What is a Certified Peer Specialist?

A Certified Peer Specialist provides peer support to people receiving services related to mental health and/or substance use challenges. Whether a Certified Peer Specialist works in a peer-run organization on a team entirely composed of other peer support professionals, or as part of a treatment or recovery team including clinicians and other service providers, they are active participants and colleagues with their own valuable expertise and skill-sets.

A Certified Peer Specialist is a person who has their own lived experience of mental health and/or substance use challenges and has completed formal training and certification in the peer specialist model of mental health and substance use-oriented peer support. They use their unique set of lived experiences and recovery in combination with comprehensive skills-training, including continuing education, to support people living with mental health and/or substance use challenges. Certified Peer Specialists actively center peer support and associated principles in their work, while operating under a clearly defined role and collaborate in a complementary fashion as part of an agency’s team support structure.

What is the Role of a Certified Peer Specialist?

The role of the Certified Peer Specialist can vary to an extent depending on the work environment and encompass several forms of support and assistance. Although roles may vary in agencies and organizations, it is generally recognized that Certified Peer Specialists provide the following services to people living with mental health and/or substance use challenges:

  • Cultivate empowering and supportive relationships
  • Use self-disclosure and their own lived experience as a valuable tool
  • Provide information about community and recovery-oriented resources upon request
  • Assist in supporting their peers, even in crisis
  • Value self-determination as a guiding ethical principle
  • Facilitate person-centered goal setting
  • Communicate effectively with their peers, other team members, and clinicians
  • Create an environment of respect for their peers and those with lived experience
  • Seek to understand the roles culture, community, and identity play in their peers’ lives
  • Practice trauma-informed approaches in their peer relationships and work places
  • Affect positive change in systems
  • Inspire hope for recovery and wellness

What Makes a Wisconsin Certified Peer Specialist Unique?

Certified Peer Specialists recognized in the State of Wisconsin complete peer support training, examination, and continuing education requirements specific to both mental health and substance use-oriented lived experiences.

Most states that offer certification for peer specialists currently only cover peer support related to mental health challenges. Wisconsin recognizes the significant co-occurrence and overlapping of these struggles and found it important to offer a certification model that prepares Certified Peer Specialists to provide effective peer support to individuals experiencing both, as well as those who experience solely one or the other.

Certified Peer Specialists in Wisconsin are guided by and expected to work in accordance to a list of Core Competencies, a clearly defined Scope of Practice, and a Code of Ethics.

These documents are central to the role of the Certified Peer Specialist in Wisconsin. The training curriculum and examination coordinated by the Wisconsin Peer Specialist Employment Initiative is structured in such a way as to ensure a clear understanding of these documents and their application in the workplace.

Where They Are Employed

  • Within the Wisconsin Community Mental Health Programs:
  • Comprehensive Community Services (CCS)
  • Community Recovery Services (CRS)
  • Community Support Program (CSP)
  • Coordinated Services Teams (CST)
  • Children’s Long Term Support Waivers (CLTS)
  • Crisis Services
  • Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI)
  • Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC)
  • Non Profit and Provider Organizations
  • Peer Recovery Centers
  • Peer-Run Respites
  • Outpatient Settings
  • Inpatient Settings
  • Hospitals
  • Jails
View Available Jobs

Frequently Asked Questions

When can I expect to receive my exam results?

CPS and CPPS State Certification Exam results will be mailed to you within 30 days of the exam. Please do not contact the WI Peer Specialist Employment Initiative requesting results during that time.

What should I expect on the day of the exam?

 
  • The CPS and CPPS State Certification Exams take place over the course of 3 hours, you are not required to stay for all 3 hours and may leave as soon as you are finished.
  • The exam will begin promptly at the designated time so please arrive 15 - 20 minutes early in order to check-in and insure you are ready to begin at the appropriate time.
  • All testing centers are fragrance free environments so please do not wear any perfume or cologne.
  • If you choose to bring your phone, tablet, laptop, or other electronic device, you will be asked to leave it with testing center staff for the duration of your time taking the exam.
  • If you choose to bring a purse, bag, backpack, or other personal carrying item, you will be asked to leave it with testing center staff for the duration of your time taking the exam.
  • We strongly recommend leaving these items at home when coming to take the exam.
  • No food or drink will be permitted while taking the exam.
  • No study materials will be permitted while taking the exam; however, you will be provided with a pen and paper should you feel the need to take notes. You will be asked to return both items to testing center staff after the exam.
  • You will be asked to complete a short survey after you complete the exam.
 

How do I apply and pay for the Wisconsin exam?

The exam application, exam dates, and deadline information are all located on the UW-Milwaukee School of Continuing Education Wisconsin Peer Specialist Certification page. The application verifies that the application and payment must be postmarked by the specified deadline and sent to the below address:

UW-Milwaukee School of Continuing Education Gloria T. Lane 161 W. Wisconsin Avenue Suite 6000 Milwaukee, WI 53203-2602

Now that I’ve completed a training, how do I become officially certified as a Certified Peer/Parent Peer Specialist?

In order to become certified, you are required to pass the statewide exam conducted by the UW-Milwaukee School of Continuing Education. Exams are separate from trainings, occur on specific dates throughout the year, and are completed online at the eight Independent Living Centers (ILCs) throughout Wisconsin. You may apply for an exam within one year of your training. Passing scores for the exam are 85% or higher. Those who wish to retake the certification exam must complete the retake application. For personal questions concerning the exam, please contact Peer Specialist Certification Program Manager Gloria T. Lane at 414-227-3352 or at UWM-PeerSpecialist@uwm.edu.

Is the Wisconsin Peer Specialist Employment Initiative currently seeking new trainers?

As of March 14th, 2019, the Wisconsin Peer Specialist Employment Initiative is not actively seeking to hire new trainers. This decision is subject to change in the future. Trainings associated with or labeled as ToT (Training of Trainers) are employment opportunities for applicants to become Certified Peer/Parent Peer Specialist training facilitators.

Does it cost anything to participate in a training?

A Certified Peer/Parent Peer Specialist training is free of charge for trainees. However, the certification exam, run through the UW-Milwaukee School of Continuing Education, costs $50 to complete.

How do I know if I’ve been accepted into a training?

Once you have applied for a training, your application is reviewed and assessed by each trainer for that specific training. You will hear back within two weeks of the application due date whether you have been accepted to move on in the application process.

How many people are accepted into a Certified Peer Specialist training?

For each training throughout the state, there is generally a maximum of 18 trainees accepted. Once a training receives a total of 50 applications, that training no longer accepts further applications. The Wisconsin Certified Peer Specialist certification is highly sought after, so we advise you request, complete, and submit your application as soon as you are able.

What if there is no training in my county region and I am interested in becoming a Certified Peer/Parent Peer Specialist?

Even if there is no current training for your county region, the Wisconsin Peer Specialist Employment Initiative and its partners will generally not accept applications from outside-county residents. The only exception for outside applicants to be accepted is if there is a shortage of applicants within the training's respective county region.

Can I apply for a training that is not in my county region?

Prospective Peer Specialists should not apply for trainings that are not in their county regions as designated on the Wisconsin Coalition of Independent Living Centers map. Outside applications will generally not be considered, as competition between applicants within each county region is relatively high. **The only exception for outside applicants to be accepted is if there is a shortage of applicants within the training's respective county region.**