Practice Guidelines for Peer Support Specialists Copy

Practice guidelines are created to describe how practitioners in a specific profession will behave if they are doing their job in a competent and ethical manner. In the case of peer support specialists, the International Association of Peer Supporters created the National Practice Guidelines for Peer Supporters.[i]   The document starts with a set of values that are called “Ethical Guidelines” which are accompanied with descriptions of how these values are demonstrated in the work of peer support specialists. These descriptions are called “Practice Guidelines.”

Here is a brief description of each of the core values:

Peer support is voluntary – The client must consent to receiving peer support before services can be delivered.

Peer supporters are hopeful – A major responsibility of the peer support specialist is to help the client believe in the possibility of a successful recovery from their behavioral health condition.

Peer supporters are open-minded – Peer support specialists recognize that there are many paths to recovery. They provide services to all clients in a non-judgmental manner.

Peer supporters are empathetic – Being empathetic means understanding the client’s circumstances and feelings and how these circumstances affect the client’s recovery process. The peer support specialist should demonstrate that understanding through verbal affirmations and body language that conveys support.

Peer supporters are respectful – Being respectful means treating all clients with dignity and honoring their rights to be treated equally with all other clients.

Peer supporters facilitate change – Peer support specialists advocate for their clients, both individually and collectively, to ensure that they have the resources and services that will best support their recovery.

Peer supporters are honest and direct – Peer support specialists speak truthfully to their clients and communicate directly with clients about issues that affect them. They say what they mean and mean what they say.

Peer support is mutual and reciprocal –Both the client and the peer support specialist receive benefits from the peer relationship. Each of them recognize that the relationship has shared benefits, even though the client’s needs are the primary concern.

Peer support is equally shared power- Peer relationships are relationships between people of equal power. The peer support specialist has influence, but not authority.

Peer support is strengths-focused –Peer support is focused on the qualities, supports and resources that the client is able to call on to support recovery, rather than on the problems that the client is experiencing.

Peer support is transparent –During the peer support relationship, the client should always be informed about what is happening and why. The peer support specialist should be clear about the intended outcome of all support and mentoring activities. Nothing that happens to the client or on the client’s behalf should be a surprise to the client.

Peer support is person-driven – Clients choose to participate in peer support services and are the primary decision-makers throughout the process. Peer support specialists inform clients about options, provide information about choices and respect their decisions.

Instructions: Click the link below to download a copy of the guidelines. Review the guidelines before completing the next activity at the bottom of this page.

Click here to download a copy of the Guidelines.


Peer support specialists should look to their agency’s policies and procedures to give them direction in meeting the guidelines. When in doubt, the peer support specialist should consult the appropriate supervisor. For example, when personal issues that impact your ability to perform your job duties arise, you should inform your supervisor or manager. This includes situations when interacting with clients triggers personal issues that may result in relapse. However, supervision should not be used as personal therapy between the peer support specialist and the supervisor.

Action Points – Ethical Standards

  • The Peer Support Specialist is expected to adhere to specific expectations of prescribed and prohibited behavior. These behaviors are detailed in a Code of Ethics.
  • The Peer Support Specialist should recognize that ethical standards have their roots in shared values and views of morality among members of the behavioral health workforce.
  • The Peer Support Specialist must adhere to agency policies, state laws and federal regulations in addition.
  • The Peer Support Specialist should know that when ethical guidelines conflict with one another, federal regulations outweigh all other sources of guidance.
  • A Peer Support Specialist’s failure to follow ethical standards can result in sanctions and, if there are state laws or federal regulations involved, these sanctions may include criminal charges.

Module 7 Activity: Meeting the Guidelines

Instructions: Click the box below to complete the Module 7 Activity: Meeting the Guidelines.