Why Certified Peer Specialist

Certified Peer Support Specialists and Services

Certified Peer Specialists are individuals who have a lived experience of mental illness and are trained to be direct service mental health staff. Since 2007, Minnesota has been building capacity for this service.

Certified Peer Specialists offer support and hope to individuals with a lived experience of mental illness by sharing their story and helping them to discover their strengths. Certified Peer Specialists assist the people they serve to identify the barriers they encounter for participation in community resources, and provide encouragement for involvement in community based activities that support their goals and interests.

Certified Peer Specialist programs are evidence based practices that integrate professional support and first-hand experience with mental illness within an agency.  A Certified Peer Specialist has the ability and experience to say the power words, “I understand.”  The certification training focuses on the Five Recovery Paths and how to utilize personal recovery experiences to empower others along their journeys.

Recovery Pathways: Hope, Choice, Empowerment, Environment, Spirituality

Program Development Background:

In July 2010, Kiesler Wellness Center (the clubhouse-based program for Northland Counseling Center), instituted the Certified Peer Support Specialist (PSS) Program, a unique and revolutionary approach to providing mental health support. The PSS works as a member of the Northland Counseling Center’s Community Support Program (CPS) team to help program participants, referred to as peers, make progress on their identified recovery goals. By addressing feelings of stigma, social isolation, personal loss, and systemic power dynamics, the participants will make progress in their recovery.  To date, Northland Counseling Center’s Certified Peer Specialist Program with its eleven team members, has received over 400 referrals to the program since 2010, and is currently serving 135 peers actively in Itasca County. The success of this program is based on the foundation of a team approach and clear work ethic standards for all team members. Our CPS team is fully integrated with employees of our mental health team. Since 2010, Northland Counseling Center has utilized Certified Peer Specialist training events to continue the expansion of our team allowing us to meet the demands of a growing program. Training opportunities and implementation of Peers: Link to HOPE Initiative became possible throughout the state due to Northland Counseling Center’s  partnership with MN DHS.