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Peer Specialist Certification Program

What is a Certified Peer Specialist?

A person who has self-identified as having received or is presently receiving behavioral health services in personal recovery and has undergone certification training by DBH on how to assist others in recovery and resiliency. Under general supervision, a certified peer specialist performs a wide range of tasks to assist individuals to regain control over their lives and their own recovery process. A peer specialist also is a model for personal recovery and ongoing coping skills.

What is the purpose of the Peer Specialist Certification Program?

The six week certification program provides an opportunity for individuals with lived experience to assist others receiving behavioral health services. It ensures that these valuable peer supports services meet acceptable standards. The program also enables providers to credential their peer support staff through the certification training. 

Who is Eligible to Participate?

A self-disclosed current or previous consumer of behavioral health services within the Department of Behavioral Health network with demonstrated personal recovery and an ability to help others with their recovery is eligible to apply for the peer specialist certification program. A participant must be at least 18 years of age with a high school diploma or equivalent and a resident of the District of Columbia. A participant must be willing to create and follow a wellness recovery plan.

What if I already am a Peer Advocate?

A Peer Advocate already demonstrates a high level of commitment to helping peers. The certification program will validate your skills and knowledge, increase your credibility in the behavioral health care industry, and support professional development. Certification also will strengthen your ability to compete for peer specialist employment. 

Peer Specialist Certification Waiver

DBH accepts applications for a Peer Specialist Certification Waiver [PDF].  An applicant may request the waiver of the requirement to complete any or all of the classroom work and the field practicum based upon prior coursework or certification as a peer specialist or equivalent granted by DBH or another jurisdiction, or based upon prior or current work experience.

Does DBH provide Employment?

The Peer Specialist Certification Program helps prepare individuals to apply for available peer specialist jobs. DBH encourages its private provider network to include peer specialists in their workforce. However, successful completion of the certification program is not a guarantee of an offer of employment. 

Requirements for Certification

  • Completion of the required classroom work
  • Completion of an 80 hour, nonpaid field practicum with a District community based behavioral health provider
  • A score of a minimum of 85% on the certification examination

Graduates also are required to sign the Peer Specialist Code of Ethics [PDF].

Peer Specialist Certification Program Competencies

  • During the six week course, participants will learn the following competencies:
  • Practical assessment skills and basic knowledge of mental health and substance use disorders
  • Supporting skills to assist a consumer to develop skills identified in the approved Individual Recovery Plan
  • Documentation of services provided including preparation of progress notes
  • Computer skills
  • Unique role of the peer, using self as a therapeutic presence
  • Ethics and professionalism
  • Recovery and Wellness Recovery Action Planning (WRAP) or similar planning
  • Advocacy skills, and
  • Cultural competency and sensitivity

How to Apply

A completed application [PDF] must be submitted along with a resume, evidence of education which may be a high school diploma, GED or equivalent, and two letters of reference (at least one which is work or volunteer related). Evidence of District residency also must be provided. The application will be reviewed by a Peer Specialist Certification Committee made up of consumers and the Office of Consumer and Family Affairs. 

Next Class

The next certification class begins on June 2, 2014. An application [PDF] for the class must be submitted to the Office of Consumer and Family Affairs by February 28, 2014 by email to Adrienne.lightfoot@dc.gov. Selections will be announced by May 2, 2014. Each participant will receive a stipend of $200.00.

Class Schedule
Classes will take place from June 2, 2014 to July 11, 2014 at 64 New York Avenue, NE, Washington, DC.

Field Practicum
After successful completion of class work, an 80 hour field practicum must be performed with a DMH community based behavioral health provider. The field practicum will be arranged with the Office of Consumer and Family Affairs. The field practicum must be completed by September 5, 2014.

Certification Examination
After the field practicum is completed, a date to take the certification examination must be arranged with the Office of Consumer and Family Affairs. 

Service Details: 
Service Contact: 
Vivi W. Smith
Contact Email: 
Contact Phone: 
(202) 673-4377
Contact TTY: 
711