What is Peer Support?
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.
- Recovery is unique to the individual.
- Recovery is a journey, not a destination.
- Self-directed recovery is possible for everyone, with or without professional help (including the help of peer specialists or peer providers).
A peer support provider is caring and compassionate for what a person is experiencing. If the peer support provider has has been through similar challenges, he or she may offer ideas or wisdom gained through his or her personal experiences to inspire hope, support personal responsibility, promote understanding, offer education, and promote self-advocacy and self-determination.