If you want to learn more about Peer Support Specialists (PSS), you’re in the right place. Keep reading to learn more about Peer Support Specialists—who we are, where we work, trainings, and answers to frequently asked questions.

Who are Peer Support Specialists?

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.

Where do Peer Support Specialists work?

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.

Peer Support Specialist Trainings

Training for Peer Support Specialists is currently offered in-personThe training is Monday-Friday from 8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

PSS Training February 2023

Applications

  • Applications will open Jan. 17, 2023
  • When applications open, a link will be posted below to apply.
  • At this time, training is needing to be prioritized for currently employed Peer Support Specialists.

Virtual Training via Zoom

  • February 20 - 24 and Feb. 27 - March 3, 2023 (from 8:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.)

Location

  • Training will be held virtually via Zoom

PSS Training June 2023

Applications

  • Applications will open May 2, 2023
  • When applications open, a link will be posted below to apply.
  • At this time, training is needing to be prioritized for currently employed Peer Support Specialists.

 In-Person Training

  • June 12 - 16, 2023 (8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.)

Location

  • Coralville

PSS Training April 2023

Applications

  • Applications will open Feb. 21, 2023
  • When applications open, a link will be posted below to apply.
  • At this time, training is needing to be prioritized for currently employed Peer Support Specialists.

 In-Person Training

  • April 3 - 7, 2023 (8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.)

Location

  • West Des Moines

Training Details

  • History of the Peer Support Movement
  • Challenging Stigma
  • Five Stages of Recovery
  • Role of the Peer Support Specialist
  • Strengths & Resilience
  • Trauma Informed Care Principles
  • Ethics & Boundaries
  • Wellness & Self-Care
  • Advocacy (individual and system)
  • Engagement Skills (active listening, effective use of personal recovery story, navigation of resources, cultural competence)
  • Activation & Self-Management Skills (problem solving, goal setting, shared decision-making, action planning for prevention and recovery)

Grounded in adult learning theory, this training:

  • Covers competencies for Peer Support Specialists set by Mental Health America and SAMHSA
  • Trains to the Iowa Peer Support Specialist Scope of Practice
  • Meets quality training standards
  • Prepares participants for certification by the Iowa Board of Certification

You must commit to attending the entire training. Online Training is Monday - Friday, for two full weeks, from 8:30AM to 12:30PM. In-Person Training consists of one week of all day training Monday - Friday.

You must arrange and pay for your own lodging (if applicable). If you are currently employed as a Peer Support Specialist, check with your employer about covering these expenses.

This training is FREE, however, trainees must pay for their own lodging, food and travel costs. If you are currently employed as a Peer Support Specialist, check with your employer about covering these expenses.

You must make arrangements for your own food. You will have an hour during in-person training for lunch (virtual training ends at 12:30 p.m., so there isn't a lunch hour). There are many food options near the training sites. Most training locations do not allow outside food to be brought into the venue.

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires a reasonable accommodation in order to participate in this training, please contact us at 319-467-4288 or 319-467-4296 or email us at iowapeersupporttraining@healthcare.uiowa.edu.

If you are not currently employed as a Peer Support Specialist (and will not have your costs paid by your employer), you may be eligible for a stipend that would reimburse you for part of your training related expenses.  You would be required to pay the initial costs of your hotel, gas, and meals and submit a form for reimbursement upon completion of the training. You must submit the stipend application two weeks before the first day of training. Stipends must be applied for, processed and approved BEFORE the start of training. If you would like more information about applying for a stipend, please email: iowapeersupporttraining@healthcare.uiowa.edu.

Peer Support Specialist FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

You must have a high school diploma or GED.

The training will provide you with in-depth knowledge and skills. However, in general the PSS role involves the ability to:

  • Model effective coping and self-help techniques.
  • Work with individuals from diverse socio economic and cultural backgrounds.
  • Attend workplace meetings and complete agency requirements.
  • Assist people with finding community and natural supports and teaching them how to utilize these services.
  • Advocate for someone’s needs and accompany them to meetings as needed.
  • Work as a member of an interdisciplinary team focusing on each persons need for recovery.
  • Communicate effectively both verbally and in writing.
  • Adhere to confidentiality and understand protected health information.
  • Maintain records and provide accurate documentation.
  • Use computers ( i.e. Basic computer skills-email, web searches, word processing).
  • Ability to maintain a part-time or full-time work schedule.
  • Willing to share your own personal story of living with and recovery from a mental illness.

You must be 18 years of age to take Peer Support Specialist training.

When applications are open there will be a link above to click and apply for Peer Support Specialist Training.

  • Applications will be screened when the application process closes. See date listed under specific trainings for closing dates. Training spaces are limited, so apply early.
  • Once your application is received, you may be contacted with information regarding a phone interview.
  • After the screening interview, you will be notified about whether or not you will be accepted for training. This is generally around 4 weeks before the training starts.
  • At this time, Peer Support Specialist training is being prioritized for individuals currently employed as a PSS. Those with a pending employment opportunity will also be considered.

For questions, please email us at iowapeersupporttraining@healthcare.uiowa.edu.

Certified Peer Recovery Specialist (PRS) Requirements

Administered by the Iowa Board of Certification (IBC). For detailed information, download the Certified Peer Recovery Specialist (PRS) Handbook at https://iowabc.org/credentials/mhpss/. To be certified in Iowa as a Peer Support Specialist, you need to meet the following requirements:

Application and Examination

  • Applicants must pass the IC&RC Peer Recovery (PR) examination. To apply, go to the IBC website at https://iowabc.org/credentials/mhpss/, and click on the "PRS Application".
  • Applications should be submitted to IBC with the non-refundable $165.00 fee. This fee covers application review, one exam fee, and the first two years of certification.

Education and Training Requirements

  • High School Diploma or GED.
  • A certificate of completion must be submitted from the Iowa Peer Support Specialist Training provided by the University of Iowa or an equivalent model approved by the Iowa Board of Certification.
  • An additional six hours of ethics training is required beyond the 40 hour training class.

Experience and Supervision Requirements

  • A minimum of 500 hours of work/practicum/volunteer experience.
  • A minimum of 25 hours of face-to-face supervision.

Questions? Contact the IBC office at 515-965-5509 or email at info@iowabc.org.