This article goes over the different Peer Support certifications recognized by the State of Texas.
What is a Peer Supporter?
A peer supporter is a professional role where a person with "lived experience" of navigating recovery (including family recovery) who has been trained to support others who are experiencing mental health or substance use challenges.
Where do Peer Supporters work?Peer supporters work in many different environments, with jobs that focus on direct service, program management, advocacy, and more. For example, peer supporters in Texas provide direct services in:
- Criminal justice settings (jails, prisons, specialty courts, probation and parole, etc.)
- Community outreach programs (where peer supporters go into the communities where people live)
- Hospitals and Inpatient Treatment Centers (psychiatric hospitals, general medicine hospitals, substance use treatment centers, and Veterans Administration hospitals)
- Outpatient clinics (Federally Qualified Health Clinics, mental health clinics, substance use treatment clinics)
- Peer-run organizations (Consumer-Operated Service Providers, Recovery Community Organizations, and other groups that are run by peer supporters and/or people in recovery)
- Residential settings (domestic violence shelters, residential settings for people in substance use recovery, shelters or residential settings for people experiencing homelessness, etc.)
- Virtual settings (app-based services, teleconferencing, chat-based support, etc.)
Peer specialists also hold many different titles in the agencies where they work, including:
- Peer Specialist or Family Partner (Paid or Volunteer)
- Peer Specialist or Family Partner Supervisor
- Program Coordinator
- Program Manager
- Executive Director
- Legislative Advocate/Policy Fellow
- And more!
What do Peer Supporters do?
Peer supporters hold space for people to focus on what recovery and meaningful living look like to them. Recovery is “a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.” This definition shows us that recovery isn’t about a diagnosis or the last time we used a substance; instead, recovery is a multidimensional experience where we develop strengths in our health, home, purpose, and community.
Peer supporters promote exploration of these different dimensions of recovery, remaining diligent in holding space for other people to define what these dimensions look like to them (not telling others what they believe these dimensions should look like).
Peer Supporters also share about their own experience with recovery. By sharing openly and authentically about their lived experience and recovery, peer supporters offer living proof that recovery is not only a possibility, but a reality. Peer supporters are people who are grounded in their own recovery, and who can share what their lived experience has brought to their personal and professional lives. For example, peer supporters can identify and share the beliefs, values, and supports that helped them in their recovery.
Peer supporters share from a place of authenticity, not hiding their experiences with setbacks or failure, but instead honoring those moments of adversity as integral parts of their stories and recovery experience. And peer supporters can share how self-care supports their recovery and professional life, recognizing self-care as a daily practice to foster and sustain wellness.
What types of Peer Support certifications are there in Texas?
There are many different areas of focus in which peer supporters can work, like behavioral health, criminal justice, trauma, physical healthcare, etc. Let’s take a look at 4 peer professional roles in the Texas behavioral health system: Family Partners, Mental Health Peer Specialists, and Recovery Support Peer Specialists.
Mental Health Peer Specialist (MHPS)
A Mental Health Peer Specialist is a person who has lived experience of recovery with mental health challenges who is trained to support people with mental health challenges. They provide support by honoring the self-identification and self-determination of the people receiving peer services, without focusing on or using clinical language or diagnoses.
Recovery Support Peer Specialist (RSPS)
Similarly, a Recovery Support Peer Specialist is a person who has lived experience of recovery with substance use challenges who is trained to support people with substance use challenges.
Recovery Support Peer Specialists recognize that there are multiple pathways of recovery, and support the people they serve to discover what pathway works best for them. They do not act as a sponsor or a guide, and they do not push people to embrace abstinence or the recovery pathway they chose.
Certified Family Partner (CFP)
A Family Partner is a person who has lived experience parenting a child experiencing mental, emotional or behavioral health challenges and who can articulate the understanding of their experience with another parent or family member. Family Partners work with caregivers to build family resiliency, navigate child-serving systems, and advocate for the child receiving services. Family Partners often work in mental heath settings like Local Mental Health Authorities, and they focus their support to caregivers of children under the age of 18.
Peer Specialist Supervisor (PSS)
Certified MHPS & RSPS can advance their career in peer support by becoming Certified Peer Specialist Supervisors. In 2019, a new path was created for peer specialists to supervise other peer specialists without needing a clinical degree or certification. Now, a Certified MHPS or RSPS can apply to be a Certified Peer Specialist Supervisor if they have:
- A High School Diploma or GED AND at least four years of work experience as a peer specialist; or
- An associate’s degree or higher from an accredited college or university AND at least two years of work experience as a peer specialist.