Peer Support Specialist: Everything You Need To Know

Who is a peer support specialist? What does a peer support specialist do? How can I become a certified peer support specialist? What are the perks of being a peer support specialist? If you are interested in taking a deep dive into the world of peer support specialists, this article has all the information you need.

Hi. My name is Sean Galla. I am a men’s support group facilitator with more than 10 years of experience. Part of my facilitating journey has been overseeing men’s support groups as a peer support specialist. If you are interested in learning more about peer outreach and becoming a peer support specialist, I have put together this article detailing everything you need to know to make it easier for you to venture into this line of work.

In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about becoming a peer support specialist.

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Written by

Sean Galla

An experienced facilitator, community builder and Peer Support Specialist, Sean has been running men's groups for 10+ years. Read Sean's Full Author Bio.

Who Is a Peer Support Specialist?

what does a peer support specialist do

A peer support specialist is a professional with lived experiences who has undergone training and acquired certification to offer help and encouragement to others going through similar experiences and working towards wellness. This can include substance abuse, substance use disorder, opioid abuse, physical and psychological trauma, mental health issues, and occurring disorders. These are people with firsthand experience in similar traumatic circumstances working closely with professionals to deliver rehabilitation and counseling.

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Peer support specialists are also commonly referred to as certified Recovery Support Specialists or Peer Support Technicians in the health field. Regardless of their titles, all peer support specialists share a common commitment towards recovery advocacy and offering peer recovery support and mental health services to help others overcome or manage their issues. The use of peers and shared experiences for service delivery is an empowering approach with effectiveness in different areas. These include:

  • Reducing the use of expensive inpatient services
  • Making it easier for people to improve engagement in their care
  • Reducing recurrent psychiatric hospitalizations
  • Improved relations between peers and healthcare providers
  • Increasing the ability of peers to manage symptoms while reducing reliance on formal services to achieve positive recovery outcomes.

Peer support specialists are mostly people who have succeeded in their recovery and help others overcome similar situations. Through the help of a peer support specialist in human services, individuals can remain committed to their recovery journey while reducing the likelihood of relapsing.

Peer support services extend recovery support services beyond clinical settings to everyday environments, including social media, to ensure successful and sustainable recovery processes. Peer support specialists work under a behavioral health system in rehabilitation centers, recovery centers, healthcare facilities, gov agencies like SAMHSA, and nonprofit organizations. The job description of a peer support specialist includes:

  • Patient support.
  • Building community through social activities.
  • Coordinating patient logistics (appointments and transportation).
  • Identifying helpful resources for patients.

How to Become a Peer Support Specialist

Working as a peer support specialist is a rewarding experience. As a peer specialist, you get to share the skills, information, and tools you have acquired in your recovery journey with others going through the same issues. This way, you get to contribute to many individuals’ lives while bettering your recovery and well-being.

As more people learn about the impact peer support specialists leave, the career opportunities in this line of work also continue to expand. Peer support can transform how people offer and receive support in behavioral health through this growth.

If you are interested in gaining eligibility to become a peer support specialist, you will first need to undergo training and acquire certification in the field.

In the United States, peer specialist certification requirements vary from one state to the next. Most states require interested participants to have a ged/high school diploma and undergo a peer support specialist training program, where the state determines training scenarios and requirements. Some of the requirements can include:

  • State-approved training offered by outside organizations
  • State-administered Peer Support Specialist training
  • State-administered Peer Support Specialist training contracted through outside organizations

Once you complete the training process, you are also required to meet certification requirements. These requirements are set by the state you intend to practice in. It is important to note that certification is not transferable between states. If you move to a different state, you will need to meet the certification requirements for that state. It is advised to check with the state certification board to understand the requirements for offering these social services.

You can check the requirements of becoming a peer support specialist by the state through this Doors To Wellbeing peer specialist database.

Once you are certified as a peer specialist in your state, you can also seek national certification. Mental health America offers the National Certified Peer Specialist (NCPS) credential for mental health peer support specialists.

Once you are certified as a peer support specialist in your state, some states require you to take continuing education (CE) classes to keep your certification current. You may be required to complete a given number of CE hours every two years to work in the field.

The average income for a peer support specialist or peer counselor varies by state. Since these positions do not require the same level of education as trained psychologists, counselors, or therapists, the positions do not pay as well. 

Peer Support Specialist vs. Counselors

peer recovery support specialist

Counselors or therapists are clinical practitioners who follow evidence-based practices as part of treatment delivery for people with different addictions and disorders. Counselors work with other healthcare providers to identify physical and mental health issues affecting patients and develop individual treatment plans.

Drug and alcohol specialists may also be licensed as professional counselors to identify co-occurring mental health disorders, like anxiety or depression. Even though counselors work closely with their patients, they are required to maintain pre-set professional boundaries at all times.

A Peer support specialist is a role model in the recovery process, focusing more on providing information, mentoring, and emotional support to patients wishing to reach their recovery goals. They are also expected to practice following a code of ethics.

While they are required to maintain professional boundaries, the nature of their relationship with the people under their care is different compared to that of a counselor. They are also required to establish trust with the peer in their care and serve as a living example that recovery is possible if one establishes and follows the plan.

The Benefits of Working as a Peer Support Specialist

A peer support specialist is more than just a timekeeper or a problem-solving leader. They are like a good parent who teaches confidence to the group while noting the strengths of each participant based on their unique skills.

This is the best way to lead the people under their care towards the right path to becoming independent people through the recovery program. The ultimate goal is to help participants gather enough knowledge and experience to pass on the skill to others in the effort to build a group support community.

There are many benefits of working as a peer support specialist.

You get to share your experiences

As a peer support specialist, you get a platform to share your personal experiences with others like you. This is an excellent way of developing rapport with the people looking for help since you demonstrate the willingness to open up. This puts you at an advantage over a therapist or professional since they are not allowed to engage with their patients on a personal level.

The ability to share freely with people in need of help and guidance is what makes peer support an important part of any recovery process. It gives patients free space to share and learn while seeing firsthand how recovery looks like through their peer support specialist.

Peer support is strength-based and personal

As a peer support specialist, you are not responsible for dictating terms of recovery to your peers. Instead, you only act as a guide to help them discover their strengths and charter their paths to recovery. You allow people to determine what they want to achieve from peer support and help them reach these goals. The focus of peer counseling is on the strengths of individuals.

You can interact with your peers outside the meeting environment

As a peer support specialist, your work is to ensure you create a comfortable environment for your peers where they are free to share and learn. This gives you the liberty to meet and interact with them outside meeting settings. You can choose to schedule bowling sessions, a trip to the zoo, or a day our hiking or playing video games. This allows you to include fun as part of your day-to-day work.

Peer support specialist job is flexible

The best part about this job is that it is under the department of health is that you get to enjoy a flexible work schedule. This is because most peer support institutions strive to offer a supportive work environment, where support specialists can create their schedules in ways that work for them.

You help family members and primary support

Working as a peer support specialist allows you to provide continuum care to family members of the people in recovery. By keeping consistently in touch with the families of people under your care, you deliver a holistic approach to your care services. You can also temporarily fill the role of primary support to people who do not have support from family.

Information about Men’s Group

certified peer support specialist

If you are a peer support specialist looking to be part of a specialized group that caters to men, Men’s Group is the perfect platform for you. This online-based peer-to-peer group seeks to create a community of men around conversations that touch on men. It offers a comfortable and safe sharing space where men can share common experiences and learn from others who have walked the same path before. As a sharing community, it allows you to offer support to others too.


The best opinions come from people who have gone through common experiences before as they can see the world from your perspective. Men need to have a safe space where they can share their achievements, fear, and dreams without fear of judgment. This is the only way to overcome and prevent serious mental illness. is a peer support platform where men can discuss, laugh, and network to better their lives as they learn through shared experiences.

1. Benefits of working as a certified peer specialist: results from a statewide survey
2. Peer Support in Mental Health: Literature Review
3. Benefits of Peer Support Services
4. The Integration of Peer Support Specialists: A Qualitative Study 
5. Study finds that working as a peer-support specialist is beneficial to individuals with criminal and psychiatric histories