Certified Peer Recovery Specialist

What is a Certified Peer Recovery Specialist?

Certified Peer Recovery Specialists help others on the path to recovery from mental illness, substance use disorder or co-occurring disorder .

CPRS’s are peers. They have firsthand experience with mental illness and/or substance abuse and can offer support and understanding.

CPRS’s use their personal recovery to help others.  CPRS’s promote self-determination, personal responsibility, and empowerment.

The Certified Peer Recovery Specialists program began in 2007. Since then, almost 600 Certified Peer Recovery Specialists have been certified in Tennessee.

Are you ready to become a Peer Recovery Specialist?

- Do you have at least 2 years of recovery time from a drug and alcohol addiction or mental illness?

- Do you have a high school diploma, GED, HiSet or equivalent?

- Are you comfortable sharing your recovery story with others?

- If you answered yes to these questions, take the next step and apply for training.


As a best-practice model for supporting people who have been diagnosed with mental health, substance use or co-occurring disorders, peer support can be one of the most significant tools a person can use on the journey to recovery. This model relies on individuals who live with mental health, substance use or co-occurring disorders to provide peer-to-peer support to others, drawing on their own experiences to promote wellness and recovery. Peer support is about getting help from someone who’s been there. Based on mutual respect and personal responsibility, peer support focuses on wellness and recovery rather than on illness and disability. Peers share with one another their experiences, their strengths, and their hope—a powerful combination for recovery.

Peer Recovery Specialists are people with a mental health, substance use or co-occurring disorder consumers who have completed specific training that enables them to enhance a person’s wellness and recovery by providing peer support. Peer Recovery Specialists work in a variety of locations, such as peer support centers, crisis stabilization units, respite programs, living skills programs, substance abuse treatment facilities, and in psychiatric hospitals. Peer support can be a one-on-one experience or a group of people sharing together. 


Peer Counseling

Peer Counseling is the process by which a trained person with a mental health, substance use or co-occurring disorder  gives nonjudgmental, nondirective support to a peer. Peer counseling is provided by a peer instead of a mental health professional. 

Characteristics of peer counseling:

  • Listening actively and with empathy
  • Providing problem solving expertise
  • Creating a safe and supportive environment
  • Encouraging the peers to clarify the issues or problem
  • Helping the peer brainstorm and explore all options
  • Be aware of resources in the community  
  • Letting the peer come up with their own solutions
  • Aiding the peer to develop decision-making skills
  • Advocating on the peer's behalf
  • Supporting the peer to follow through on their own decisions.

Peer counseling works because:

  • It provides peers an essential resource for recovery.
  • It is easier to identify and communicate with someone who has lived through and survived some of the same events or experiences.
  • There are no limits except if someone is in danger of hurting themselves or others.
  • It takes place in a one-on-one, confidential setting and creates a special bond of trust between two individuals.
  • People feel a sense of hope and inspiration from peers.
  • It offers an opportunity for a person to achieve a greater level of independence and self-sufficiency through role modeling and encouragement by peers.
  • Peer counseling is a powerful agent for change.

Findings consistently show that peer counseling reduces hospitalizations, reduces use of professional services, increases knowledge and coping skills, and increases self-esteem and confidence. In addition, there is a greater sense of well-being with stronger social networks and supports.

Click below for an NPR feature highlighting the benefits of Peer Specialists in Texas!

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