Skip all navigation Skip to page navigation

DHHS Home | A-Z Site Map | Divisions | About Us | Contacts | En Español

NC Department of Health and Human Services Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Substance Abuse Services

North Carolina Certified Peer Support Specialist Program

An Initiative of the NC Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services

What is Peer Support?

“Peer support is a system of giving and receiving help founded on key principles of respect, shared responsibility, and mutual agreement of what is helpful. Peer support is not based on psychiatric models and diagnostic criteria. It is about understanding another’s situation empathically through the shared experience of emotional and psychological pain. When people find affiliation with others they feel are 'like' them, they feel a connection. This connection, or affiliation, is a deep, holistic understanding based on mutual experience where people are able to 'be' with each other without the constraints of traditional (expert/patient) relationships." (Mead, 2001)

Informal peer support has always been provided by friends, family and peers. Formal peer support services have been provided by grassroots community organizations and groups in Victoria for more than 30 years. Over the last 10 years, however, the sharing of lived experience has been increasingly recognized as an integral, complementary part of the recovery journey in mental health. Formal recognition has led to increasing numbers of paid peer support roles and a diverse range of terminology, services, activities, practices, protocols, research and resources. These have been developed by individuals, community and special interest groups, health professionals, government departments and support agencies, all aiming to harness the power of peer support for consumers of mental health services and their families/care givers. (Center of Excellence in Peer Support)

Peer Support Specialists are people living in recovery with mental illness and / or substance abuse and who provide support to others whom can benefit from their lived experiences. The North Carolina Certified Peer Support Specialist Program (NCCPSS) provides acknowledgment that the peer has met a set of requirements necessary to provide support to individuals with mental health or substance abuse issues.

Vision for Peer Support in North Carolina  

To develop a qualified Peer Support Specialist workforce that has the support, access, credibility, competency, respect and the valued role within the mental health and substance abuse service delivery system to positively impact the lives of individuals experiencing mental health and addiction challenges.  This is accomplished through the NC Certified Peer Support Specialist Program.

Guiding Values for Peer Support in North Carolina

  • Individuals with lived experience have an essential role to play in the public mental health/substance abuse service system and are considered peer supporters.
  • The roles that are created for peers within the service system should fully utilize the lived experience of the peer supporter, viewing it as a credential that the individual brings to the work that they do. 
  • Lived experience is necessary and on-going skill development for peer supporters is essential.
  • The recovery environment of the workplace is fundamental to the success of peer supporters and recovery for the individuals served.
  • Peer supporters are highly valued members of an agency; therefore, are fully integrated members of the mental health/substance abuse service delivery system.
  • Equality and respect between peer supporters and traditional professionals must be reciprocal.
  • Choice and self-determination are important components in everyone’s recovery, including individuals receiving and providing services.
  • Recovery is possible for every individual.

The North Carolina Certified Peer Support Specialist Program

Individuals may qualify to become Certified Peer Support Specialists in North Carolina by meeting the following application criteria:

  • Be a current or former consumer of mental health and/or substance abuse services.
  • Have a minimum of 1 year of demonstrated recovery time between diagnosis and application as PSS.
  • Be at the least 18 years of age.
  • Have attended and successfully completed a Division of MH/DD/SAS approved 40 hour Peer Support Specialist training curriculum and have a valid certificate from that training.
  • Have completed an additional 20 hours of training and have valid certificates verifying attendance and participation.  These trainings should compliment the type of service/program the individual will be working. (Training such as, but not limited to, Wellness Recovery Action Planning (WRAP), Person Centered Thinking, Personal Assistance in Community Existence (PACE), Crisis Prevention).
  • Have submitted two (2) Personal Reference Forms completed by two (2) individuals, according to state requirements.

Behavior Health Resource Program (BHRP) is contracted by the Division to manage the NCCPSS program and reviews the application determining if the candidate meets the requirements needed to be granted NCCPSS status.

Visit the BHRP website to learn about the certification process and to get an updated number of current NCCPSS.


The Division of MH/DD/SAS requires an applicant for the NCCPSS to complete an approved 40 hour Peer Support Specialist training curriculum. In January 2007, a Role Delineation Study was facilitated by CASTLE Worldwide with 16 Stakeholders to create training standards which submitted Peer Support Specialist training curriculums must meet.

Curriculum developers submit their Peer Support Specialist curriculum trainer’s manual to BHRP. Representatives from the Division review the curriculum against the established training standards.

Information about the NC Certified Peer Support Specialist program and approved training curriculum is found at

Supervising North Carolina Peer Support Specialists

The Division in partnership with BHRP has made available a free, three hour web based course, Supervising NC Certified Peer Support Specialists, on the virtual learning portal. This self-paced course has been developed and delivered in collaboration with NC Peer Support Specialists. 

This course is designed to assist managers and supervisors wishing to enhance their skills supervising NC Certified Peer Support Specialists. Anyone interested in creating and or improving their organizational culture, understanding the role of the North Carolina Certified Peer Support Specialist, and learning more about the role of the supervisor working with Peers is encouraged to sign up.

UNC School of Social Work

Recommended Links & Resources for Peer Support
 Ready NC Connect NC