Understanding Peer Support as a Profession

“Recovery is a process of change through which an individual improves one’s health and wellness, lives a self-directed life, and strives to reach their full potential.” This is the current definition of “Recovery” according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). It is a broad definition, but an inclusive one.  Full potential varies from person to person.  Living a self-directed life can be tough.


What is the role of Peer Support in promoting this definition?  For the most part, Peer Specialists are in what is called Recovery.  It was once mandatory that the specialist be in recovery for two years which meant out of the hospital and with active and successful self-care.  Now, because of the demand of these certified people, the rules have become a little more forgiving for those wanting to reach out to others in order to help promote hope.  There is no definitive time frame that an individual must wait to be a Peer Specialist.


Peer Support is reciprocal.  The specialist tries to use the skills he or she has learned to help those struggling, but the act of supporting another person helps the specialist out as well.  It gives a purpose and a reason to interact with other people.  It reminds one what is was like to be in that vulnerable time when first diagnosed; the difficulty in finding the right medication and support is a roadblock to many, and Peer Specialists know that and understand.


Peer Support has been shown to help in the process of recovery for those with serious mental illness.  Some Peer Specialists work exclusively with those struggling with substance abuse problems. There are also programs for specific populations, including Veterans.  With the requirement of continuing education, Peer Specialists must stay on top of current issues concerning mental health.  The program is quickly spreading in popularity, especially since it is now Medicaid billable.  For any questions, or if you know of a patient that may eventually enjoy providing such services, just let me know.


Rebecca Coursey, KPS
Peer Support Specialist

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