The Peer Provider Workforce in Behavioral Health: A Landscape Analysis

TitleThe Peer Provider Workforce in Behavioral Health: A Landscape Analysis
Publication TypeReport
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsBlash, LK, Chan, K, Chapman, SA
InstitutionUCSF Health Workforce Research Center on Long-Term Care
CitySan Francisco
Keywordsbehavioral health workforce, peer providers

Peer providers are individuals hired to provide direct support to those undertaking mental health (MH) or substance use disorder (SUD) recovery, often referred to in the literature as “consumers.” The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines a peer provider as “a person who uses his or her lived experience of recovery from mental illness and/or addiction, plus skills learned in formal training, to deliver services in behavioral health settings to promote mind-body recovery and resilience.” The key distinction between peer providers and traditional providers is the ability to draw from lived experience and experiential knowledge.

Peer support for addictions recovery has a long history in mutual-aid and peer-based recovery support groups that developed either as supplements to or substitutes for professional medical care. Peer support for mental health recovery arose out of the civil rights movements of the 1960s and 1970s as a reaction to the enforced treatment and incarceration of persons with mental illnesses. While peer providers have traditionally worked as volunteers, changes in mental health and SUD treatment and recognition of the importance of long-term recovery support have led to a professionalization of this role with formalized training and certification, and the potential for paid employment.