Peer support

The Health Care Authority's (HCA) Peer Support Program trains and qualifies behavioral health consumers as certified peer counselors (CPCs). By "behavioral health" we mean both mental health and substance use disorder.

A "consumer" is someone who is eligible for or who has received mental health or substance use disorder services. This also includes parents and legal guardians who have a child under the age of 18 and they are involved in their treatment plan.

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

How does the program work?

Guided by adult, youth, and family representatives with behavioral health concerns, the peer support program certifies individuals to work in positions that are Medicaid reimbursable.

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.

What is peer counseling?

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

In order to provide this Medicaid reimbursable service, licensed behavioral health agencies must have peer counselors who have met the state requirements through our certification process and passed the state exam.

What do certified peer counselors do?

Certified peer counselors (CPCs) work with their peers (adults and youth) and the parents of children receiving mental health or substance use disorder services. They draw upon their experiences to help peers find hope and support their recovery. The peer's own life experience uniquely equips them to provide support, encouragement, and resources to those with mental health or substance use disorder challenges.

Peer counselors work in various settings such as community clinics, hospitals, and crisis teams. CPCs, under the supervision of a mental health or substance use disorder professional and as part of a health care 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.
Are there employment opportunities?

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 with veterans, people experiencing 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.

Sign up for the peer support distribution list to receive employment opportunity emails.

What are the requirements to become certified?
  • You must self-identify as a person with lived experience with mental health or substance use services, or be a parent or legal guardian of a child (under the age of 18) with lived experience with mental health or substance use services.
  • You must demonstrate reading and writing comprehension.
  • You must be over 18 years of age.

Download frequently asked questions (FAQs) about peer counseling.

Learn more about becoming a certified peer counselor and where to receive training on the peer counselors page.

How can my organization receive support with our peer support program?

HCA has an Operationalizing Peer Support (OPS) program that offers assistance to organizations with existing peer programs or those who are interested in offering peer support. Learn more about OPS, including resources and training on the organizations with peer support programs page.