Career Development

What Does a Peer Support Specialist Do?

Find out what a peer support specialist does, how to get this job, and what it takes to succeed as a peer support specialist.

Peer support specialists are a type of paraprofessional who work with individuals who have mental health issues or disabilities. They provide one-on-one support and assistance to people in their communities, helping them to live more independently.

Peer support specialists may also be known as peer specialists, peer counselors, or community support specialists. Regardless of the name they go by, they all share the same goal: to help people overcome challenges and live happier, healthier lives.

Peer Support Specialist Job Duties

Peer support specialists have a wide range of responsibilities, which can include:

  • Providing support and encouragement to peers in order to help them through difficult times
  • Reporting any changes in the mental or physical health of a client to his or her case manager
  • Maintaining communication with clients through personal contact, such as phone calls or visits
  • Helping clients develop and achieve their goals by providing encouragement and support
  • Explaining the process of the treatment program and assisting with program requirements such as attending group meetings or individual sessions with a therapist
  • Monitoring clients’ progress to ensure that they are making positive steps toward recovery
  • Educating clients on topics such as stress management, conflict resolution, parenting skills, and drug abuse prevention
  • Providing information about community resources to help clients meet their needs.

Peer Support Specialist Salary & Outlook

Peer support specialist salaries vary depending on their level of education, years of experience, and the size and location of the organization. They may also earn additional compensation in the form of overtime.

  • Median Annual Salary: $47,000 ($22.6/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $85,000 ($40.87/hour)

The employment of peer support specialists is expected to grow much faster than average over the next decade.

Demand for these workers is expected to increase as healthcare providers continue to look for ways to reduce costs and improve care quality. Peer support specialists can help by providing a less expensive alternative to traditional therapy.

Related: Peer Support Specialist Interview Questions and Answers

Peer Support Specialist Job Requirements

A peer support specialist typically needs to have the following qualifications:

Education: Most employers require peer support specialists to have at least a high school diploma or GED. Some employers prefer a bachelor’s degree in social work, psychology, nursing or a related field. These degrees provide students with the knowledge and skills they need to work with people in a variety of situations.

Training & Experience: Most employers will provide on-the-job training for new support specialists. This training will typically include learning the organization’s policies and procedures, the software they use and the best practices for interacting with clients.

Certifications & Licenses: Certifications can validate a professional’s qualifications to current and future employers. Peer support specialists can earn certifications to gain more practical knowledge of the job, test their professional skills and advance their career.

Peer Support Specialist Skills

Peer support specialists need the following skills in order to be successful:

Active listening: Active listening is the ability to hear and understand what someone else is saying. It involves observing body language and asking questions to clarify what the speaker is saying. This is an important skill for peer support specialists because they often work one-on-one with clients and need to understand their needs and concerns.

Empathy: Empathy is the ability to understand another person’s feelings and perspective. As a peer support specialist, you may be responsible for helping people who are experiencing a mental health crisis. This can be a very stressful and emotional time for someone, and it’s important that you can relate to them and help them feel understood.

Non-judgmental attitude: A non-judgmental attitude is one of the most important skills for a peer support specialist. They work with people who have a variety of mental health issues, and they need to be able to listen to them without judgment. This allows them to provide their clients with an accepting environment where they feel comfortable opening up about their struggles.

Confidentiality: Confidentiality is the promise that you will not share any information you learn about your clients. This is an important aspect of your job as a peer support specialist, as you may hear sensitive information about your clients’ personal lives. You should never share any information you learn about your clients with anyone else.

Problem-solving: Problem-solving skills allow you to identify issues and develop solutions. As a peer support specialist, you may work with individuals who are experiencing emotional distress. You can use your problem-solving skills to help them find solutions to their problems and overcome their challenges. You may also use problem-solving skills to help your team members resolve conflicts and improve their communication.

Peer Support Specialist Work Environment

The work environment for a peer support specialist can vary depending on the type of organization they work for. Some peer support specialists work in outpatient mental health clinics, while others work in hospitals or residential treatment facilities. Some peer support specialists may also work in community-based organizations or in private practice. The work environment is usually fast-paced and can be stressful, as peer support specialists are often dealing with clients who are experiencing a mental health crisis. They may also be required to work evenings and weekends to accommodate their clients’ schedules.

Peer Support Specialist Trends

Here are three trends influencing how peer support specialists work. Peer support specialists will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

The Need for More Mental Health Professionals

The need for more mental health professionals is a trend that is being driven by the increasing prevalence of mental health issues. As more and more people are struggling with depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems, there is an increased demand for professionals who can help them manage their symptoms.

Peer support specialists are in a unique position to take advantage of this trend, as they have experience working with people who are dealing with similar issues. They can provide valuable support and guidance to those who are struggling, which can be extremely helpful in times of need.

More Focus on Cultural Competency

Cultural competency is becoming increasingly important in the healthcare industry, as it allows providers to better serve patients from different backgrounds.

As peer support specialists work with patients, they will need to be aware of cultural differences and how to best communicate with them. This includes understanding the patient’s language, customs, and beliefs. In addition, peer support specialists will need to be able to identify signs of distress in patients from different cultures and know how to respond appropriately.

Greater Emphasis on Self-Care

The trend of greater emphasis on self-care is becoming more and more popular among professionals in all fields. This is because people are realizing the importance of taking time to care for themselves in order to stay healthy and productive.

As peer support specialists play an important role in helping others cope with difficult emotions and situations, they too need to make self-care a priority. This means setting aside time to relax, exercise, and eat well, as well as connecting with friends and family.

How to Become a Peer Support Specialist

A career as a peer support specialist can be incredibly rewarding. It offers the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives and help them overcome difficult challenges. However, it’s important to consider all the factors that will influence your success in this field.

One of the most important things is to find an organization that matches your values and beliefs. You should also consider the size of the organization and its geographic location. Additionally, you should think about the type of work you want to do. Do you want to focus on one-on-one interactions or group sessions? Do you want to work with adults or children? There are many different options available, so take some time to explore your options and find the best fit for you.

Advancement Prospects

There are many opportunities for peer support specialists to advance their careers. Some may move into management positions, while others may choose to specialize in a particular area of peer support.

Those who move into management positions may be responsible for overseeing the work of other peer support specialists, developing training programs, or coordinating services with other agencies. Those who choose to specialize in a particular area of peer support may become experts in that field and provide consultation services to other peer support specialists or to agencies.

There are also opportunities for peer support specialists to advance their careers by becoming involved in research. Those who are interested in this option may choose to pursue a doctoral degree in a related field such as psychology, social work, or counseling.

Peer Support Specialist Job Description Example

At [CompanyX], we provide a variety of services to individuals with mental illness and/or substance abuse disorders. We are currently seeking a Peer Support Specialist to join our team. The Peer Support Specialist will provide support to clients through individual and group counseling, crisis intervention, and referrals to community resources. He or she will also provide support to clients in their recovery process by sharing their own experiences with mental illness and/or substance abuse disorders. The ideal candidate will have experience working with clients with mental illness and/or substance abuse disorders, and will be able to provide empathy and support while maintaining boundaries.

Duties & Responsibilities

  • Serve as a role model for other clients, demonstrating healthy coping skills and positive problem-solving strategies
  • Motivate others to engage in their own treatment and recovery process
  • Share personal experiences and knowledge about mental illness and addiction with other clients in a way that is helpful and respectful
  • Listen to others without judgement, providing emotional support and encouragement
  • Help facilitate group therapy sessions and other peer support activities
  • Connect others with community resources and services that can help them in their recovery journey
  • Advocate for the rights of people with mental illness and addiction, working to break down stigma and promote understanding
  • Promote a culture of safety and respect within the program, intervening when necessary to de-escalate conflict
  • Participate in individual and group supervision sessions with a qualified supervisor
  • Attend trainings and workshops related to mental health and addiction recovery
  • Keep accurate records of client interactions and progress
  • Adhere to all ethical and legal standards

Required Skills and Qualifications

  • High school diploma or equivalent
  • Bachelor’s degree in psychology, social work, or related field preferred
  • 2+ years experience working with individuals with mental illness
  • Excellent communication, interpersonal, and problem-solving skills
  • Ability to maintain confidentiality
  • Empathetic and nonjudgmental attitude

Preferred Skills and Qualifications

  • Certification in peer support services
  • Familiarity with community resources for individuals with mental illness
  • Experience leading groups or facilitating workshops
  • Bilingual


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