Becoming a Peer Support Specialist

What is a Peer Support Specialist?

A Peer Support Specialist is a person living with a mental illness who provides mentoring, guidance, and support services and offers their skills to others who are experiencing psychiatric disabilities and receiving mental health services.

A Peer Support Specialist provides encouragement, information, and an understanding voice. We help our peers create and follow a plan for their own recovery. We also offer our experience to help our peers discover the many resources that are available to them as they recover.

A Peer Support Specialist offers unique support in emergency, outpatient or inpatient mental health treatment settings.

How to Become a Certified Peer Specialist

In order to become a Certified Peer Specialist in Pennsylvania an individual must attend a two-week certification course offered by one of the three approved training vendors. The three organizations that are authorized by Pennsylvania to offer the certification training are the Institute for Recovery through Mental Health Partnerships, RI Consulting, and the Copeland Center for Wellness and Recovery.  All of the certification trainings that we are aware of are listed on the ‘Upcoming Peer Support Certification Trainings’ page of this website. Click here to go to that page now. If you don’t see any trainings in your area you may want to contact the training vendors directly in case there are trainings we’ve not been made aware of.  Also, if they know there is a high demand in a particular region of Pennsylvania they may be willing to add a class in that area. Links to the vendor’s websites can be found by clicking here.

As of March 2018 the Pennsylvania Certification Board (PCB) began administration of the Pennsylvania Certified Peer Specialist credential. Following the completion of the two-week training  the graduate must complete the required PCB steps to receive their certification. To learn more about this process and download the PCB application for certification you can visit the PCB website by clicking here.

How does it work?

It’s simple. We use knowledge, skills, and experience that come from having “been there” ourselves, to help others work toward meaningful recovery from mental illness.

Why it works

A Peer Support Specialist is someone who brings the personal experience of mental illness and of recovery. We know, first hand, the experiences of people who are currently receiving mental health services, because we have stood in their shoes. This common experience creates a strong basis for trust and hope. We believe that everyone can have a life worth living, on their own terms.