You ask and I answer! In the Ask Me Anything series, I answer your questions about my own healing journey and anything trauma related in general, as best I can. Today’s question is:
How did I become a Certified Peer Support Specialist? What made me eligible?
I was so happy to see this question.
My journey to becoming a Certified Peer Specialist is one of my proudest accomplishments and I am excited to share it with you.
When I first began sharing my story and finding my way with connecting as a public figure in this space as authentically as possible I knew immediately that I didn’t resonate with the word coach.
Not to knock coaching, but from my own experiences as a survivor I knew coaching wasn’t what I needed, at least not at that moment. What I needed was a peer; someone like me who understood the challenges I faced each day living with complex PTSD.
What is a Peer Support Specialist
A Peer Support Specialist is someone with their own lived experience with mental health and or substance use, who is committed to their own healing and recovery, and who will meet you where you are and support your healing and recovery journey in the ways that you need them supported.
A peer support specialist will listen and validate your experiences, help you explore difficult emotions and thought processes, and they will share their own experiences so that you know you are not alone.
Peer specialists help you identify the boundaries that you want and need, they help you discover and practice grounding techniques and coping skills so that you feel confident, and they celebrate all of your successes.
They will also help you research resources that you need.
Ultimately your peer specialist is a part of your support system, they are in your corner, and they are focused on helping you find safety and personal empowerment on your healing and recovery journey.
How Did I Become A Certified Peer Support Specialist
About a year ago I went online and googled peer support, at the time I didn’t even realize it was an actual role that was recognized and certified in my state.
To my pleasant surprise, it was.
Through the Wisconsin Peer Support Specialist Employment Initiative in partnership with Access Independence and the WI Department of Health Services I found a program that offered training and certification to people around my state who had lived experience with mental health and substance use who wanted to help others in healing and recovery.
The program itself was limited and only allowed in a select few per training session. I signed up for the email list and then waited and watched.
Finally, six months later (April 2022) I found a training offered for my area. I applied in May when applications opened, was asked to interview in person in June, and received my offer into the training to begin in July.
For seven weeks this summer, I met with 13 other people from around my state twice a week, four hours per session, to deep dive into trauma-informed care and best practices for supporting others in their healing journey while also honoring our own.
It was a powerful experience meeting those people, hearing their stories, and learning together with a common goal to normalize the challenges of living with trauma.
Once our training concluded, we all received our certificates of completion and direction for registering for the state certification exam.
I took the certification exam at the end of September, almost 1 year to the day of signing up for the email list – and I passed with a 100%.
It is one of my greatest accomplishments.
What Made Me Eligible?
I think this is my favorite part of answering this question and also the reason I know that what I am doing and where I am at in my journey is exactly where I am supposed to be.
For the first time in my professional career, my childhood trauma and my lived experiences with healing and recovery are what make me most eligible. It is not something I have to mask. I understand where my peers with childhood trauma and abuse are coming from and what the daily challenges of Complex PTSD are because I live with them every day.
I am also healing my wounds and recovering my life moment by moment and I feel drawn to share this journey and walk the path with others.
That is what makes me eligible.
You Can Do This Too!
Our stories are SO powerful! Your story is powerful!
If you feel drawn to exploring how you can become a peer specialist to work with others on their healing and recovery journeys, type it into google and look around your state.
Or check out the National Association of Peer Supporters to read more about the profession and ways to become involved.
Now That You Know What I Do – Let’s Connect!
Survivor’s Circle Peer Support Groups might be just what you need.
These small groups meet on alternating Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays via Zoom. In these groups, survivors connect, share, and support each other through the ebbs and flows of healing. Attend a session and experience the magical healing that happens when survivors connect and support each other through shit only we can understand.
You can also book individual 1:1 peer support sessions with Shanon for private support in a closed space. You deserve support as you heal, and I am here to help. You don’t have to heal alone.