A Peer Support Specialist is a professional with lived recovery experience who has been trained and certified to help others as they move forward in their own recovery. As someone who has traveled a similar path, a Peer Support Specialist fosters hope and serves as a valuable role model for those who are walking the road to wellness. DBSA offers a five-week course that can prepare you for Peer Support Specialist certification. Learn more about the course here.

Who is Eligible to Participate in DBSA’s Peer Support Specialist Course?

Participants must be 18 or older with lived experience and with a mental health or substance use condition. They must be publicly willing to identify as someone who lives with a mental health or substance use condition who seeks to use their experience as practical, supportive services for others in recovery. DBSA does not offer a course for family members of loved ones living with major depressive or bipolar disorder.

What Will You Gain From A DBSA Peer Support Specialist Course?

Participants will reflect on their own recovery journey and develop skills that draw upon this experience to assist others in their recovery. Course work includes outside reading, completion of homework assignments, group distance learning discussions, quizzes, and roleplaying. Successful completion includes receiving a passing grade on quizzes, instructor evaluations, and a final test. Students must be available to attend all remote group learning modules and the virtual group skill-building workshop. Students who achieve a passing grade on all quizzes, a skill-building workshop virtual evaluation, and the final test will receive a certificate of completion.

How Applying Your Skills as a Peer Support Specialist Benefits Others

Peer Support Specialists have a common commitment to helping others, working from a strengths-based perspective. Utilizing peers with shared experiences to deliver services is empowering, and research has proven that this approach is highly effective in:

  • Reducing expensive inpatient service use
  • Reducing recurrent psychiatric hospitalizations for patients at risk of readmission
  • Improving relationships between peers and their health care providers
  • Helping people engage more fully in their own care
  • Significantly increasing each peer’s ability to manage symptoms and reduce reliance on formal services while still achieving positive recovery outcomes.

Where do Peer Support Specialists Work?

The rapidly growing peer workforce is an integral part of treatment teams in both public and private settings. Peer Support Specialists may serve in the Department of Veterans Affairs, integrated behavioral health centers, inpatient facilities, community-based mental health centers, and peer-run respite services. Most often, Peer Support Specialists work as paid employees, while others choose to offer their services as volunteers.

Peer Support Specialists serve in a wide variety of roles, working with individuals and groups to:

  • Create individual service plans based on recovery goals, setting steps to achieve those goals
  • Introduce recovery tools that help with specific challenges
  • Create personalized wellness plans
  • Provide support for decision-making
  • Organize and sustain self-help and educational groups for peers
  • Offer a sounding board and a shoulder to lean on … and much more.

Learn more about becoming a Peer Support Specialist by checking out our FAQs.

2022 Course information