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.

Resources for peers

Peer-to-peer newsletter

Certified behavioral health organizations (BHOs) reimbursement for SUD peer services

As of July 1, 2019, peer support services are now included in both the mental health and substance use sections of the Medicaid State Plan. This allows appropriately licensed behavioral health agencies to provide peer support services for both mental health and substance use disorders and bill them as Medicaid reimbursable encounters.

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.

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.

Contact the Peer Support Program if you would like to be added to the distribution list.

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.

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

Follow this step-by-step certification process:

  1. Complete our online prerequisite course and send a copy of your certification of completion to
  2. Complete the peer counseling application.
  3. Be accepted for, and successfully complete, the HCA-approved CPC training.
  4. Take and pass the state CPC oral and written exams.

Additional information

  • HCA-approved CPC trainings (standard behavioral health and youth and family) are 36 hours.
  • Peers who have already completed the Recovery Coach training through CCAR Connecticut Community of Addiction Recovery, may be able to attend the HCA-approved, 24-hour Bridge training.
  • Upon passing the state exam, you will receive a letter confirming you have met these requirements.
  • Many employers also require that you become credentialed by the Department of Health (DOH) as an agency affiliated counselor after being hired. Your employer or the DOH can provide information about this process. This credential is only required for those who are employed at a licensed behavioral health agency.

For questions or additional information, contact the Peer Support Program.

Where do I go to receive training?

Our priority is the health and well-being of our CPC community. Due to local concerns about COVID-19, we have transitioned our trainings to a virtual format to support efforts in stopping the spread of the virus. We will update the calendar when in-person trainings are available.

For more updates on COVID-19, please visit your local Department of Health website.

Virtual training due to COVID-19: Virtual CPC trainings and testing began in May, 2020 for CPC applicants currently working, or who have job offers at licensed community behavioral health agencies to provide Medicaid-reimbursable peer services. Approved CPC applicants will be contacted by the training contractor if they qualify for this training, per the information provided on their applications. We will post updates on resuming in-person trainings here.

Please note: You must be invited by our contracted trainers to participate a training. Participants must be preapproved to attend a training. Invitations are sent out via email 4-5 weeks in advance.

Online course (prerequisite)

HCA hopes that you have a helpful and positive experience with the online training course. Completing the course will help you gain the knowledge and skills needed as a certified peer counselor (CPC).

The online course includes material not covered in the 36-hour training. The CPC test covers information from both the 36-hour training and the online course. Please complete the online course thoroughly, take notes, and review the information.

As of July 1, 2021, the online CPC prerequisite training moved to a new platform. In order to access the training, you will need to create a new account.

Application process

The application process has three steps. These steps can be competed in any order but they all must be completed for your application to be reviewed.

These steps are required as part of the application process for the standard CPC training, the youth and family CPC training, and the bridge training. Your application will not be reviewed until these steps are completed.

If you experience technical difficulties with this training, please email the Peer Support Program for assistance. Note that responses might take up to five business days.

CPC training

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

BRIDGE training

BRIDGE training is a 24-hour virtual training for recovery coaches who have already received their Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery (CCAR) certification, who want to obtain their peer counselor certification.

Youth and family training

Important: Before being accepted for training, you must complete the online prerequisite course and the online 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.

Note that local applicants will be prioritized for regional trainings, but all completed applications will be reviewed for consideration.

Manuals and course materials
Peer counselor tests

The oral and written tests are coordinated by the Health Care Authority (HCA) and the trainers. They will be scheduled as part of the training agenda and usually occur on the last day of your training. Your trainers will provide this information to you.

If you need to retake a test you will need to register in advance.

How do I register for a retest?

An approved testing organization will set up a time for your initial certified peer counselor (CPC) training exam and exit interview. If you find that you need to retest, please contact your original testing proctor in order to schedule a re-test.

Things to keep in mind>

  • Space is limited for each exam. Priority is given to participants in that week's training.
  • Registration for retesting is accepted on a first-come basis.
  • Contact Beverly Miller if you need a reasonable accommodation to retake the exam. You may be asked to provide written support for your request.
Continuing education

Documenting Peer Support

In this online training, you'll learn more about documenting peer services and what is required for documenting Medicaid reimbursable peer services:

Ethics and Boundaries in Peer Services

In this online training, you will learn more about the value of Peer Support, and you will learn how to identify the ethics and boundaries that are necessary to provide effective support:

The Role Employment Plays in Recovery

This course is intended for certified peer counselors but has helpful information for anyone interested in increasing their understanding of employment programs, services, and resources. For more information, visit the pathways to employment website.

Start your employment training using these four modules:

Individual placement and support (IPS) is a specific model of support employment. IPS is also considered an evidence-based practice. You can find more information on the IPS Works site.

The Role Housing Plays in Recovery

This course is intended for certified peer counselors but has helpful information for anyone interested in increasing their understanding of housing programs, services, and resources. There are a multitude of resources and information, in addition to the online modules, posted on the Pathways to Housing website.

Start your housing training using these four modules:

The Permanent Supportive Housing Evidence-Based Practices (EBP) toolkit outlines the essential components for supportive housing services and programs for people living with mental illness disorders. It discusses how to develop and integrate evidence-based programs in mental health systems. The toolkit includes eight booklets on program development.

Trauma-informed approach (TIA) trainings

The following TIA online courses are available in English and Spanish:

  • TIA Overview for Everyone
  • TIA for Agency Leaders
  • TIA for Staff
  • TIA for Supervisors

Register for TIA trainings. You will receive a welcome invitation from TIA Washington to access the courses.

Intersection of Behavioral Health and the Law