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Behavioral Health and Peer Mentoring: Rewarding Peer Specialist Jobs and Opportunities

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

1 in 5 teenagers struggles with a mental disorder. Who better to help these teens than people who have had personal experience with mental illness?

Having a job as a peer specialist is rewarding. Keep reading to learn about peer specialist jobs and opportunities.

Useful Definitions

“Peer” can have different meanings depending on the context. In the case of peer specialists, a peer is a person who has experienced living with a mental health disorder.

Peer support is the process of giving help and getting help in return. The peer specialist develops a connection with the person because they’ve been through a similar experience. They understand what it’s like to struggle with a mental illness and feel psychological pain.

This shared experience is what helps a peer specialist guide, someone, to recovery.


To qualify as a peer specialist, you have to be in the recovering stage of mental illness. The mental illness has to have been serious enough to disrupt your daily life functioning. You must be comfortable speaking with others about your experience with a mental disorder.

Peer specialists are required to have gotten help from behavioral health services such as a psychologist or inpatient organization. They need to have had a job in the past.

The laws on certifications for peer specialists vary from state to state. If your state has a certification, you need to obtain it to work as a peer specialist. Training requirements are also different across states, but it’s likely you’ll need to complete some training.

Certifications and Training

Intentional Peer Support (IPS) trains people in peer support. The program offers core training, advanced training, and other courses. Anyone working in the mental health field can benefit from practicing IPS.

The National Certified Peer Specialist (NCPS) certification is an advanced certification that allows you to work in any state. It shows that you’re an exemplary and experienced peer specialist.

Emotional CPR (eCPR) is used when someone is going through an emotional crisis. By following the three steps of CPR – connecting, empowering, and revitalizing – you can save people from emotional emergencies.

The Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) trains people to manage their mental health problems. This knowledge should not only be passed on by the peer specialist, but they can use the information to help them during and outside of work. WRAP is a personalized process that allows people to reach their goals and live a happy life.

QPR Institute offers suicide prevention training for professionals. This training not only teaches how to talk someone out of suicide but it’s designed to reduce unhealthy behaviors that can lead to suicidal thoughts or suicide.

Those trained in Trauma-Informed Care can recognize the effects of trauma. They know how to interact with people afflicted by trauma.


Certain factors increase the chances of success as a peer specialist. Peer specialists should have sufficient training and individualized supervision. This will make sure they have the skills to do their job.

Supervisors can also give feedback, encouragement, and accommodations. Peer specialists also need support from other employees and family and friends.

They must have effective communication, be confident that they can be helpful as a peer specialist, and have resilience and persistence. When the job gets difficult or stressful, they should be able to cope and carry on.

The employee has to voluntarily be supportive, empathetic, honest, open-minded, hopeful, and respectful. They have to encourage change for the person they’re working with.

What Does a Peer Specialist Do?

A peer specialist works one-on-one with a peer to help bring them into recovery. The four aspects required for someone to successfully recover are purpose, health, community, and home.

A recovering person must take part in meaningful daily roles such as school, volunteering, work, and hobbies. They have to manage the symptoms of their mental disorder and make decisions that are physically and psychologically healthy.

Family, friends, and other relationships are loving and supportive. People in recovery need to live in a safe place that they can afford to stay in.

To guide people into recovery, peer specialists are tasked with various responsibilities.


Peer specialists serve as role models and share their experiences of having a mental health condition. They offer support and help motivate the peer.

The peer will learn how to perform daily tasks that their mental illness makes difficult. For example, a specialist can teach a peer with social anxiety disorder ways to socialize.

The peer will also learn how to obtain resources such as money. A peer specialist will encourage someone with conduct disorder to earn money rather than steal it.

Peer specialists aid peers in finding basic needs and important services. This can include food, shelter, a general physician, a lawyer, a psychologist, and a psychiatrist.

They set goals with peers and are by their side while they achieve them. Peers also get help with managing or overcoming their mental illness. Someone with a substance abuse disorder will learn how to abstain from drinking or taking drugs.

It’s essential that a peer specialist does not do everything for the peer. They are there to support, motivate, and guide the peer into recovery.

Peer Specialist Jobs

There a wide range of peer specialist job titles. Some of them can only be found in specific environments while others can work anywhere. Here is a list of titles for peer specialists.

1. Peer Specialist

Peer specialist or peer support specialist is the general term for people who give peer support and help peers on the road to recovery. Other job titles include this along with more specific responsibilities.

2. Peer Advocate

A peer advocate or peer support advocate emphasizes their support for the peer they’re working with. They connect with the peer and fight for what they need. Peer advocates can be found next to peers in court.

They help them come up with coping skills and ways to monitor their own progress. Peer advocates encourage peers to become a confident advocate for themselves.

3. Peer Counselor

Peer counselors or peer support counselors are similar to therapists without a psychology degree. Their knowledge comes from their own experience of having a mental health disorder.

Peers and peer counselors talk openly with each other. A peer counselor is there to listen to the peer, be understanding and respectful, and give advice based on their lived experience.

4. Peer Mentor

A peer mentor aids a person in learning how to deal with their mental disorder. They provide support, help peers create goals and teach them how to manage their symptoms.

Peer mentors can often be found in schools. They may work one-on-one with peers, hold group sessions, or both.

For example, a college student could become a peer mentor for high school teenagers and prevent or help students with substance abuse problems.

5. Family Peer Advocate

Having the support of family is important when struggling with or recovering from mental illness. Family peer advocates are there to bring peers and their families together. They are a parent or primary caregiver of someone with a mental health condition.

The lived experience and training a family peer advocate receives allows them to support other families. They understand both the peer and the peer’s parents perspectives, which helps them work with the parent or caregiver.

A family peer advocate assesses which services would be helpful for the child or family. They also promote collaboration between the child and their parents when there’s a decision to make.

Parents will learn how to help their children live positively and successfully even in the face of mental illness.

6. Community Support Worker

Community support workers provide assistance to people with mental illnesses. They may help them with grocery shopping, bring them to appointments, or aid them in finding a job or a home.

Community support specialists are willing to complete tasks that the mentally ill person cannot. Clients often have serious mental disabilities and need help maintaining psychological stability. Be prepared to visit them every day to provide support.

7. Vocational Specialist

These peer specialists are focused on helping clients choose a job that fits their personality and skills. They show clients their potential, and offer interview coaching, and skills training.

Clients have trouble finding or keeping a job because of their mental illness.

8. Peer Bridger

A peer bridger supports patients of mental hospitals who have recently been discharged. They help the person readjust to living in their community.

Consider Becoming a Peer Specialist

There are peer specialist jobs with various names, but not every peer specialist is the same. Many have different roles and specialties. However, they’re all there to share their lived experience, be supportive, and bring them closer to recovery.

Being a peer specialist brings many opportunities to connect with and help people suffering from mental illness.

Feel free to contact us with any questions.

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Samantha Akers
Samantha Akers
2 years ago

Very informative. This is a start to help me achieve my goals. Everything all on one page.

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