Due to the evolution and growth of the peer workforce, many options now exist to learn how to use one’s recovery story and experience, as well as other tools, in a more systematic fashion in order to offer hope and support to others. This generally involves attending a training and then taking and passing an exam that measures mastery of specific competencies.
Each state has unique requirements for peer specialist certification. There are still some states, although not many, that do not yet have a certification process. It is important to start the process by learning about your state’s requirements. You can begin by reviewing this document. It is important to note that this field is consistently evolving, so while all of the resources in this document may not always be up to date, it is still a good place to start to begin researching your state’s process and resources.
Once you know the requirements in your state, you can begin to research training opportunities. Your state requirements can guide you in understanding if you must attend training through your state (which the state website can provide details for) or if you should begin researching non-profit organizations that provide training. You can find a calendar of future training here.
At this time, most training for initial peer specialist certification is conducted in person, rather than online. As the field continues to evolve, this may change. There are many online training opportunities for continuing education once an individual is certified as a peer specialist. The DBSA Peer Leadership Center includes many online continuing education opportunities, as well as listings of other organizations’ trainings.
The DBSA Peer Leadership Center has a number of continuing education opportunities available, as well as listings for many other organizations that can provide continuing education. You can learn about upcoming training opportunities here. Your state office, mental health organizations, or local agencies may also provide listings of accepted continuing education opportunities on their website or newsletter.
While some state trainings have no cost, many trainings require an investment in this important educational experience. Once you research your state requirements and identify which training is right for you, the next step is to begin the process of planning for payment. While some people are able to cover the costs of training themselves, many people could benefit from financial support. Many trainings include the opportunity to apply for a full or partial scholarship. Asking the organization you’re applying to about scholarships is a great first step. These scholarships can often be quite competitive, so it is important to continue planning and researching funding options while you wait for scholarship announcements. Other funding ideas and sources include:
- Your state’s Office of Consumer Affairs
- Local resources for individuals living with disabilities
- Local mental health agencies, drop-in centers, or mental health departments
- Your local church community
- Vocational rehabilitation counselor or benefits office
- Consumer-run organizations and other mental health organizations in your area
- Online personal fundraisers through sites such as Indiegogo, Crowdfunder, or Gofundme. There are many options for online fundraising, so research which site will provide the most benefit to you.
- Your workplace or an organization you volunteer for may benefit from you learning peer support competencies, so you may decide to request to discuss financial support options with your supervisor.
- Family and friends may be able to provide some financial support, or can assist in brainstorming additional fundraising ideas.
When fundraising, be sure to consider the total amount needed, including not only the cost of the training course itself, but also any additional costs that you might incur for travel, lodging, etc. While it is rare that one supporter would cover the entire cost, don’t let that discourage you. Many smaller donations can add up quickly! When presenting your request for support, be sure to share your reasons for wanting to attend the training and what you plan to do once you receive certification. If a person or organization is not able to support at the time, they could be a great resource for additional ideas on fundraising.