State certification is the most common starting point for becoming a certified peer specialist, while national certifications are available.
State Certification: State certification requirements vary across states. All states have a requirement that peer specialists have lived experience, whether that is self-identification of being in recovery or involvement with services. Required training in peer support values and skills can range from 32 to over 100 hours. Experience requirements for working or volunteering as a peer specialist can range from zero to 2,000 hours. Some states require letters of recommendation as part of the certification process. Examination requirements vary around the country; some require it while others do not. Some state certifications are operated under a formal certification board, while others are operated through or by the state’s department of mental health or a provider entity. Some states provide specialized certifications or endorsements for other lived experience and populations such as veteran peer support, family peer support, criminal justice involved peer support, and youth peer support. For detailed information on state certifications, please visit Doors for Wellbeing Technical Assistance Center, sponsored by SAMHSA. Note that not all states have certification available.
National Certification: The National Certified Peer Specialist (NCPS) certification is a voluntary certification developed by Mental Health America and the Florida Certification Board. To be eligible, peers must have a minimum of 40 hours of approved training or have completed state certification and a minimum of 3,000 hours of experience providing paid or volunteer peer support in the last six years. It also requires one professional and one supervisory letter of recommendation. Nationally certified peers must pass an exam that covers six domains of practice. The national certification is not required by states and does not allow peers to provide peer support across state lines. For more information on the NCPS, please visit this page. Additionally, the National Association for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC) offers a National Certified Peer Recovery Support Specialist (NCPRSS) credential that is primarily substance use oriented, although it does address co-occurring mental health disorders. It is an entry level certification, requiring 200 hours of supervised experience. It is recognized by Optum, a national healthcare organization, for reimbursement of certain services.