What Is a Peer Specialist?

Reviewed Apr 26, 2017

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Summary

A peer specialist:

  • Has been through recovery as well as training
  • Is a friend, coach, leader, mentor, and role model

A peer specialist is an expert in the area of peer support. In some states, this person must go through a certification process. Other states do not have this requirement. Whether certified or not, a peer specialist has been through recovery as well as training. This means the specialist can lend both an understanding ear and a helping hand.

Roles of peer specialists

The roles of peer specialists are many. A specialist serves as a coach, leader, mentor, and role model. He will listen with empathy to the struggles of other support group members. He will rejoice in their triumphs, no matter how small. He will teach recovery tips he has learned through his own experience and training. He will suggest where and how to access more resources.

A peer specialist does not put herself above her fellow support group members. She has been through her own recovery so she knows the difficulty. She also realizes she could not have succeeded without the help of others. This makes her all the more willing to offer guidance and support to her peers. She is a role model who walks side-by-side with those she leads.

Values of peer specialists

Peer support starts with identifying the person who is being helped. A peer specialist must believe in the person as well as the recovery process. Along the way, certain core values should be observed to better help the person. This is true whether leading a group or mentoring one-on-one. Some of the core values of good peer support include:

  • Honesty
  • Respect
  • Confidentiality
  • Empathy
  • Tolerance
  • Equality
  • Hope
  • Positive feedback
  • Freedom of expression
  • Freedom of choice

Training of peer specialists

What sets a peer specialist apart from other peer supporters is training. Some states require a certification process, which differs from state to state. In other states this is not required. This leaves the training up to the place where the specialist works or volunteers. This training should fall in line with the type of duties the specialist will be asked to perform. Some areas of training may include:

  • Mental health and drug use
  • Intervention
  • Trauma
  • Recovery
  • Wellness
  • Health care management

Challenges for peer specialists

Peer specialists are both champions and cheerleaders. They model what recovery looks like while helping others go through their own journey. As leaders and role models, specialists must keep up their own recovery and integrity. While this can be a great incentive, it can also add a great deal of pressure. Burnout is a common problem among peer specialists.

Peer specialists must be honest with themselves and others about their own recovery. They should not be afraid to ask for help when they are feeling overwhelmed. This help should come from outside the facility where they are serving.

Sometimes a newly hired specialist will face resentment from staff members or former peers. This can be reduced if the specialist’s roles and duties are clearly defined. The specialist should be held to the same standards as other staff members. Awkward relationships with former peers may need to be altered. Everyone should commit to working as a team toward the same goal of recovery.

Resources

International Association of Peer Specialist (iNAPS)
National Practice Guidelines for Peer Supporters
https://na4ps.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/nationalguidelines1.pdf

The RAND Corporation
Mental Health Consumer Providers: A Guide for Clinical Staff
www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/technical_reports/2008/RAND_TR584.pdf

By Kevin Rizzo
Source: International Association of Peer Supporters, http://inaops.org/definition-peer-specialist/, https://na4ps.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/nationalguidelines1.pdf; The RAND Corporation, www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/technical_reports/2008/RAND_TR584.pdf; National Alliance on Mental Illness, www2.nami.org/Template.cfm?Section=About_Treatments_and_Supports&Template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=143974; Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, www.samhsa.gov/recovery/peer-support-social-inclusion

Summary

A peer specialist:

  • Has been through recovery as well as training
  • Is a friend, coach, leader, mentor, and role model

A peer specialist is an expert in the area of peer support. In some states, this person must go through a certification process. Other states do not have this requirement. Whether certified or not, a peer specialist has been through recovery as well as training. This means the specialist can lend both an understanding ear and a helping hand.

Roles of peer specialists

The roles of peer specialists are many. A specialist serves as a coach, leader, mentor, and role model. He will listen with empathy to the struggles of other support group members. He will rejoice in their triumphs, no matter how small. He will teach recovery tips he has learned through his own experience and training. He will suggest where and how to access more resources.

A peer specialist does not put herself above her fellow support group members. She has been through her own recovery so she knows the difficulty. She also realizes she could not have succeeded without the help of others. This makes her all the more willing to offer guidance and support to her peers. She is a role model who walks side-by-side with those she leads.

Values of peer specialists

Peer support starts with identifying the person who is being helped. A peer specialist must believe in the person as well as the recovery process. Along the way, certain core values should be observed to better help the person. This is true whether leading a group or mentoring one-on-one. Some of the core values of good peer support include:

  • Honesty
  • Respect
  • Confidentiality
  • Empathy
  • Tolerance
  • Equality
  • Hope
  • Positive feedback
  • Freedom of expression
  • Freedom of choice

Training of peer specialists

What sets a peer specialist apart from other peer supporters is training. Some states require a certification process, which differs from state to state. In other states this is not required. This leaves the training up to the place where the specialist works or volunteers. This training should fall in line with the type of duties the specialist will be asked to perform. Some areas of training may include:

  • Mental health and drug use
  • Intervention
  • Trauma
  • Recovery
  • Wellness
  • Health care management

Challenges for peer specialists

Peer specialists are both champions and cheerleaders. They model what recovery looks like while helping others go through their own journey. As leaders and role models, specialists must keep up their own recovery and integrity. While this can be a great incentive, it can also add a great deal of pressure. Burnout is a common problem among peer specialists.

Peer specialists must be honest with themselves and others about their own recovery. They should not be afraid to ask for help when they are feeling overwhelmed. This help should come from outside the facility where they are serving.

Sometimes a newly hired specialist will face resentment from staff members or former peers. This can be reduced if the specialist’s roles and duties are clearly defined. The specialist should be held to the same standards as other staff members. Awkward relationships with former peers may need to be altered. Everyone should commit to working as a team toward the same goal of recovery.

Resources

International Association of Peer Specialist (iNAPS)
National Practice Guidelines for Peer Supporters
https://na4ps.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/nationalguidelines1.pdf

The RAND Corporation
Mental Health Consumer Providers: A Guide for Clinical Staff
www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/technical_reports/2008/RAND_TR584.pdf

By Kevin Rizzo
Source: International Association of Peer Supporters, http://inaops.org/definition-peer-specialist/, https://na4ps.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/nationalguidelines1.pdf; The RAND Corporation, www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/technical_reports/2008/RAND_TR584.pdf; National Alliance on Mental Illness, www2.nami.org/Template.cfm?Section=About_Treatments_and_Supports&Template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=143974; Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, www.samhsa.gov/recovery/peer-support-social-inclusion

Summary

A peer specialist:

  • Has been through recovery as well as training
  • Is a friend, coach, leader, mentor, and role model

A peer specialist is an expert in the area of peer support. In some states, this person must go through a certification process. Other states do not have this requirement. Whether certified or not, a peer specialist has been through recovery as well as training. This means the specialist can lend both an understanding ear and a helping hand.

Roles of peer specialists

The roles of peer specialists are many. A specialist serves as a coach, leader, mentor, and role model. He will listen with empathy to the struggles of other support group members. He will rejoice in their triumphs, no matter how small. He will teach recovery tips he has learned through his own experience and training. He will suggest where and how to access more resources.

A peer specialist does not put herself above her fellow support group members. She has been through her own recovery so she knows the difficulty. She also realizes she could not have succeeded without the help of others. This makes her all the more willing to offer guidance and support to her peers. She is a role model who walks side-by-side with those she leads.

Values of peer specialists

Peer support starts with identifying the person who is being helped. A peer specialist must believe in the person as well as the recovery process. Along the way, certain core values should be observed to better help the person. This is true whether leading a group or mentoring one-on-one. Some of the core values of good peer support include:

  • Honesty
  • Respect
  • Confidentiality
  • Empathy
  • Tolerance
  • Equality
  • Hope
  • Positive feedback
  • Freedom of expression
  • Freedom of choice

Training of peer specialists

What sets a peer specialist apart from other peer supporters is training. Some states require a certification process, which differs from state to state. In other states this is not required. This leaves the training up to the place where the specialist works or volunteers. This training should fall in line with the type of duties the specialist will be asked to perform. Some areas of training may include:

  • Mental health and drug use
  • Intervention
  • Trauma
  • Recovery
  • Wellness
  • Health care management

Challenges for peer specialists

Peer specialists are both champions and cheerleaders. They model what recovery looks like while helping others go through their own journey. As leaders and role models, specialists must keep up their own recovery and integrity. While this can be a great incentive, it can also add a great deal of pressure. Burnout is a common problem among peer specialists.

Peer specialists must be honest with themselves and others about their own recovery. They should not be afraid to ask for help when they are feeling overwhelmed. This help should come from outside the facility where they are serving.

Sometimes a newly hired specialist will face resentment from staff members or former peers. This can be reduced if the specialist’s roles and duties are clearly defined. The specialist should be held to the same standards as other staff members. Awkward relationships with former peers may need to be altered. Everyone should commit to working as a team toward the same goal of recovery.

Resources

International Association of Peer Specialist (iNAPS)
National Practice Guidelines for Peer Supporters
https://na4ps.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/nationalguidelines1.pdf

The RAND Corporation
Mental Health Consumer Providers: A Guide for Clinical Staff
www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/technical_reports/2008/RAND_TR584.pdf

By Kevin Rizzo
Source: International Association of Peer Supporters, http://inaops.org/definition-peer-specialist/, https://na4ps.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/nationalguidelines1.pdf; The RAND Corporation, www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/technical_reports/2008/RAND_TR584.pdf; National Alliance on Mental Illness, www2.nami.org/Template.cfm?Section=About_Treatments_and_Supports&Template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=143974; Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, www.samhsa.gov/recovery/peer-support-social-inclusion

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, assessments, and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, health care, psychiatric, psychological, or behavioral health care advice. Nothing contained on the Achieve Solutions site is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care professional. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your health care provider.  ©2019 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

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