Peer Support

Peer Support

Peer Support is the building and nurturing of relationships between peers which assists individuals in their journey of recovery and wellness. Some characteristics of this relationship include mutual respect, trust, hope and education.

    1. What is Peer Support?
    Peer support services are specialized therapeutic interactions conducted by self-identified current or former recipients of behavioral health services who are trained and certified to offer support and assistance in helping others in their recovery and community-integration process. Peer support is intended to inspire hope in individuals that recovery is not only possible, but probable. The service is designed to promote empowerment, self-determination, understanding, coping skills, and resilience through mentoring and service coordination supports that allow individuals with severe and persistent mental illness and co-occurring disorders to achieve personal wellness.
    2. What is a Peer Specialist?

    A Peer Specialist provides peer mentoring and support for individuals who are 18 years of age or older with a mental illness or a mental illness and co-occurring substance disorder and receiving behavioral health services. They assist individuals in navigating the behavioral health services system and in achieving resiliency and recovery as defined by the person. Peer Specialists are true peers in that they are self-disclosed individuals with mental illnesses.
    3. What is a Certified Peer Specialist?

    A Certified Peer Specialist is an individual who meets the eligibility criteria for a peer specialist as outlined below and/or in the Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (OMHSAS) Peer Support Services bulletin and who has successfully completed a peer certification training program, as defined by the Department of Public Welfare (DPW).

    In Pennsylvania, certification is a designation awarded by one of the two Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (OMHSAS) recognized training vendors, which are the Institute for Recovery and Community Integration and Recovery Innovations of PA, to individuals who demonstrate their competency and training as Peer Specialists. Competency is achieved through a combination of education and experience.

    4. What type of qualifications does a Certified Peer Specialist require?

    The job responsibilities of a Peer Specialist are many and varied. They include but are not limited to the following:

    • A High School Diploma or General Equivalency Degree (GED);
    • Maintained at least 12 months of successful full or part-time paid or voluntary work experience or obtained at least 24 credit hours of post-secondary education within the last three years;
    • Completed a peer specialist certification training curriculum approved by DPW; and
    • Openly identify as a consumer/survivor/peer/person in recovery from mental illness
    5. What are the job responsibilities of a Peer Specialist?

    The job responsibilities of a Peer Specialist are many and varied. They include but are not limited to the following:

    • Serve as the persons individual advocate
    • Assure that the persons choices define and drive their recovery planning process
    • Promote the principles of individual choice and self-determination
    • Use person-centered language that focuses on the individual and not the diagnosis
    • Respond appropriately to risk indicators to assure the persons welfare and safety
    • Maintain confidentiality
    • Document service provision as required by the employer
    • Establish and maintain a “peer” relationship rather than one of provider and client
    • Serve as a role model of a person in recovery
    • Assure that consumers know their rights and responsibilities
    • Serve as an active member of the persons recovery oriented team
    • Help the person access the services and supports that will help them attain their individual recovery goals
    • Promote knowledge of available services
    • Promote utilization of community resources
    6. What is unique about the role of a Certified Peer Specialist?

    Peer Specialists bring a unique set of qualifications to the job. Not only are they trained professionally in their field, but they are able to relate to the people they serve through their shared experiences and perspective.
    7. What is the future for the Peer Specialist movement?

    The use of Peer Specialist in the behavioral health field is a rapidly growing area. Peer Specialists are currently working in a wide variety of positions in drop-in centers, offices of consumer affairs, crisis stabilization units, hospitals, forensic services, case management, recovery support services and others. We are only beginning to tap into the possibilities available as we shift our focus to a recovery based model of health care with people receiving services at its center.