What is Peer Support?
A Peer Support Specialist (PSS) is an individual who is personally living well in recovery from a serious mental illness. A Peer Support Specialist uses their recovery story to instill hope. They provide support to other peers and assist them in reaching and maintaining their personal recovery goals. In addition, a PSS can serve as an advocate, provide information, help access community resources, and model competency in recovery and wellness. Peer Support Specialists promote skills for improving mental and physical wellbeing and increasing resiliency. They promote self-determination and support peers in maintaining relationships and increasing a higher level of control and satisfaction over their lives.
Peer Support Specialists are employed in mental health facilities, social service agencies, peer run recovery centers, peer run respites, integrated health homes, hospitals, prisons, with law enforcement agencies and other healthcare organizations. Peer Support Specialists may also serve on a variety of advisory boards and committees at local, state, and national levels.
A Family Peer Support Specialist (FPSS) has the opportunity to positively impact families through support and education. Family Peer Support Specialists draw on their own experience as a parent or primary caregiver of a child with an emotional, behavioral or mental health need. They work to empower families by teaching skills that assist them in finding their own voice. A FPSS has current knowledge of the mental health system and most importantly, recognizes the life experience of raising a child with a mental health diagnosis.
Family Peer Support Specialists provide a variety of services to families. These include sharing expertise by providing information, teaching coping skills, providing emotional support and helping parents become advocates. Family Peer Support Specialists often help families navigate the child serving systems and help them understand available options for their child. FPSSs may accompany parents to meetings to ensure the parents’ voices are heard. They are able to assist families by modeling good communication skills and sharing their own experiences in a positive manner.
Family Peer Support Specialists may be employed at social service agencies, clinics, residential programs and other community based organizations. Family Peer Support Specialists may also serve on a variety of advisory boards and committees at local, state, and national levels.