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What Is a Peer Support Specialist and How to Become One


What Is Peer Support?

Peer support is an aspect of patient care that connects patients with mentors who have survived similar life-changing experiences. Formal education and professional training only go so far in helping mental health professionals understand what patients are going through; a peer support specialist can fill that gap since they have the first-hand experience that aligns with the patient’s reality—surviving addiction or abuse, for instance, or coping with mental health disorders. A peer support specialist’s responsibilities are to be a compassionate mentor and to guide patients through their struggles with a perspective based on shared histories.

What Is a Peer Support Specialist?

A peer support specialist provides support based on personal experience to patients recovering from abuse, addiction, or mental health disorders. Because they have survived similar life-altering experiences, peer support specialists have a shared perspective that helps them connect with and guide patients in recovery. Peer support specialists work in healthcare facilities, rehabilitation centers, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies. The job duties of a peer support specialist include patient support, coordinating patient logistics (such as scheduling appointments and transportation), building community through social activities, and identifying helpful resources for patients.

How to Become a Peer Support Specialist

To become a peer support specialist, find an organization providing services that relate to your own life-altering experience. For example, if you successfully recovered from drug addiction, seek work as a peer support specialist at an addiction rehabilitation facility. While most employers require a high school diploma, obtaining a bachelor’s degree may broaden your career options. Complete the training and exam to become a certified peer support specialist. You also need good people skills and compassion for others. Previous work experience in mental health or peer support roles that will make you a more competitive job candidate.

Peer Support Specialist Job Description Sample

With this Peer Support Specialist job description sample, you can get a good idea of what employers are looking for when hiring for this position. Remember though, every employer is different and each will have unique qualifications when they hire for their Peer Support Specialist position.

Summary

We are seeking a passionate, motivated person to join our treatment clinic as a Peer Support Specialist. As part of our team, you assist individuals throughout the recovery process, helping them gain skills, access resources, and regain the confidence to succeed in society. You assist program participants with basic life skills, such as bill paying and how to keep appointments, and provide encouragement and guidance for engaging with activities to engender feelings of support and community. Our ideal candidate has certification as a Peer Support Specialist coupled with lived experiences as a person engaged with mental health services or having survived severe addiction.

Duties and Responsibilities

  • Assist program participants in the development of skills, confidence, and relationships as they resume independent living
  • Facilitate groups in an open and welcoming environment
  • Provide direct peer counseling based on your own lived experiences
  • Help participants understand and employ recovery strategies

Requirements and Qualifications

  • High school diploma or GED certificate
  • Associate degree or higher in social services (preferred)
  • Peer Support Specialist certification
  • Moderate computer proficiency
  • Valid state driver’s license