Peer Supporters

Materials Assembled by Katherine Ponte, ForLikeMinds

Excellent Overview on Benefits

Exploring the Value of Peer Support

Definition of Peer Supporters by NAPS — National Association of Peer Supporters

“Peer support providers are people with a personal experience of recovery from mental health, substance use, or trauma conditions who receive specialized training and supervision to guide and support others who are experiencing similar mental health, substance use or trauma issues toward increased wellness.

The term peer supporter is an umbrella for many different peer support titles and roles, such as peer advocate, peer counselor, peer coach, peer mentor, peer educator, peer support group leader, peer wellness coach, recovery coach, recovery support specialist, and many more….

In general, a peer supporter is an individual who has made a personal commitment to his or her own recovery, has maintained that recovery over a period of time, has taken special training to work with others, and is willing to share what he or she has learned about recovery in an inspirational way.

In many states, there is an official certification process (training and test) to become a qualified “peer specialist.” Not all states certify peer support providers, but most organizations require peer support providers (who are employed) need to complete training that is specific to the expected responsibilities of the job (or volunteer work). Often, a peer supporter has extra incentive to stay well because he or she is a role model for others.

Those who provide authentic peer support believe in recovery and work to promote the values that: recovery is a choice, is unique to the individual, and is a journey, not a destination. Also, self-directed recovery is possible for everyone, with or without professional help (including the help of peer specialists or peer providers).”

Peer Specialists may also work under other job titles such as Peer Support Worker, Peer Support Specialist, Recovery Coach, Peer Navigator, Peer Bridger, Recovery Guide among other job titles.

Peer Support Work is an Evidence Based Practice

The concept of mental health peer support developed in the late 1980s and early 1990s as a product of the Mental Health Consumer/Survivor Advocacy Movement. After providing mutual support to each other for over two decades within the context of self-help groups and consumer run programs outside of the mental health service system, persons recovered or recovering from mental illnesses, who began to call themselves “peers,” began to be formally trained and employed to provide similar kinds of support to other people struggling with mental health issues inside of the mental health system. At first, these services were similar to the roles already being played by paraprofessionals in mental health programs, such as case management and residential support, and these services were found to be equally effective when provided by such “peers” as when provided by non-peer paraprofessional staff (Davidson, Chinman, Kloos, et al., 1999).

Read More

Authored by Professor Larry Davidson, Yale University, School of Medicine, the leading Mental Health Recovery scholar.

And, also

Science behind peer support

My Fountain House blog post: Why Peer Support Helped Me

Practice Guidelines of Peer Supporters

NAPS National Practice Guidelines for Peer Supporters — HERE

Resources for Supervisors compiled by NAPS

Typical Peer Specialist Job Requirements

2. A High School Diploma (GED)

3. Currently in Recovery (stable, well) from Mental Illness

3. Completion of State Approved Educational Requirements

4. Completion of Ongoing State Approved Educational Requirements

5. Completion of State Approved Work Experience

6. Issuance of Formal State Certification

Each State has their own Peer Specialist Certification Requirements.

An overview of state-by-state certifications may be found on the Doors to Wellbeing Website.

An earlier overview may be found here: Peer Specialist and Certification Programs: A National Overview at the University of Texas at Austin, Texas Institute for Excellence in Mental Health, Steve Hicks School of Social Work.

High School Diploma

A typical requirement to becoming a Certified Peer Specialist is a High School Diploma or GED. Club Houses often have continuing education programs. The leading Club House in the US is Fountain House.

Continuing Educational Requirements: Many States have a continuing State approved education requirements to maintain peer support specialist certification. Check your State’s requirements.

Additional certifications: may enhance understanding and skills, including: WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan), Intentional Peer Support, and Certified Personal Medicine Coach. The Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association (PRA), and Relias Academy also offer many continuing education courses. The PRA also offers a Certified Psychiatric Rehabilitation Practitioner certification (CPRP)

We do not endorse any of these certifications, trainings or courses. Peer specialists should be aware that there are individuals, groups, and entities who may make unsubstantiated or false claims regarding certifications in the promotion and issuance of such certifications for a fee. Peer specialists should carefully consider the professional merit of all third-party non-state-approved certifications, trainings or courses.

Always, always check with your State Certification Boards about any and all trainings!

ForLikeMinds’ Hopes for Peer Supporters

ForLikeMinds wishes peer specialists meaningful full time and part time work, livable wages, good benefits, continuing education opportunities, career mobility, fair pay increases, safeguards against co-optation, supervisor opportunities, competent supervision, and most importantly, much deserved respect as important members of behavioral health care teams. We wholeheartedly support you.

New York State Example of Peer Specialist Certification

In New York State, the New York Peer Specialist Certification Board governs the Certification of Peer Specialists. State approved educational training is offered through the Academy of Peer Services (an excellent range of high quality courses are offered free of charge, which may be taken by anyone, whether or not they reside in NYS). Also see: Academy of Peer Services, Virtual Learning Community for great resources. Specialized Peer Specialist Training Programs

Specialized Peer Specialist Training Programs exist that can help you prepare to become a Peer Specialist. The leading Peer Specialist Training Program in New York City and in the US is Howie the Harp. The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) also offers Peer Specialist Training, which is highly regarded by Veterans Affairs. Note, many Specialized Peer Specialist Training Programs are not accepted by State Certification boards for the purposes of meeting official certification educational requirements, but these courses can be helpful.

Substance Use Recovery Coaching

Many people living with mental illness also have a co-occurring substance use condition — as high as 65%. It may be beneficial to obtain both mental illness and substance use recovery coaching certifications. Each State has their own Substance Use Certifications.

New York State Example of Substance Use Recovery Coaching Certification

In New York State, there are various substance use recovery coaching options, including Certified Recovery Peer Advocate, Certified Addiction Recovery Coach, and Credentialed Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counselor (CASAC).

See: New York Certification Board and NYS Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services

National Addictions Certification

National Certification is Addictions Counselors is a national certification. “Substance abuse counselors often work in community services or other public facilities. To become one, you need specialized training in job functions. You will also need work experience before you can attain certification or licensure. At some point along the way, an examination is usually required.”

See: Addiction-Counselors

See: National Certified Peer Recovery Support Specialist (NCPRSS)

Additional Educational Helpful Educational Resources

Academy of Peer Specialist Services, Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST), Boston University Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation Book Store, Center for Practice Innovations (Free Illness Self-Management Guides), Coming Out Proud Program: Honest, Open, Proud, Emotional CPR, Guide for Faith Leaders, Intentional Peer Support, Mad in America, Mental Health First Aid, NAMI Hope for Recovery — for adults living with mental illness, NAMI In Our Own Voice — trained speakers sharing their story, NAMI Peer-to-Peer — for people living with mental illness, National Empowerment Center, Pathways to Recovery, Psychiatric Rehabilitation and Recovery Academy, Recovery Library, Relias Academy, Rutgers Department of Psychiatric Rehabilitation and Counseling Professions, SBIRT — Addiction Screening, Brief Intervention, Referral to Treatment, Serious Mental Illness Advisor, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Temple University’s College of Public Health’s Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, Temple University Collaborative on Community Inclusion, Wellness, 8 dimensions of wellness, Whole Health Action Management (WHAM), WRAP — Wellness Recovery Action Plan, Video — BBC Mental A History of the Madhouse, Video — Brene Brown on Empathy, Video — Eight Dimensions of Wellness, Video — Introducing Mad People’s History, Video — Larry Davidson: What Everyone Needs to Know About the Evidence Base for Mental Health Recovery, Video — Presenting the consumer / survivor / ex-patient movement, Video — Recovery Vision: New paradigm, new questions, new answers, Video — Self Labelling and Identity

My Book on My Lived Experience — ForLikeMinds: Mental Illness Recovery Insights

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