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What is a Certified Peer Specialist?

September 14, 2015

We recently talked to Wade Lee, Alumni Program Coordinator, and Christina Mitrisin, LEAP staff, about what it’s like being a certified peer specialist.

What is a Certified Peer Specialist?

WADE: A Certified Peer Specialist (CPS) is someone who self discloses a mental health diagnoses and/or an addiction challenge.

He or she has been in recovery for at least a year. In order to get their certification, they must take a 2 week training course.
Once certified, the individual can work back in the system using their own personal experience.

CHRISTINA: Over the past several years, I’ve learned a great deal through the hardships and treatment of my mental illness. Through this experience, I gained a lot of knowledge and wisdom that I am able to pass along in a positive way. As a CPS, I try to mirror what healthy recovery looks like.

What led you to become a CPS?

WADE: When I was in treatment at Skyland Trail, the horticulture therapist, Libba Shortridge, told me about the CPS program. She thought that I would be a great fit for the program. I began looking at it as I approached graduation and was immediately interested. The following year, I took the training and got certified to be a CPS. After working at my first job for about a year, Skyland Trail opened a CPS position and I jumped, as hard and as fast as I could.

CHRISTINA: Wade actually led me to become a CPS. When I was in treatment at Skyland Trail, I asked Wade what being a CPS meant. After he explained it to me, I thought, “Wow, this is something I can do. From what Wade is telling me, I can help others by just being me – by sharing my story and experiences and listening to my peers’ experiences.”

Like everyone else, you still have bad days. What helps you get through a tough day?

CHRISTINA: On my really bad days I’m, in a sense, outside of myself. I tend to lose balance and my sense of self-worth. During this time, I find it helpful to use my mindfulness skills and the practices I learned in DBT to ground myself and get back in the present moment. When I am grounding myself, I remind myself that in this moment, I am safe. I’m not in any kind of danger and nothing catastrophic is going to happen. These reminders help bring my anxiety down. Other skills that have helped me in the past include positive self-affirmations, remembering a really great memory or thinking of something that I accomplished. I also found that simply taking a few hours out of the day for myself to do something that I enjoy helps ease my anxiety and reminds me that this life is worth living.

WADE: I do struggle at times. At the end of the day, I allow myself to say, “Yes, you had a bad day. No, you were not at the top of your game. But, you stayed sober.”

Learn More

Georgia CPS Project >
DBSA Peer Specialist Core Training >
2014 National Overview: Peer Specialist Training and Certification Programs >
Skyland Trail Alumni Program >