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).

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 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. (Prefers email.)
        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 accepted 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?

      Important: Please note that all trainings are subject to cancellation or rescheduled dates. We apologize for this but it is necessary at times. We will update this calendar when this is needed. Thank you for your patience.

      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).

      2019 trainings

      January
      • BHO Thurston-Mason (Thurston-Mason residents only): January 14-18
      • BHO Spokane (Spokane residents only): January 28-February 1
      • Regional Vancouver: January 28-February 1 (cancelled)

      February
      • Statewide (Westside) Arlington: February 11-15
      March
      • Regional Pierce: March 4-8
      • BHO King County (King County residents only): March 4-8 (test date will be March 11)
      • Regional Vancouver​: March 25-29
      April
      • BHO Great Rivers: April 8-12

      • Regional King County: April 15-19

      May
      • Statewide (Eastside) Moses Lake: May 13-17

      June
      • Regional North Sound: June 3-7

      • Regional Tumwater: June 24-28

      • BHO King County (King County residents only): June 24-28 (test date will be July 1)

      July
      • Regional Longview: July 15-19

      August
      • Statewide (Westside) Pierce: August 12-16

      September
      • Regional King County: September 9-13

      • Regional Yakima/Tri-Cities: September 30-October 4

      October
      • Statewide (Westside) Vancouver: October 21-25

      • BHO King County (King County residents only): October 21-25 (test date will be October 28)

      November
      • Regional North Sound: November 18-22

       

      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.

      2019 trainings

      Name Location Date

      Youth and Family Statewide (Westside)

      Pierce County

      March 11-15

      Youth and Family Statewide (Eastside)

      TBD

      June 10-14​

      How do I register?

      For information and to register for all tests and retests, 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.

      2019 training dates

      Date

      Location

      Training organization

      TBD

      TBD TBD

      How do I register?

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

      • By email: sharon​@holdingthehope.com
      • By phone: 908-484-4968

      General continuing education*

      Date

      Course name

      Location

      January 31

      De-escalation Skills for CPCs Skagit County/Mt. Vernon
      March 6 Documentation King County/Seattle
      March 8 Co-Occurring Disorders Snohomish County/Everett
      April 10 De-escalation Skills for CPCs Grant County/Moses Lake
      April 24 Documentation Grant County/Moses Lake
      April 26 Documentation Stevens County/Colville
      May 6 Culture and Diversity Pierce County/Parkland
      June 5 Co-Occurring Disorders Stevens County/Colville
      June 5 Ethics and Boundaries King County/Seattle
      June 26 Trauma Informed Peer Support Kitsap County/Silverdale
      July 10 Ethics and Boundaries Skagit County/Mt. Vernon
      August 7 Culture and Diversity Kitsap County/Silverdale
      August 7 Ethics and Boundaries Lewis County/ Centralia
      August 7 Peers in Crisis and Suicide Prevention Stevens County/Colville
      August 8 Peers in Crisis and Suicide Prevention Spokane County/Spokane
      September 5 De-escalation Skills for CPCs Clark County/TBA
      November 6 Documentation Pierce County/Parkland
      November 13 Culture and Diversity Benton or Franklin County/Tri Cities
      November 20 Trauma Informed Peer Support King County/Seattle
      December 2 Trauma Informed Peer Support Spokane County/Spokane
      December 4 Co-Occurring Disorders Cowlitz County/Longview
      December 11 Peers in Crisis and Suicide Prevention Clark County/TBA

      Wellness Recovery Action Plans (WRAP) training

      Date

      Course name

      Location

      February 5-6

      WRAP Seminar 1 (2-day)

      Skagit County/Mt. Vernon
      February 19-21 WRAP Refresher Pierce County/Parkland
      March 18-22 WRAP Seminar 2 (5-day) Skagit County/Mt. Vernon
      April 3-4 WRAP Seminar 1 (2-day) Spokane County/Spokane
      May 28-30 WRAP Refresher Spokane County/Spokane
      July 8-12 WRAP Seminar 2 (5-day) Spokane County/Spokane
      July 30-31 WRAP Seminar 1 (2-day) Kitsap County/Silverdale
      September 23-27 WRAP Seminar 2 (5-day) Kitsap County/Silverdale
      October 15 -16 WRAP Seminar 1 (2-day) Stevens County/Colville
      October 29-31 WRAP Refresher King County/SeaTac

      *This schedule is subject to modifications. Watch for promotional material with links and final registration details for each training. Registration for each training will open six weeks prior to the training on the Holding the Hope website.

      Contact

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