Peer Provider Roles

Peer providers are non-clinical service professionals who have a personal lived experience with a specific condition or circumstance who receive specialized training and supervision to guide and support others who are experiencing similar conditions or circumstances. Peer providers are not clinicians, therapists, or social workers. Instead, they support individuals in attaining goals, practicing new skills, and self-advocating, and they act as role models of effective resiliency techniques. Peer provider titles can vary depending on the state or mental health system in which an individual is working.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offers this definition of a peer provider:

“A peer provider (e.g., certified peer specialist, peer support specialist, recovery coach) is a person who uses his or her lived experience of recovery from mental illness and/or addiction, plus skills learned in formal training, to deliver services in behavioral health settings to promote mind-body recovery and resiliency.”

Peer providers are often certified by states, including states which certify peers. Peer providers can also be certified by large healthcare systems such as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Many state Medicaid programs, as well as other health insurance providers, recognize such specialized training and certification.

Some of the more common peer provider categories include:

Peer Specialist

A peer specialist is an individual who has personal lived experience in recovery from a mental health or substance use condition and who has been trained and certified to support their peers in gaining hope and moving forward in their own recovery journeys. Training involves unique, specialized education in competencies that support those whom the peer specialist serves in the recovery process. These competencies are the foundation for the certification exam.

Peer specialists may work alongside mental health providers in clinical settings such as hospitals and crisis centers. They may work in independent, peer-run organizations. They may work on support teams in housing agencies or employment organizations, or they also may work on case management.

Each state that recognizes peer certification maintains its own criteria for eligibility. A number of states maintain their own state-specific trainings, while others accept training delivered by national organizations such as the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA), Appalachian Consulting Group, and Recovery Innovations.

Peer Recovery Coach

Peer Recovery Coach refers to a peer with lived experience with a substance use disorder who provides supports in the substance use recovery community. Peer Recovery Coaches work in a variety of settings, including rehab centers, corrections facilities, mental health facilities, and other treatment facilities. Each state that recognizes Peer Recovery Coaches maintains its own criteria for eligibility. Some recognized training curricula include Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery (CCAR) and New York Certification Board’s Peer Recovery Advocate certificate (CPRA). The Association for Addiction Professionals (NAADAC) can provide additional information about resources and certification.

Peer Mentor

Peer Mentor often refers to a peer with lived experience with a developmental disability who works in the developmental disabilities community.

Peer Wellness/Health Coach

Peer Wellness/Health Coaches bring experience with physical health conditions to their work, often focusing on specific conditions such as diabetes or HIV/AIDS.