Which model of peer support specialist do you prefer and does it matter?


I worked for many years as a peer support specialist for low wages and rarely received performance evaluations or raises. I passed the certification test in February 2012 and accepted a new job as a full time peer support specialist. I received my performance evaluation this week and my third raise in thirteen months. This now means I am earning more than $5 per hour than I was before this job. Plus I have the kind of benefits that used to be reserved for clinicians. Am I in a dream?

I can earn this amount of money and respect because peer support is a billable service. And I am very productive, assisting a lot of consumers with our agency. We are engaging people in ways that had never been possible before, which contributes to our success. With the agency’s encouragement and support, I have attended as many training sessions as possible. This includes many that I believe will be very valuable in my practice.

Currently I am awaiting word of my application for graduate school and this weekend I will be studying the Neuroscience of Addiction in a program organized specifically for peer support specialists. There are many jobs available for certified peer specialists, who are often highly trained, experienced and able to handle many different types of tasks.

Another model of peer support is the one I escaped, where is was assumed that we relied upon SSI or SSDI for our income and could only work part time. Health care comes from Medicaid or Medicare. The tasks are also relatively limited. I have seen people who worked in this model become very frustrated want to do more. No one who relied on disability benefits could work in my type of position more than a few hours per week out of fear they would lose their disability benefits.

It depends on your level of stability and coping skills. I wanted an agency with upward mobility from which I could retire. this brings us to Model #3 which is represented by people who do not trust the mental health system. They believe that their best role it to be a volunteer under the radar and outside the mental health system.They may identify themselves as anarchists, people who inherently distrust government. I always hoped that we would develop the right kind of government and it would be replenished by people’s movements from below. Since I didn’t find that kind of society I began to vote for Democrats instead.

These models will become increasingly important as we implement community based mental health. I see people sliding between all three and being enriched by the experience. Where do you see yourself in this?


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