Peer Support Specialists Offer Clients Help and Hope for Recovery

Jan 13, 2022 | Crisis Stabilization Unit (CSU), Mental Health

The Crisis Stabilization Unit (CSU) is excited to announce the addition of Peer Support Specialists to its staff in early 2022. This unique position will offer clients the benefit of learning from others with mental health or addiction struggles, who have been successful in their own recovery process. 

A peer support specialist is similar to an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) sponsor; this person serves as a role model to another who is dealing with mental, emotional, or substance use challenges. Because they have “real life” experience, peer support specialists can forge a unique connection with CSU clients while sharing what has and hasn’t worked in their own journey to recovery.

Unlike AA sponsors, Coleman’s certified peer support specialists have all earned special credentials required by the State of Ohio to work in this capacity. In this respect, they are more like the CSU’s clinical staff. Peer support specialists are required to obtain Continuing Education Units (CEUs), in addition to completing 40 hours of specialized training mandated by the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services or having at least three years of work experience as a Peer Recovery Supporter.

In the past, peer support specialists at Coleman have been effective in providing support in many areas, including supportive housing and employment services. Michelle Smith, Chief Officer of Coleman Crisis Services, sees them as a natural fit in the CSU.

“One of the main advantages of having peer support specialists here is that they break the barriers of medical professionals. These people have lived experience that helps them relate to our clients and makes them feel less isolated and alone,” she said. 

Smith envisions the peer support specialists operating as “floaters” in the 13-bed facility. They will step in as needed and encourage people to participate in the treatment process. They can also serve in a traditional counseling role with the advantage of having “been there and done that,” which will help build trust with CSU clients. 

In the long-term, the plan is to have peer support specialists lead one group counseling session each day. These sessions will be somewhat different than the ones led by licensed clinicians. Instead of focusing on educating, these sessions will be more conversational and dedicated to the emotional side of recovery.

“Our peer support specialists will be available on the unit for easy access and hands-on support,” Smith explained. “They will be there to help ease conversations as people come into the unit. When they lead groups, they will encourage clients to express themselves, talk about recovery, and the road that led them to the CSU.”

Coleman Health Services President & CEO Hattie Tracy is also thrilled to have the peer support specialists come on board. 

“These folks will be an additional support to our clients that’s a little different than what other organizations offer,” she added. “I expect that our peer support specialists will be sources of hope and inspiration to our clients.”