Alaska Peer Support Recovery

What is Peer Support?

Peer support professionals are people who have been successful in the recovery process and then help others experiencing similar situations. They may have experience recovering from a mental health condition or substance use disorder, or they may have cared for a family member with these conditions.

Peer support professionals deliver behavioral health-oriented support services, within an organization and under supervision, to individuals who have lived experiences similar to their own. Through shared understanding, respect and mutual empowerment, peer support professionals help people become and stay engaged and reduce the likelihood of relapse. Peer support professionals share portions of their own recovery experience in an appropriate and effective manner and walk alongside peers in their recovery journey.

What is lived experience?

Lived experience refers to a representation of experiences and choices of a given person, and the knowledge that they gain from these experiences and choices.

Why is peer support important to both mental health and substance use care?

Based on their lived experience, peer support professionals help others find their way to obtain resources or services for both mental health and substance use disorders. These similar life experiences create a therapeutic relationship between peers that builds trust and hope for the individual seeking recovery. Organizations that incorporate community members with lived experience have found that it results in services that are more focused, efficient, integrated, culturally appropriate, sustainable, and better informed by consumers.

What services does peer support provide?

A peer support professional provides options and assistance with referrals. They support individuals working towards recovery with applications, skill building, advocacy, support and accessing any additional resources or programs the peer may need. Peers tell their story and how they were able to work with different health care providers, agencies, and resources to obtain a healthy recovery. It is through those life experiences that peers offer suggestions, feedback, and guidance on services and on possible obstacles or triggers to avoid when seeking help. In addition, they can offer support in communicating care needs to different providers.

Alaska peer support certification

Alaska has a statewide peer support certification program. This program launched in 2020 and is multi-tiered from a Peer Support Associate to a Peer Support III. The certification provides assurances peer supports have core competency skills. Statewide stakeholders also recognized the importance of incorporating traditional Native healings and culture in peer support. A specialized Traditional Peer Support certification was created for Alaska Natives, Native Americans, and indigenous peer support professionals. This is also a multi-tiered certification. The State of Alaska has over 100 certified peer support professionals. Peer Supports are required to recertify every two years.

Check out the Alaska Commission for Behavioral Health Certification website for a full range of training options for peer support, the certification requirements, and the online manual which will take you step by step through the certification process.

For more information

To get on the peer support email list for more information on upcoming trainings or if you have questions about peer support, please contact Crystal Smith.