What are Peer Support Services?


The Pennsylvania Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (OMHSAS) has endorsed the following definition of peer support:


"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."

What is the Purpose of Peer Support Services?


OMHSAS has identified the following five purposes of Peer Support Services:


1. Provide opportunities for individuals receiving services to direct their own recovery and advocacy processes;


2. Teach and support acquisition and utilization of the skills needed to facilitate an individual's recovery;


3. Promote the knowledge of available service options and choices; 


4. Promote the utilization of natural resources within the community; and


5. Facilitate the development of a sense of wellness and self-worth.

Who are Certified Peer Support Specialists?


Certified Peer Support Specialists are self-identified current or former consumers of behavioral health services who are trained and certified to offer support and assistance in helping others in their recovery and community-integration process and who:


(i) Have a high school diploma or general equivalency degree; and


(ii) Within the last three (3) years, have maintained at least 12 months of successful full or part-time paid or voluntary work experience or obtained at least 24 credit hours of post-secondary education; and


(iii) Have completed a peer specialist certification training curriculum approved by OMHSAS; and


(iv) Complete 18 hours of continuing education training per year with 12 hours specifically focused on peer support or recovery practices, or both, in order to maintain peer specialist certification.


All Peerstar Certified Peer Support Specialists meet these criteria. In addition, many of our certified peer support specialists have special backgrounds, and receive special training, in providing substance abuse, forensic (criminal justice/reentry), and older adult peer support services.

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