Peer support

The Health Care Authority's (HCA) Peer Support Program trains and qualifies mental health consumers as certified peer counselors (CPCs).

A "consumer" is someone who has applied for, is eligible for, or who has received mental health services. This also includes parents and legal guardians when they have a child under the age of 13 and they are involved in their treatment plan (WAC 388-865-0150).

Peer Pathways 2018 — continuing education conference: Join us in Seattle August 28-29 for our continuing education conference for employed peer counselors. Learn more and register.

Are you ready to become a peer counselor? Take the online course and complete the training application.

Download the application

How does the program work?

Guided by adult, youth, and family representatives with behavioral health concerns, the the program certifies individuals to work in positions that are Medicaid reimbursable. We prioritize individuals we feel will add to the peer specialist workforce and expand the use of peer support primarily in Medicaid services.

Certified peer counseling is currently billable only in regional support network (RSN) contracted agencies, also called behavioral health agencies, but is invaluable in many other settings, including:

  • Residential communities
  • Employment programs
  • Chemical dependency recovery services
  • Other services and supports

    While we are occasionally able to train individuals working in these fields, this is not within the true scope of our current training program.

    If you are a non-Medicaid provider, agency, or other organization, feel free to contact us about possible avenues for sponsoring trainings for your individual needs. Additionally, while many types of professionals may be peers and would benefit from the certified peer counselor training, peers who desire to work as certified peer counselors (CPCs) have a higher priority.

      What is peer counseling?

      In Washington, peer counseling is an approved Medicaid service that pairs individuals in recovery with trained counselors who share their life experiences.

      In order to bill Medicaid, contracted agencies must have peer counselors who have met the state requirements, taken the approved class, and passed the state test.

      Certified peer counselors (CPCs) work with their peers (adults and youth) and the parents of children receiving mental health services. They draw upon their experiences to help peers find hope and make progress toward recovery. Because of their own life experience, they are uniquely equipped to provide support, encouragement and resources to those with mental health challenges.

      Peer counselors work in various settings, such as community clinics, hospitals, and crisis teams. Peer counselors, under the supervision of a mental health professional and as part of a healthcare team, may:

      • Assist an individual or family in identifying services and activities that promote recovery and lead to increased meaning and purpose.
      • Assist individuals and families in developing their own goals.
      • Share their own recovery stories that are relevant and helpful in overcoming the obstacles faced by individuals and families.
      • Promote personal responsibility for recovery.
      • Assist in a wide range of services to regain control and success in their own lives, such as developing supportive relationships, self-advocacy, stable housing, education, and employment.
      • Serve as an advocate.
      • Model skills in recovery and self-management.
      • Complete documentation about their services for Medicaid and employer requirements.

      HCA provides entry level training for certified peer counselors, but training is not a guarantee of employment. You must have the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed by employers for specific jobs. Positions also require lived experience, sometimes in specific areas such as veterans, homelessness, or family experiences.  

      Although opportunities for employment are increasing, they can be limited depending on your region. There is a distribution list for information about available positions, but positions are more often advertised locally and on internet job search sites. Employment opportunities are expected to continue to increase.

      Certification has three steps:

      1. Apply and be accepted as a possible training applicant.
      2. Successfully complete a 40-hour approved training.
      3. Pass the state exam.

      Upon passing the test, you will receive a letter confirming you have met these requirements. 

      Many employers also require that you become licensed by the Department of Health (DOH) as an agency affiliated counselor after being hired. Your employer or DOH can provide information about this process. This license is only required for those who provide Medicaid-billable services.

      Download frequently asked questions (FAQs) about peer counseling.

      How do I become a certified peer counselor (CPC)?

      Follow this step-by-step certification process:

      1. ​Complete our online prerequisite course.
        Note: You must complete this course before being accepted into training.
      2. Send the course completion certificate, along with your completed training application, to HCA.
        1. By mail to:
          Mary Chambers
          PO Box 45330
          Olympia, WA 98504-5330
        2. By fax: 360-725-1385
        3. By email: mary.chambers@hca.wa.gov
          Note: If you are emailing the form, you may "sign" by typing your name on the signature line. 
      3. Be accept for, and successfully complete, the 40-hour approved CPC training.
        Note: To be accepted, applications must be sent with the online course completion certificate.
      4. Take and pass the state CPC exam.

      For questions or additional information, contact Mary Chambers at 360-725-1325.

      Where do I go to receive training?

      Note: In 2018, there are two statewide trainings. Participants from rural areas or who travel long distances will be provided lodging and meals during the week.

      We hope you find the online prerequisite training course to be a positive and helpful experience. Completing the course is important in gaining the knowledge and skills you need as a certified peer counselor (CPC). 

      There is much information in the online course, including material that is not covered in the 40-hour training. The CPC test covers information from both the in-person and the online course. Please complete the online course thoroughly, take notes, and review the information as you are able.

      Getting started

      1. Go to the Behavioral Health Workforce Collaborative (BHWC) website.
      2. Click Register for the Online CPC Training.
      3. Click ADD TO CART.
      4. Click CHECK OUT.
        (No credit card is required.)
      5. Enter your Customer Information.
      6. Click Continue to payment method.
        (Your order is free. No payment is required, this course is free.)
      7. Click Complete order.

      You will receive an email from BHWC confirming your order, followed by two additional emails shortly after that guide you through completing your registration and accessing your student Dashboard and the online CPC training modules.

      Taking the course and submitting the certificate

      Once you have completed your registration and logged into the training:

      1. Scroll down to see each of the course modules. Each module has audio, and there is a written script to read in Resources. You may also print the script for further reference. 
      2. When you have finished the course, you may print the certificate or send a screenshot of the certificate, along with your completed training application, to HCA. (See How do I become a certified peer counselor? for delivery instructions by mail, fax, or email.)

      We appreciate feedback about your experience with the course. If you have questions or comments about course content please contact Mary Chambers at 360-725-1325.

      Important: Before being accepted for training, you must complete the online prerequisite course and submit your application. Follow steps one and two under How do I become a certified peer counselor? to begin this process.

      Things to keep in mind

      • Applications must be revised and resubmitted one year after the original submission date.
      • We cannot predict when you will be invited to a training. We fill trainings as possible during the year (no calls, please).

      2018 trainings

      • April 30-May 4: King County BHO - (for King County residents only)

      • May 14-18: Thurston Mason DBHR

      • June 4: Spokane BHO (Spokane residents only)

      • June 18-22: Pierce DBHR

      • July 16-20: King DBHR

      • September 10-14: Statewide DBHR – Westside

      • October 1-5: Thurston-Mason BHO (Thurston-Mason residents only)

      • October 15-19: Bellingham DBHR

      • November 5-9: King County BHO - (for King County residents only)

      Important: Before being accepted for training, you must complete the online prerequisite course and submit your application. Follow steps one and two under How do I become a certified peer counselor? to begin this process.

      These trainings focus on preparing youth and parents to be certified as peer counselors. The trainings cover the same material as the standard training, and the state test is required for both.

      Washington State University provides youth and family training. If you are a parent or youth working on a WISe team, you may only apply for a youth/family training. Other adults, parents, and youth may apply on a space-available basis.

      Things to keep in mind

      • Local applicants will be prioritized for regional trainings, but all completed applications will be reviewed for consideration.

      2018 Trainings

      • June 11-15: Spokane regional youth and family

      • July 16-20: Kelso statewide youth and family

      • August 6-10: Pierce County

      • September 24-28: Skagit County

      How do I register?

      For information and to register for all tests, please contact:

      Things to keep in mind

      • Space is limited for each exam. Priority is given to participants in that week's training. 
      • Registration is accepted on a first-come basis.  
      • Let Janice know if you need a reasonable accommodation to take the exam. You may be asked to provide written support for your request.

      2018 training dates

      Date

      Location

      Training organization

      March 16

      Arlington

      Community Voices Are Born (CVAB)

      March 28

      Tacoma

      Optum Pierce BHO

      April 13 Wenatchee Community Voices Are Born (CVAB)
      April 27 Centralia Great Rivers BHO
      May 7 Seattle King County BHO
      May 18 Thurston / Mason Community Voices Are Born (CVAB)
      June 13 Tacoma Optum Pierce BHO
      June 15 Seattle Community Voices Are Born (CVAB)
      June 22 Spokane Youth and family
      July 20 Pierce Community Voices Are Born (CVAB)
      July 26 Pierce Pierce County BHO
      September 14 Chehalis Community Voices Are Born (CVAB)
      October 12 TBD Community Voices Are Born (CVAB)
      November 16 Seattle King County BHO

      How do I register?

      For more information and to register, visit the Holding the Hope website, or contact:

      General continuing education

      Course name

      Date

      Location

      Co-occurring Disorders

      March 21

      Spokane

      Co-occurring Disorders

      October 17

      Moses Lake

      Co-occurring Disorders December 13 Optum Pierce
      Ethics and Boundaries June 28 Optum Pierce
      Ethics and Boundaries September 19 Moses Lake
      Peers in Crisis and Suicide Prevention May 23 Moses Lake
      Peers in Crisis and Suicide Prevention September 5 Salish
      Peers in Crisis and Suicide Prevention November 1 Great Rivers BHO
      Trauma Informed Peer Support May 30 Great Rivers
      Trauma Informed Peer Support July 18 Moses Lake
      Documentation April 18 TBD
      Documentation June 27 Clark County
      De-Escalation May 16 Spokane
      De-Escalation September 20 North Sound
      De-Escalation November 6 South King County
      Culture and Diversity June TBD
      Culture and Diversity July 25 Great Rivers
      Culture and Diversity October TBD

      Wellness Recovery Action Plans (WRAP) training

      Course name

      Date

      Location

      Level 1: Introduction to WRAP

        May 9-10

        Mt. Vernon

        Level 1: Introduction to WRAP

        August 1-2

        Moses Lake

        Level 2: WRAP Facilitator Training* April 2-5 Mt. Vernon
        Level 2: WRAP Facilitator Training* July 9-13 Great Rivers
        Level 2: WRAP Facilitator Training* October 1-5 Moses Lake
        WRAP Refresher April 24-26 Moses Lake
        WRAP Refresher August 21-23 North King

        * Requirements for Level 2 training: Participants must have completed a Level 1: Introduction to WRAP or have taken an eight-week class and be using their own personal WRAP. WRAP facilitator training is limited to peers only.

        Peer Pathways 2018

        Join us for the third annual Washington certified peer conference in Seattle. Improve your skills and learn about advocacy, co-occurring disorders, suicide prevention, transformation, career development, supportive housing and supported employment, youth leadership and more!

        When and where

        When: August 28-29, 2018

        Where: ​Marriot Seattle Airport Hotel
        3201 South 176th St
        Seattle, WA 98188

        Registration

        Registration fee: $75
        Event parking: $14 per day (cash only) or $27 for overnight

        Register for Peer Pathways

        To request a scholarship please follow the instructions on the registration page. If you have questions, please contact Beverly Miller at miller-beverly@comcast.net

        (In appreciation of the Washington State University’s Behavioral Health Workforce Collaborative partnership in organizing this event.)

        Contact

        Jennifer McDonald
        Peer Support Program assistant
        Email:
        jennifer.mcdonald@hca.wa.gov
        Phone: 360-725-1718