About Peer Support

Consumers have long recognized the impact of peer support—the kind of that happens when you call a friend who knows how you feel because she or he has been there. Peer support provides that same powerful help in accessible, meaningful ways that broaden the continuum of care offered by traditional “medical” models of care. A common definition is:

Peer support is a system of giving and receiving help founded on key principles of respect, shared responsibility, and mutual agreement of what is helpful. Peer support is not based on psychiatric models and diagnostic criteria. It is about understanding another’s situation empathically through the shared experience of emotional and psychological pain. When people find affiliation with others whom they feel are “like” them, they feel a connection. This connection, or affiliation, is a deep, holistic understanding based on mutual experience where people are able to “be” with each other without the constraints of traditional (expert/patient) relationships. Further, as trust in the relationship builds, both people are able to respectfully challenge each other when they find themselves re-enacting old roles. This allows members of the peer community to try out new behaviors with one another and move beyond previously held self-concepts built on disability, diagnosis, and trauma worldview. (Defining Peer Support, Mead, 2003)

Certified Peer Specialists

Certified Peer Specialists (CPS) are people “living with a mental illness who provide mentoring, guidance, and support services and offers their skills to others who are experiencing psychiatric disabilities and receiving mental health services.”

CPS provides the following support and encouragement:

  • Skill building
  • Recovery and/or life goal setting
  • Problem solving
  • Establishing self-help groups
  • Building and utilizing self-help recovery tools (such as the WRAP)
  • Self advocacy

Consumers who are credentialed through the state’s CPS program must:

  • Meet the minimum employment & education standards set by the program
  • Successfully complete the training course
  • Take an oral & written examination

Learn More

Visit the Pennsylvania Peer Support Coalition‘s website to learn more about Peer Support in Pennsylvania, including training and employment opportunities.