One of the most common questions I get is “How can I become a Peer Support Specialist?”. Now first, I’d like to address why you’d want to be a peer. Here are some potential reasons, although, I’d love feedback on what reasons you Gentle Readers may have.
- It seems like an easier job to get (This is possibly the most common first reason.)
- Recovering from a mental illness takes so much effort that one tends to develop a bit of passion for it in the process.
- Peers realize the need for more professional peer supports and so naturally have a desire to fill that role.
I’ll be honest. My initial reason was item number 1. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, however. My passing interest in simple employment of any type turned into a deep passion for this work. I’m one of the more successful peers in the State of Michigan and that’s no accident. I worked very hard for this, and I worked for it because of my deep love for my job.
So what are the steps?
1. You must see if you qualify for certification.
To be certified as a Peer Support Specialist in the State of Michigan you must have at some point received public mental health services. This means that you received services either without having insurance or while having medicaid, and through the government. This generally goes through the County Community Mental Health department or CMH. I live in Kent County and our CMH is named “Network180”, but most counties simply call themselves the CMH of that county or group of counties.
2. You must initially find employment as a Peer Support Specialist before you get certified.
The reason for this is that only people with work experience may receive certification in the State of Michigan. This seems counter-intuitive to some, but the rules were handed down from the state government. I suspect their reasoning is that they want to dedicate resources to those who are ready to receive training and a good way of knowing that is to have them work for a few months first.
3. Once you are employed, your employer must decide to send you for certification training. You will need to have enough experience and enough hours per week for most employers to want to have you trained. Most will, however, as only Peer Support Specialists with a State Certification may bill for services under medicaid, and this will generally be a priority for your employer.
Once you go to the training and pass the exam, you will be certified. This certification is very useful in finding employment, and I’ve used it even in building my business. My clients know from my certification that I have the training and experience necessary to deliver quality services.
That was long and I didn’t read it!
If you need a quick summary, here it is:
- Make sure you’ve received public mental health services at some point.
- Get a job as an non certified peer
- Work enough hours to get sent for certification
- Go to the training and pass the exam.