Limits of the Peer Specialist Role Copy

It can also be useful to understand the limits of the peer specialist’s role. Peer specialists are part of a team that provides both clinical and support services to individuals with behavioral health conditions. The peer specialist provides non-clinical support services that are focused on helping the client to manage their symptoms, acquire needed resources and services, and improve their overall functioning. Formalized mental health treatment services are provided by trained clinicians, rather than by peer specialists. An expert panel convened by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in 2012 developed the chart below to provide a look at the contrast between what a peer specialist is and what it is not.




A person in recovery A professional
Shares lived experience Gives professional advice
A role model An expert authority figure
Sees the person as a whole person in the context of the person’s roles, family, community Sees the person as a case or diagnosis
Motivates through hope and inspiration Motivates through fear of negative consequences
Supports many pathways to recovery Prescribes one specific pathway to recovery
Functions as an advocate for the person in recovery, both within and outside the program Represents perspective of the program
Teaches the person how to accomplish daily tasks Does tasks for the person
Teaches how to acquire needed resources, including money Gives resources and money to the person
Helps person find basic necessities Provides basic necessities such as a place to live
Uses language based on common experiences Uses clinical language
Helps the person find professional services from lawyers, doctors, psychologists or financial advisors Provides professional services
Shares knowledge of local resources Provides case management services
Encourages, supports, praises Diagnoses, assesses, treats
Helps to set personal goals Mandates tasks and behaviors
Serves as a role model for positive recovery behaviors Tells person how to lead a life in recovery
Provides peer support services Does whatever the program requires