Peer Support

Operationalizing Peer Support

Overview On Recovery

Recovery happens! Recovery from mental illness (and Substance Use Disorder) is not only possible but expected. The President's New (not so new) Freedom Commission Report (2003) envisioned "a future when everyone with a mental illness will recover, a future when mental illnesses can be prevented or cured, a future when mental illnesses are detected early, and a future when everyone with a mental illness at any stage of life has access to effective treatment and supports—essentials for living, working, learning, and participating fully in the community."

The Peer Workforce Alliance in 100% agreement that recovery from mental health and substance use disorders can and does happen. Recovery looks different for everyone and there are many ways up the mountain from 12 step recovery programs to medical assisted treatment.  It all works!  Your story and your recovery is valuable to another person and that is why Certified Peer Counseling is so valuable.

Defining "Recovery"

In August 2010, a group of leaders in recovery from mental illness and substance use disorders, met with the national agency called the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The team worked together to develop a working definition of recovery that would apply to both mental health and substance use. The team developed the following definition for recovery:

A process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.

SAMHSA has delineated four major dimensions that support a life in recovery:

Health—overcoming or managing one’s disease(s) or symptoms—for example, abstaining from use of alcohol, illicit drugs, and non-prescribed medications if one has an addiction problem—and, for everyone in recovery, making informed, healthy choices that support physical and emotional well-being

Home—having a stable and safe place to live

Purpose—conducting meaningful daily activities, such as a job, school volunteerism, family caretaking, or creative endeavors, and the independence, income, and resources to participate in society

Community—having relationships and social networks that provide support, friendship, love, and hope

Ten Principles of Recovery:

  1. Recovery emerges form hope.
  2. Recovery is person-driven.
  3. Recovery occurs via many pathways.
  4. Recovery is holistic.
  5. Recovery is supported by peers and allies.
  6. Recovery is supported through relationship and social networks.
  7. Recovery is culturally-based and influenced.
  8. Recovery is supported by addressing trauma.
  9. Recovery involves individual, family, and community strengths, and responsibility.

Peer Support

Peer support is the simple effective process of one person partnering with another person on their recovery journey.

The Peer Specialist Service is a structured and scheduled non clinical yet therapeutic activity with an individual client or group, provided by a trained, self-identified consumer of behavioral health services. A Certified Peer Counselor guides program participants toward the identification and achievement of specific goals co-created by the individual and the Certified Peer Counselor.

Program Requirements: According to State rules in Washington Administrative Code (WAC) 388-865-0107, the requirements for certification are:

1. To be a self-identified person with lived experience with mental health services

2. To complete the state training

3. Successfully pass the state certification test

National & Statewide Resources

Congratulations on your decision to become a Certified Peer Counselor!

Please fill out the application on your own. If you need assistance please email Mary Chambers her information is on the application.

Email Release: The completion of the application includes permission to include your email on distribution lists specific to peer counseling or employment. This is called the Office of Consumer Partnerships list serve. If you do not want your email address to be on these lists, there is a box on the last page to choose to opt out of the distribution lists.

Eligibility: You are NOT eligible for the training unless you have lived experience in mental health & substance use recovery, either yourself or as a parent or legal guardian. Certified Peer Counselors are effective because they share lived experiences.

Education: A high school diploma or GED is required for the training. If you do not have a diploma or GED, however, you may ask for an“Education Waiver Request Letter.”  See application for instructions.

Employment: This training is designed to prepare peers for employment. Preference is given to (1) applicants already working as a peer counselor at a behavioral health agency or who have a confirmed job offer, (2)those interested in working for behavioral health agencies as peer counselors or who are U.S. veterans, and (3) other applicants interested in peer counseling.

Note about Prioritization: All applications are scored and prioritized by each trainer by employment and application scores.In addition, non-HCA trainers may have regional priorities, such as youth applicants.

Filling out application: Applicants receive a higher score when they describe more work or volunteer experience. Remember that this application is for both mental health and substance use disorder.

Employment Goals:  Applicants receive a higher score when they are planning to work at a Medicaid Behavioral Health Agency. Individuals interested in working in the field of peer counseling have priority over those interested in the training for personal growth. We value each reason for taking the training. This is currently a workforce development program and as such we are giving high priority to those whose employment depends on their being trained.

Interests in Certified Peer Counseling: Applicants who show a genuine desire to assist others are rated highly. Passion is a key ingredient to becoming a successful Certified Peer Counselor. If you are being “made” to take the training or if you are NOT excited about it for some reason, please ask yourself why.  Make sure you answer this question to your personal satisfaction before you fill out this application. There are many folks

Recovery: No one but you can say whether or not you are in recovery. This is a question you should ask yourself carefully. Being a Certified Peer Counselor means being able to help others and being able to work consistently. It means that you have done enough of your own work that you will not likely have a strong emotional response to someone else’s story in order to be of maximum service.

Parents: Your response to this question may include your skills in promoting your child’s recovery

and resilience and what you have learned that allows others to learn from you.) A high score in this area would indicate a person is in recovery, understands several principles of recovery, and has learned skills to maintain recovery.

Leadership: Leadership can take many forms. You may have formal leadership experience from participation on local committees, boards, or with organizations. Other leadership activities may include facilitating or teaching groups and classes.If you feel participating in classes or groups has helped you develop leadership skills,please write about that.

Skills in Sharing Your Personal Story:  This answer should describe how comfortable you are in sharing your story, what kind of experience you have doing so, and how long you have been sharing your story.

DO NOT share the details of your story in this application! This means not sharing specific information about hospitalizations, medications, or therapy.

Summary:  The more authentic and recovery oriented in your application the better. Please list your goals and how you have shared your story but don’t leave out the passion!