The Washington State Peer Support Program has trained and qualified individuals as certified peer counselors since 2005. The program provides training to mental health consumers* wishing to become “certified peer counselors”. Certified peer counselors work with their peers, mental health consumers and the parents of children with serious emotional disturbances, providing the service known as “Peer Support”. With Peer Support, certified peer counselors draw upon their experiences to help their peers find hope and make progress towards recovery. Certified peer counselors are especially equipped to provide support, encouragement, and resources to consumers and families because they have been in a similar situation and understand what it feels like. They assist consumers and families with identifying goals and taking specific steps to achieve them- steps such as building up social support networks, managing internal and external stress, and navigating service delivery systems.
For Further Information Contact:
Bonnie Staples - Peer Support Program Administrator
The Peer Support Program is establishing a Peer Support Distribution List to relay job and training notices, as well as other Peer Support-related announcements, to interested parties. If you would like to join this distribution list, please email Wanda Johns at Wanda.Johns@dshs.wa.gov with “Peer Support Distribution List” in your subject line. Wanda maintains a number of different distribution lists so it is important that you let her know which one you'd like to join. You can also email Wanda to request to be removed from the list.
"Consumer" means a person who has applied for, is eligible for or who has received mental health services. For a child, under the age of thirteen, or for a child age thirteen or older whose parents or legal guardians are involved in the treatment plan, the definition of consumer includes parents or legal guardians.
In order to qualify as a certified peer counselor, a consumer must submit an application for approval to the Peer Support Program. Once approved, the applicant will be placed on the waiting list for training. After completing the training, each applicant must then pass the certified peer counselor exam. The exam is typically offered three weeks after the training and contains both an oral and written portion. An applicant has one year from the date of training and three attempts to pass the exam, or they will be required to re-train. Once an applicant successfully completes the training and passes the exam they become qualified as a certified peer counselor. Certified peer counselors who work for licensed community mental health centers may be required by their employer to seek a counselor credential from the Washington State Department of Health, as a funding requirement for Medicaid-paid Peer Support.
Trainings are typically offered 4-6 times per year by the State. Some Regional Support Networks (RSNs) also offer Certified Peer Counselor Training so it is wise to check with the local RSN to see if this may be an option. Each training is 40 hours in length and utilizes the state’s approved curriculum.
Certified peer counselors help consumers and families identify goals that promote recovery and resiliency and assist them in identifying services and activities to help them reach these goals. They share their own experiences in recovery to encourage consumers and families to regain hope in and control over their own lives. They promote personal responsibility for recovery and assist consumers and families in learning to advocate for themselves. Certified peer counselors are well grounded in their own recovery and model competency in ongoing coping skills. Certified peer counselors work with consumers in groups or individually. Many work for licensed community mental health agencies or their subcontractors.