Certified Peer Specialists: An Untapped Opportunity

April 7, 2023 (Submitted by Katherine Ponte, JD, MBA, CPRP, Reprinted from the NAMI Blog)

Group of people holding hands
When thinking about effective pathways to recovery, the mental health community must consider a largely untapped resource: Certified Peer Specialists (CPSs). People with mental illness who are employed as CPSs have proven to make a significant difference helping others in therapeutic settings.

CPSs (also referred to as peer specialists, peer navigators, peer providers, peer supporters or peer support workers) are “hired into designated peer positions or traditional mental health positions who must publicly self-identify as a peer and have been or are a service user themselves for their own mental health challenge.” Their role is based on a “system of giving and receiving help founded on key principles of respect, shared responsibility and mutual agreement of what is helpful.”

Essentially, CPSs can help peers manage their mental illness and other mental health challenges, like trauma, substance use or comorbid physical illness(es). This work supports recovery and helps with other recovery-oriented goals, such as education, employment, housing and social connectedness.

While there are more than 30,000 CPSs trained to do this work, the widespread implementation of peer support remains limited. This represents a significant issue in our health care system and a largely untapped part of the solution. Beyond the obvious benefits to those needing help from a peer, A CPS career can foster a sense of meaning and purpose for specialists, which is critical to their own recovery. For anyone who has mental illness and is looking for a meaningful career, it is a worthwhile option to consider.

(Read more on the NAMI Blog Site)

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