Who can become a Mental Health Peer Specialist?

This article explains the criteria an individual must meet in order to obtain a Mental Health Peer Specialist Certification in Texas.

Minimum Requirements for Texas Mental Health Peer Specialist Certification

According to the Texas Administrative Code, a peer specialist must meet the following eligibility criteria:1

  1. be at least 18 years of age;
  2. have lived experience;
  3. have a high school diploma or General Equivalency Diploma (GED);
  4. be willing to appropriately share his own recovery story with recipients; 
  5. be able to demonstrate current self-directed recovery; and
  6. pass criminal history and registry checks as described in §354.3201 of this subchapter (relating to Criminal History and Registry Checks).

What is “Lived Experience”?

Lived experience is a broad concept, as discussed in our article about the basics of peer support. But, for the purposes of eligibility as a Certified MHPS, a person must have lived experience with a mental health condition. Specifically, a person has eligible lived experience “when a person has experienced a significant life disruption due to the person’s own mental health condition and/or substance use disorder and is now in recovery.”2

Let’s explore what lived experience looks like as it relates to both mental health and substance use. We mentioned that people must be in recovery after experiencing “a significant life disruption due to the person’s own mental health condition.” – but what does a “significant life disruption” mean?

The Texas Administrative Code defines a mental health condition as:3 “a condition (excluding a single diagnosis of an intellectual or developmental disability or a substance use disorder) that substantially impairs:
(A) an individual’s thought, perception of reality, emotional process, or judgement;
(B) an individual’s behavior; or
(C) an individual’s ability to participate in daily routines.”

One thing we want to highlight in this definition is that this definition does not say anything about requiring that someone has a diagnosis. This is because peer support is non-clinical, and therefore, Peer Specialists do not rely on diagnoses to relate to other people.

More about Recovery

Peer Specialists are open and authentic about their experiences with recovery, and sometimes they share their experiences with recovery when it is helpful to the exploration and support of the person they are providing services to. That is why certified Peer Specialists in Texas must be able to “demonstrate current self-directed recovery”4 and “be willing to appropriately share his own recovery story with recipients.”5

If you do not feel like you are in a position to share your experience with mental health and/or substance use challenges and your experience with your recovery journey, you are probably not quite ready to be a peer supporter yet.

Recovery from a “mental health condition” may or may not include the use of medication, therapy, or other clinical supports. Regardless of the pathway that they have chosen, Mental Health Peer Specialists need to be able to demonstrate that they are strongly grounded in their own recovery.