The Importance of Peer Support Specialists

Posted on: February 5, 2016 2:15 pm

Peer Support Specialists provide a very unique and special service to members at Fellowship House. We currently have Peer Support Specialist located in several departments including Case Management, Clubhouse, Psycho-Social Rehabilitation, and FACT. These individuals are tasked with the important job of offering support to those on the path of recovery. Margaret A. has been at Fellowship House since 1995 and is one of four Peer Specialist at our Agency. When asked why she became a Peer Specialist, she stated, “I knew it would help me achieve the next level of independence and increase my participation in the healing process.”

A Peer Support Specialist, at its most basic of definitions is an individual who has experienced personal life challenges who works to assist individuals with chemical dependency, mental disorder or domestic abuse and other life effecting issues. One could say that these individuals have walked the path of recovery and serve as role models for their peers. They exemplify what it means to accomplish goals and meet challenges head-on. The help they provide to members at Fellowship House is invaluable. Margaret stated, “I help them increase control of their situation so they can achieve goals they want to meet.”

Peer Specialists are trained and certified to serve their peers and require continuous education in the mental health field to remain up to date with the latest forms of treatment. This may vary from State-to-State depending on the requirements. The Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) is just one Evidence-Based Practice these individuals are trained in, in order to provide the best care possible for their peers. Such trainings allow Peer Specialists to reach out to others and assist them in building their strengths and identifying areas of concern.

These positions are often found in public and private organizations that include inpatient care, community-based services, consumer-run respite services, and in a wide variety of roles. They are often paid employees though some provide services as volunteers.

It is important for mental health organizations to have peer specialists because often time’s experience is the greatest teacher. Many Peer Specialists are able to offer valuable knowledge and real life experiences that other mental health professionals are unable to provide. They are able to reach those who are going through most difficult situations because they themselves may have been down the same road. Where others might only commiserate with an individual, Peer Specialists are able to understand personally the struggle they might be facing and guide a peer out of the most difficult situations. Apart from providing this support, Margaret stated, “I connect the members with important things that they are supposed to do and achieve in recovery.”

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