Jenna Goudlock, PS

Jenna Goudlock, PSI

What’s a CPS?

A Certified Peer Specialist is an individual with lived recovery experience who has been trained and certified to help their peers gain hope and move forward in their own recovery.

The Certified Peer Specialist:

Cultivates their peers’ ability to make informed, independent choices

Helps their peers identify and build on their strengths

Assists their peers in gaining information and support from the community to make their goals a reality

As a person who has traveled a similar path, Certified Peer Specialists foster hope for recovery and role models that reality to the peers they serve.

Certified Peer Specialists go by different names in different settings—for example, PSI- peer support specialists, CRS- certified recovery support specialists, and in the Department of Veterans Affairs, PST- peer support technicians—but they have a common commitment to assisting their peers from a strengths-focused perspective. Utilizing peers with shared experiences to deliver services is empowering, and research demonstrates its effectiveness.

What do Peer Specialists do?

Certified Peer Specialists support their peers both individually and in small groups.

Certified Peer Specialists:

Help peers create individual service plans based on recovery goals and steps to achieve those goals

Use recovery-oriented tools to help their peers address challenges

Assist others to build their own self-directed wellness plans

Support peers in their decision-making

Set up and sustain peer self-help and educational groups

Offer a sounding board and a shoulder to lean on

…and more!

Where do Certified Peer Specialists work?

The rapidly-growing peer workforce is an integral part of treatment teams in both public and private settings including inpatient care, community-based services, consumer-run respite services, and in a wide variety of roles.

Most frequently, Certified Peer Specialists work as paid employees, while others choose to offer their services as volunteers.

What are the qualifications to become a Certified Peer Specialist?

Peer specialist training and certification requirements are determined on a state-by-state basis. A number of states administer their own peer specialist training and certification systems, while others contract with outside organizations to offer this training and certification. Other states permit individuals to complete state-approved training and certification programs offered by outside entities.

The Department of Veterans Affairs requires employed peer support technicians to complete either their state mental health department’s approved training and certification process, or to be trained and certified by organizations whose training has been determined by the VA to equip peer specialists with necessary skills and competencies.


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Under immediate to general supervision, the Certified Peer Specialist (CPS) provides peer support services; serves as a consumer advocate; provides consumer information and peer support for consumers in a variety of settings.  The CPS performs a wide range of tasks to support consumers in living their own lives and directing their own recovery and wellness process. The CPS will model competency in recovery and wellness.
1.Using the 10-step goal setting process the CPS will:
a.Support consumers in articulating personal goals for recovery and wellness.
b.Support consumers in articulating the objectives necessary to reach his or her recovery and wellness goals.
2.The CPS will document the following on the Individual Recovery/Resiliency Plan (IR/RP) by:
a.Assisting consumers in identifying strengths.
b.Assisting consumers in identifying recovery and wellness goals.
c.Assisting consumers in setting objectives.
d.Assisting consumers in identifying barriers
e.Support consumer in determining recovery and wellness interventions based on consumers’ life goals.
f.Recognizing and reporting progress consumers make toward meeting objectives.
g.Understanding and utilizing specific interventions necessary to support consumers in meeting their recovery and wellness goals.
3.Utilizing their specific training, the CPS will:
a.Lead as well as teach consumers how to facilitate Recovery Dialogues
b.Support consumers in creating a Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP).
c.Utilize and teach problem solving techniques with individuals and groups.
d.Teach consumers techniques for identifying and combatting negative self-talk.
e.Teach consumers techniques for identifying and overcoming fears.
f.Support the vocational choices consumers make and support them in overcoming job-related anxiety.
g.Support consumers in building social skills in the community that will enhance job acquisition and tenure.
h.Support non-consumer staff in identifying program environments that are conducive to recovery; lend their unique insight into mental illness and what makes recovery possible.
i.Attend treatment team meetings to promote consumer’s use of self-directed recovery tools.
4.Utilizing their unique recovery experience, the CPSs will:
a.Teach and role model the value of every individual’s recovery experience.
b.Support the consumer in obtaining decent and affordable housing of his or her choice in the most integrated, independent, and least intrusive or restrictive environment.
c.Model effective coping techniques and self-help strategies.
5.The CPSs will maintain a working knowledge of current trends and developments in the mental health field by reading books, journals and other relevant material.
a.Continue to develop and share recovery-oriented material with other CPSs at the continuing education assemblies and on the CPS electronic bulletin board.
b.Attend continuing education sessions.
c.Attend relevant seminars, meetings, and in-service trainings whenever offered.
6.The CPSs will serve as a recovery agent by:
a.Providing and advocating for effective recovery based services.
b.Support consumers in obtaining services that suit that individual’s recovery needs.
c.Inform consumers about community and natural supports and how to utilize these in the recovery process.
d.Support consumers in developing empowerment skill through self-advocacy and the use of Human Experience Language to combat stigma.
e.Support consumers in setting up and sustaining Self-Help support groups.

The Peer Specialist Certification Training Competencies

A CPS should posses the following competencies:
1.An understanding of their job and the skills to do that job;
a.Understand the basic structure of the state Mental Health System and how it works
b.Understand the CPS job description and Code of Ethics within the state MHS
c.Understand the meaning and role of peer support
d.Understand the difference in treatment goals and recovery goals
e.Be able to create and facilitate a variety of group activities that support and strengthen recovery
f. Be able to do the necessary documentation required by the state
g.Be able to support a consumer combat negative self-talk, overcome fears, and solve problems
h.Be able to support a consumer articulate, set and accomplish his/her goals
i.Be able to teach other consumers to create their own Wellness Recovery Action Plan
j.Be able to teach other consumers to advocate for the services that they want
k.Be able to support a consumer create a Person Centered Plan
2.An understanding of the recovery process and how to use their own recovery story to support others
a.Understand the five stages in the recovery process and what is helpful and not helpful at each stage
b.Understand the role of peer support at each stage of the recovery process
c.Understand the power of beliefs/values and how they support or work against recovery
d.Understand the basic philosophy and principles of psychosocial rehabilitation
e.Understand the basic definition and dynamics of recovery
f.Be able to articulate what has been useful and what not useful in his/her own recovery
g.Be able to identify beliefs and values a consumer holds that works against his/her recovery
h.Be able to discern when and how much of their recovery story to share with whom
3.An understanding of and the ability to establish healing relationships
a.Understand the dynamics of power, conflict and integrity in the workplace
b.Understand the concept of ‘seeking out common ground’
c.Understand the meaning and importance of cultural competency
d.Be able to ask open-ended questions that relate a person to his/her inner wisdom
e.Be able to personally deal with conflict and difficult interpersonal relations in the workplace
f.Be able to demonstrate an ability to participate in ‘healing communication’
g.Be able to interact sensitively and effectively with people of other cultures
4.An understanding of the importance of and have the ability to take care of oneself
a.Understand the dynamics of stress and burnout
b.Understand the role and parts of the Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP)
c.Be able to discuss his/her own tools for taking care of him/herself

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