As the place Where Humans Bloom, RHA strives to create a supportive environment for not only the people seeking our services, but employees providing them. Many of RHA’s Behavioral Health services employ Certified Peer Support Specialists (CPSSs) with personal recovery experience. We reached out to Krista Engels, Behavioral Health Regional Director in Asheville, NC, to learn more about Peer Support and how RHA encourages CPSSs in their recovery journeys.
Who are Certified Peer Support Specialists (CPSSs) and what services do they provide?
CPSSs are individuals who share their personal recovery journeys to inspire people seeking services through RHA. In Western North Carolina, they provide various groups and individual sessions through the Peer Living Room (PLR). The PLR is open to everyone in the community; a person does not have to be receiving support services from RHA to access the space. Groups are offered twice daily, and individual sessions are offered as needed. CPSSs also offer case management and assistance accessing community resources, shelter, food, employment, and more.
What is unique about Peer Support Services (as compared to other mental health/substance use services)?
Peer Support Services facilitate reciprocal relationships between CPSSs and people served that are defined by their commitment to help each other move towards what they want and away from what they do not want. CPSSs share their own stories to help others consider how their beliefs and assumptions have influenced their reality, understanding, and life choices. Peer Support Services foster intentional, active, mutual engagement throughout recovery.
What qualifications and qualities does RHA look for in CPSS?
A CPSS must self-identify as an individual in recovery from a mental health/substance use disorder, complete certification training in recovery support skills, and adhere to a code of ethics. Recertification is required every two years. The ideal CPSS can cultivate relationships and build trust, and demonstrates respect, empathy, and the ability to share mutual experiences.
How does RHA support CPSSs in their recovery?
RHA ensures Peer Support work is recovery-based, person-centered, voluntary, relationship-focused, and trauma-informed. We support CPSSs through validation, encouragement, empowerment, and by highlighting their individual strengths as people in recovery. RHA is committed to providing opportunities for continued education, ongoing internal training, supervision, and CPSS support groups.
Describe a time CPSSs made a positive impact in the life of a person served by RHA.
CPSSs worked alongside an individual who was actively using substances for decades, lost contact with family and friends, and had multiple DUIs, inpatient placements, and monthly detox hospitalizations. He was participating in Substance Use Intensive Outpatient Treatment and accessed the PLR at the recommendation of his clinical team. While receiving encouragement and support from CPSSs at the PLR, he attended outpatient treatment 3 hours/day, 3 days/week for 15 weeks. He stayed committed to sobriety and was placed in a local recovery home after graduating treatment. He has since maintained his recovery, reconnected with family and friends, and obtained employment. When he needs connection and support, he continues to seek out Peer Support via the PLR.
If you or someone you know could benefit from compassionate, mutual support during recovery, Certified Peer Support Specialists are here to help. Visit rhahealthservices.org/behavioral-health-services/ to find Peer Support and other Behavioral Health services near you.