What is a Peer Specialist?

Peer Support is a system of giving and receiving help, founded on key principles of respect, shared responsibility, and the mutual agreement of what is helpful. Peer Support is not based on psychiatric models and diagnostic criteria; it aims to empower veterans by identifying their strengths, support systems, resources, and skills. To successfully engage the Veteran in his or her treatment, Peer Support providers promote healthy progress by sharing their own recovery stories, providing encouragement, instilling a sense of hope, and teaching skills to veterans. Peer Support providers are able to talk about their condition candidly and offer descriptions of helpful tools and resources they have used to manage their lives every day in more adaptive, healthy ways. They can live in the community of their choice independently and have meaningful lives with which they are satisfied. However, overall life satisfaction does not mean that they no longer have any symptoms, they no longer need to practice their learned skills, or they do not need to take medication to manage their symptoms. It means those symptoms no longer interfere with major functioning in most life activities in a significant way. Peer Specialists can help Veterans with serious mental illnesses such as Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, Major Depression, Anxiety, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and substance use disorders through sharing the challenges and adaptive changes they have made/continue to make within their own recovery experience.