisting their peers from a strengths-focused perspective. Utilizing peers with shared experiences to deliver services is empowering, and research demonstrates its effectiveness.

What do Peer Specialists do?

Peer Specialists support their peers both individually and in small groups.

Peer Specialists:

  • Help peers create individual service plans based on recovery goals and steps to achieve those goals
  • Use recovery-oriented tools to help their peers address challenges
  • Assist others to build their own self-directed wellness plans
  • Support peers in their decision-making
  • Set up and sustain peer self-help and educational groups
  • Offer a sounding board and a shoulder to lean on…and more!

Where do Peer Specialists work?

The rapidly-growing peer workforce is an integral part of treatment teams in both public and private settings including inpatient care, community-based services, consumer-run respite services, and in a wide variety of roles.

Most frequently, Peer Specialists work as paid employees, while others choose to offer their services as volunteers.

What are the qualifications to become a Peer Specialist?

Peer specialist training and certification requirements are determined on a state-by-state basis. A number of states administer their own peer specialist training and certification systems, while others contract with outside organizations to offer this training and certification. Other states permit individuals to complete state-approved training and certification programs offered by outside entities.

The Department of Veterans Affairs requires employed peer support technicians to complete either their state mental health department’s approved training and certification process, or to be trained and certified by organizations whose training has been determined by the VA to equip peer specialists with necessary skills and competencies.

Interested in becoming a Peer Specialist?

Learn about DBSA Peer Specialist Core Training.

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