National Practice Guidelines (U.S.)

National Practice Guidelines
for Peer Supporters

In the summer of 2013, the International Association of Peer Supporters issued the following document following a six-month, inclusive process in which 1000 peer support providers gave input through focus groups or surveys with 98% agreement on twelve core values of peer support. Some of the values had originally been identified in the guide, “Engaging Women in Trauma Informed Peer Support,” based largely on Shery Mead’s work with Intentional Peer Support, with additional contributions from the World Health Organization QualityRights Toolkit and an expert panel at SAMHSA that included subject matter experts from both the mental health and substance use communities.

Following the focus groups and surveys, Steve Harrington summarized what people who participated in the process said the twelve core values would look like in practice and issued the Practice Guidelines as a voluntary effort and gift to the members of iNAPS and the practice of peer support as a whole. These National Practice guidelines have since been shared and used around the world to inform best practices in peer support globally.


Click here to download the National Practice Guidelines

from other organizations

Peer Support Accreditation and Certification in
Canada (PSACC)


Promoting peer support as a valued and respected service offering is at the core of the PSACC Mission. All activities related to certification, research, and conferences continue to maintain that focus and align with the (Canadian) National Standards of Practice.

Click here to view the Standard of Practice/PSACC Certification Handbook.


In 2015, SAMHSA led an effort to identify the critical knowledge, skills, and abilities (leading to Core Competencies) needed by anyone who provides peer support services to people with or in recovery from a mental health or substance use condition. SAMHSA—via its Bringing Recovery Supports to Scale Technical Assistance Center Strategy (BRSS TACS) project—convened diverse stakeholders from the mental health consumer and substance use disorder recovery movements to achieve this goal.

SAMHSA in conjunction with subject matter experts conducted research to identify Core Competencies for peer workers in behavioral health. SAMHSA later posted the draft competencies developed with these stakeholders online for comment. This additional input helped refine the Core Competencies and this document represents the final product of that process.

Click here to view the SAMHSA BRSS TACS Core Competencies document

The Association for Addiction Professionals

Nationally Certified Addiction Recovery Support Specialist (NCPRSS)

Addiction Recovery Support Specialists are individuals who are in recovery from substance use or co-occurring disorders.  Their life experiences and recovery allow them to provide recovery support in such way that others can benefit from their experiences.

The purpose of the National Addiction Recovery Support Specialist Credential is to standardize the knowledge and competency of recovery support to individuals with substance use and co-occurring disorders.

Click here to learn more about the Addictions Recovery Support Specialist Certification


Mental Health America

National Whole Health Peer Specialist Certification (under development)

Mental Health America in partnership with the Florida Certification Board are currently developing a national, accredited certification for whole health peer specialists that will set new standards in the field.

This credential is designed to meet and exceed the standards used in public behavioral health around the country. The certification will require enhanced training and substantial work experience. A major purpose of the certification is to meet the needs of private health insurers and private practitioners. Expansion of peer support into the private sector will open up new career paths and opportunities, which have been previously unexplored, for thousands of peer supporters.Click here to learn more about the Whole Health Peer Specialist Certification

Review and complete a survey about the Florida Certification Board/MHA National Peer Specialist Certification 


Leave a comment below about the various guidance documents shown here, or any others that you would highly recommend to peer support providers and those who work with them.

33 thoughts on “National Practice Guidelines (U.S.)

  1. For peer support providers – I think the most important value is our personal belief in recovery. We may be the only person in someone’s life who believes recovery is possible.

    “To the world you may be just one person, but to one person you may be the world.”
    ~~ Brandi Synder

  2. I have been in recovery for 3 1/2years, and I Believe that Recovery can happen and it will happen only if one BELIEVES. Recovery starts with the support is given to the when they need it the most (a listening ear, a emphathetic peer..). To me it took just one person to encourage and stay patiently by my side. Thank you PSS,she inspired me to become one (Bilingual/ Eng-Span).

    “You never know what you are able to do until is done,so BELIEVE RECOVERY IS POSSIBLE”.

  3. Thanks for sending the draft for review. I have no specific comment other than liking the direction this Peer Support Specialist is developing to a professional recognizable standars for minimal knowledge skills and abilities.

  4. Recovery is possible! Once you feel that there is hope that hope grows! Then we have choices to make and feel empowered, slowly but surely. Then there is a connection made with a higher power and we surround ourselves with people who get recovery!!

  5. I wholeheartedly agree with everything in Mr. Harrington’s article and I would like to add my own thoughts about the national standards in reference to the excerpt taken from this article (shown after my notes):
    Because Peer Support Specialists work within the realm of ALL specialties, I believe that ALL specialties (substance use disorder, forensic, inpatient, geriatric, veterans, crisis intervention, etc.) should be incorporated into the standards. Peer Support Specialists are people, just as the people we serve. No matter how our position description refers to us, job title calls us (and many of them are different) in name, or the field of our work our values and standards should be the same throughout the world.
    The substance use realm objects to the use of “specialists” for their Peer Support Specialists and prefers to use “coaches.” The job title should NOT matter. We are all “specialists” in the work that we do.

    Because Peer Support Specialists want to unite, I believe that the National standards developed by the workgroup should be used throughout the United States, Canada, and the world. These standards should be comprehensive enough to show that we are all united for the same purpose, to support others in their efforts to become all they are meant to be. Certification of Peer Support Specialists should be under the leadership and administration of NAPS, and NOT each state or different organizations. No matter how PSS’s were “certified” in the past, the purpose was the same.

    We need a National Code of Ethics that applies to ALL Peer Support Specialists without regard to position title or field of expertise (specialty). Too many times, as in the field of Psychology, codes of ethics become complicated, muddled, and cannot be understood or agreed upon. Grey areas turn into black and disrespect is the result. The profession then suffers the consequences and becomes less respected and accepted by the community. The profession is divided by titles and educational requirements, and society no longer can
    decide who is the best “professional” for their needs. Professionals become focused on titles, how much to charge, and how long a session should take, without regard for the client/peer/consumer, or whatever title given. We are human beings and we must keep that as our focus. Make the standards direct, to the point, and easily understood by ALL.

    “During the summit, the issue of whether separate standards for substance use disorder peer support and mental health peer support should be distinct. After considerable, healthy discussion, a consensus emerged that these two areas can be integrated with a
    single set of standards. Discussion about other areas of “specialty,” such as forensic, inpatient, geriatric, veterans, and crisis intervention did not arise. It appeared as though there is a wide misperception that NAPS serves only mental health peer supporters
    despite our record of inclusiveness as evidence by our mission statement, writings, and
    conference offerings.”

    Rita D. Martin
    Recovery Services Peer Specialist
    Recovery and Resiliency Office
    Magellan Health Services
    Home Office Phone: 318-899-5758
    Cell Phone: 318-955-8035
    Fax: 888-656-4098

  6. I want to say Thank you Rita Martin for your very comprehensive response. I too believe and support your thoughts. I appreciate you for speaking so eloquently for your fellow peers. I could not have been more clear on the points you raised regarding standard National PSS Standardization and Feel NAPS is the organization to champion that effort.

    Debra LaVergne
    Peers Support Specialist, Supervisor
    State President, Meaningful Minds of Louisiana
    EMail: Debra.LaVergne@LA.Gov

  7. I would also like to thank you Rita Martin you have covered so much in your response. the only thing I would like to say is Real Life Problems, Choices And Consequences make you Qualified, and then some with your own expertise. All of us ARE Experts in our field, with or without titles and/or degrees

  8. How does one become trained to be a peer specialist? I have a mood disorder that is under control and I am in recovery. I would love to know how to become a part of your organisation. on said:

    Interested in becoming trained as a peer specialist.

  9. Dear interested,
    Check with your states mental health department. Not all states have a certification as yet but it is coming.
    I would like to take it one more step, if you would allow.
    Recovery is a wonderful thing and IS always possible, but we who live with and recover from mental illness on avrage live 20 years less than our fellow persons. This is not acceptable. I WANT TO LIVE, now that I have so much to live for.

    Furthermore, we can, if not diligent and ever careful, relaps out of recovery.
    This is why a movement has started to incorporate mental health, addiction, concurrence and physical health into one holistic state known as wellness.

    If you have never taken a WHAM course I urge you to try it. Wellness helps maintain recovery and I believe it is important to incorporate it into the standards.
    Thank you,
    Rev. Art Richter C-PRSS
    work 405-573-3986 cell 405-802-2097
    Norman, OK.

  10. It would be good if people could pull together for basic standards. The health care system is consolidating andour stance as peers is only as strong as our our representation that peer specialists are professionals and should be paid apprpriately.. National standards demonstrates broad agreement on the professionalism of the peer specialist role.

  11. I want to contribute any way I can.
    I am a Peer Specialist in Putnam County, NY.
    I have a BA in Social Psychology from Tufts
    University in Medford, MA.

    PLEASE contact me at or
    ph: 954-805-8073

    this is awesome!!!
    thank you for getting back to me as soon as possible. thank you and I look forward to joining your initiative.


  12. Thank you for all your comments on this site. Now that the draft is available, please use the surveymonkey link to offer comments to the ‘Field Review’ draft. This link will be the official channel for offering approval and feedback, which will be the main source of nationwide data considered by the authors, the advisory committee, and ultimately the policy makers and employers who will determine the credibility (based on peer input) of this work. Thanks!!

  13. What states now have a certification or licensure for peer support services?

  14. I always fear a bit of elitism that the Recovery Movement may develop. As an individual who lived in tight constraints in Supported Housing, I know the constraints and restraints of economic limitations particularly in regards to technology access. We should always be mindful of our brothers and sisters who remain impoverished.

  15. My experience has dictated my conviction. I believe in sharing how hopeless I once was and how an individual reached out and shared their individual experience briefly and I felt as if they met me right were I was. Having said that the rest is history. This is how I approach each individual and we build from there. It is not always easy and neither was my rode to recovery but the miracle did happen and continues to happen.


  16. I am a CRS-SA in Indpls. In @ Cummins Behavioral Health , I have Just returned from a three day working trip to Clearwater, Fl this week where I had the opportunity through a grant given by IC& RC ( International Credentialing Organization) to help create the firts international exam for “Peers ” . Sharing that experience with several Peer service providers and others from around the world Country as well as other Countries I am now more than every before in my thirty plus years as a consumer, twelve years in addiction recovery and my seven years as a provider in Mental wellness and Addiction. I can see the shift in the process and journey of recovery and wellness around the world. Iam so blessed to be apart of this MOVE I can not articulate it in words. I feel Blessed and privilged. I believe the words that are used to describe our role on this journey such as HOPE,CHANGE and ect . will not be adquate in the near future.

  17. I believe for the future we need mentors and peers for all who battle a mental illness. It will help them cope with stigma, find their own voice, become strong in themselves and take better control of their health. They will learn to report abuse and mistreatment to appropriate authorities and they will lead and make healthier and safer choices as well.

  18. I am searching for high quality studies on the following three areas. Could you direct me to any? Thank you.
    1. Research that shows peer support works better than mom, dad, sister, social worker, psychiatrist, psychologist, bartender, etc. If you know of any comparative research, could you direct me to it.
    2. Research that shows peer support impacts important, measurable, significant outcomes like rates of arrest, violence, incarceration, homelessness, suicide, hospitalization, etc. (I am aware of the research on satisfaction, etc.)
    Thank you for your help
    DJ Jaffe

  19. Looks like everything is all written out.The only thing that I think personally is that it could be more direct,condensed.

  20. As a Certified Peer Specialist, I believe in “Recovery”I believe we can be productive members of society,leading to Quality of Life” Iam dedicated to Inspirie Hope by sharing lived experience. I remember the dark days when i felt worthless without purpose no reason to get out of bed.It was peers that held my goal is to continue to advocate to decrease “STIGMA” and be a Voice for Quality of Services that lead to Quality Of Life”

  21. Stigma is Discrimination, when caregivers and providers do not believe that Recovery is real, they are gripped with fear and discrimination and ought not to be in care giving, since to me the most important part of treatment is HOPE. Keep hope present, make a plan, make a decision to win, hold onto your life. There is a lot about your journey that will be of help to others.

  22. I think Peer Supports are vital in someone’s recovery as well as their own. I felt like mental illness took away my life. Over the past 2 years I have been working and taking controlling of my life and illness. I no longer let my illness lead the direction of my life but it has pointed me on the right path. I now am a Peer Support Specialist and find hope in giving it to others who might not know, RECOVERY IS POSSIBLE. Not only does my position allow for helping others, I think the main person it has benefited so far has been me. I’ve come a long way and I want others to know they are not alone on their journey.

  23. it is important to me to see the current research in all fields of scientific endeavor used for reference. in addition, the application of a diagnostic label puts peers in a box. it doesn’ t take into account progress made in all fields of knowledge. i have been reading Drive by daniel pink. it goes into depth on what works in the workplace for motivation. i believe his thoughts apply to peer support. i have found motivating a peer can be our most challenging task. mr. pink points out carrots and sticks don’t always work when someone is looking for a novel solution to their current problems. in fact, it is counterproductive. he also goes on to say “goals” can be a trap too especially if a reward is promised to accomplish a task. the reward will limit novel vision. in my own estimation, autonomy is deadly important. so many of my peers complained bitterly of the hoops the agency i worked for expected them to jump through.

  24. I will be turning 20 in a few short months and have been in recovery from SA/MH since October 18, 2011. I became so very passionate about working in the mental health field after going in diagnosed for 18 years. As I have noticed since becoming a peer support specialist, work is very scarce, and finding places who know the job description of a PSS is hard. I hope it becomes a more common position in the mental health community this year.

  25. Hi every one, I think that the best thing that have ever been given to me was a chance to go through the PSS training. It opened my eyes up so wide too greater possibilities in my recovery. With out the training I would still think I’m alone in my recovery. I am a better person because of this training. Now I truly feel I can help some one else. I believe every one should take the training class . It will make this world a better place to live in. Thank You Kenya Howard

  26. Thank you everyone who has been involved in wirtting the National Ethical Guideline of Peer Recovery Supporters. My suggestion for changes are along the line of establishing Peer Recovery Accountability Partnerships. This would emphasize: Equally shared power and support that is mutual and reciprocal. It is important that we don’t establish a “higherarchy” between peers for obvious reasons. I also would like to see added that the accountability partner (instead of peer recovery supporter) ask questions to clarify understanding and to drawout pratical information that has been effective for that particualr individual in the past. This serves as a reminder of what may work presently for them now. This leads towards empowerment and self efficacy. There was also nothing mentioned about using the vaulable tool of supportive listening and mirroring back.

  27. BELIEF in recovery is not a competency, a skill, and action or something a supervisor can evaluate. How do we expect people to take our peer support practice seriously if it is really just a belief system? “HI, I am a professional because I BELIEVE.” How do we teach and work with people if this is the basis of everything? This does not fly out in the field where we’ve thrown people into clinical environments. There, they want to know what we actually DO.

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