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What is Peer Support?

Clipart drawing of outlines of people in a circle in rainbow colors

  • Peer support encompasses a range of activities and interactions between people who share similar experiences of being diagnosed with mental health conditions, substance use disorders, or both. This relationship between a peer support worker and person in or seeking recovery promotes connection and inspires hope. By sharing their own lived experience and practical guidance, peer support workers help people to develop their own goals, create strategies for self-empowerment, and take concrete steps towards building fulfilling, self-determined lives for themselves.
  • A peer support worker is someone with the lived experience of recovery from a mental health condition, substance use disorder, or both. They provide support to others experiencing similar challenges. They provide non-clinical, strengths-based support and are “experientially credentialed” by their own recovery journey.  Peer support workers may be referred to by different names depending upon the setting in which they practice.  Common titles include peer specialists, peer recovery coaches, peer advocates, and peer recovery support specialists.  

Source: Value of Peers Infographics: General Peer Support ( 

What is a Certified Peer Specialist?

Certified Peer Specialist (CPS) is an individual with lived mental health experience who has been trained and certified in the state of Pennsylvania on how to assist others in recovery and wellness. A certified peer specialist performs a wide variety of tasks to assist individuals to regain control over their lives and their own recovery and wellness process.

What Services do Certified Peer Specialist Provide?

  • Assisting in the development of strengths-based individual goals
  • Serving as an advocate, mentor, or facilitator for resolution of issues that a peer is unable to resolve on their own
  • Developing community supports
  • Providing education on ways to maintain personal wellness and recovery
  • Providing education on navigating the mental health system

Source: Peer Support & Advocacy Network (

What is a Certified Recovery Specialist? 

A Certified Recovery Specialist (CRS) is an individual with personal, lived experience of their own recovery. By offering insight into the recovery process, Recovery Specialists are able to share a unique perspective with those with similar life experiences. Recovery Specialists accept and agree that their experience as a person in recovery from a substance use disorder will be known by their colleagues, individuals served, and others with whom they may share that they have achieved this credential.

The Recovery Specialist is a role model, mentor, advocate, and motivator. Recovery Specialists advocate for the individual, the recovery system, recovery-oriented services and assist to identify and reduce stigma. They advocate to eliminate barriers, increase natural supports and build community. Services provided by the Recovery Specialist substantially improve an individual’s and family’s ability to sustain recovery and wellness. 

Source: Recovery Specialist | Pennsylvania Certification Board (

What is a Certified Family Recovery Specialist? 

A Certified Family Recovery Specialist (CFRS) is an individual who is an adult family member or loved one who has experienced their own recovery after being impacted by a loved one’s substance use disorder.  The Certified Family Recovery Specialist (CFRS) credential is for adults who have been directly impacted by another person's substance abuse disorder. THe CFRS shares their lived experience with other families to provide recovery support services. CFRS's are trained to help families move into and through the recovery process. As a CFRS, an individual accepts and agrees that his/her experience will be known by their colleagues, persons served, and others with whom he/she may share that they habe achieved this credential. Additionally, a CFRS will follow the Code of Ethical Conduct.

Source: Certified Family Recovery Specialist (CFRS) | Pennsylvania Certification Board (

For more information on Peer Support, visit the following resources:

Peer Support Groups in PA

  • MY LIFE | Magellan of PA: MY LIFE is helping to improve the lives of youth between the ages of 13 and 23 who are dealing with issues related to mental health, substance use, foster care and juvenile justice. It gives youth the chance to become leaders in their communities. Magellan Behavioral Health of Pennsylvania has partnered with Bucks, Cambria, Lehigh, Montgomery and Northampton counties to host MY LIFE groups in these counties.
  • Support Groups | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness: NAMI offers support groups for individuals, families, and caregivers who are affected by mental illness. The groups are led by trained, peer facilitators who know what you are going through. Support groups are confidential and free of charge.


2551 Walnut Street

Harrisburg, PA 17103

Office Phone:  717.221.1022


Youth Move PA exists in partnership with 
parent organization, PMHCA. Learn more.

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