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Peer Specialist Certification Program

Woman with arms raised in triumph

What is a Certified Peer Specialist?

A certified peer specialist is an individual living in recovery with mental illness and/or substance use disorder or a family member who has been trained and certified by the Department of Behavioral Health to assist others in recovery and wellness. A certified peer specialist is a model for personal recovery and A certified peer specialist is an individual living in recovery with mental illness and/or substance use disorder or a family member who has been trained and certified by the Department of Behavioral Health to assist others in recovery and wellness. A certified peer specialist is a model for personal recovery and performs a wide range of tasks to assist individuals to regain control over their lives and their own recovery process.

What Services do Certified Peer Specialist Provide?

  • Assist in the development of strengths-based personal goals
  • Help a peer monitor individual progress and advocate for effective services
  • Model effective coping techniques and self-help strategies
  • Act as a mentor or facilitator to help resolve issues
  • Educate on how to navigate the behavioral health systeuild Community supports

What is the purpose of the Peer Specialist Certification Program?

The six week certification program provides an opportunity for individuals with lived experience to assist others receiving behavioral health services. It ensures that these valuable peer supports services meet acceptable standards. The program also enables providers to credential their peer support staff through the certification training.  

Who is Eligible to Participate?

A self-disclosed current or previous consumer of behavioral health services within the Department of Behavioral Health network with demonstrated personal recovery and an ability to help others with their recovery is eligible to apply for the peer specialist certification program. A participant must be at least 18 years of age with a high school diploma or equivalent and a resident of the District of Columbia. A participant must be willing to create and follow a wellness recovery plan.

What if I already am a Peer Advocate?

A Peer Advocate already demonstrates a high level of commitment to helping peers. The certification program will validate your skills and knowledge, increase your credibility in the behavioral health care industry, and support professional development. Certification also will strengthen your ability to compete for peer specialist employment. 

Does DBH provide Employment?

The Peer Specialist Certification Program helps prepare individuals to apply for available peer specialist jobs. DBH encourages its private provider network to include peer specialists in their workforce. However, successful completion of the certification program is not a guarantee of an offer of employment. 

Requirements for Certification

  • Completion of the required classroom work
  • Completion of an 80 hour, nonpaid field practicum with a District community based behavioral health provider
  •  A score of a minimum of 85% on the certification examination
    Graduates also are required to sign the Peer Specialist Code of Ethics [PDF].

Peer Specialist Certification Program Competencies

During the six week course, participants will learn the following competencies:

  • Practical assessment skills and basic knowledge of mental health and substance use disorders
  • Supporting skills to assist a consumer to develop skills identified in the approved Individual Recovery Plan
  • Documentation of services provided including preparation of progress notes
  • Computer skills
  • Unique role of the peer, using self as a therapeutic presence
  • Ethics and professionalism
  • Recovery and Wellness Recovery Action Planning (WRAP) or similar planning
  • Advocacy skills, and
  • Cultural competency and sensitivity

How to Apply

A completed application along with a resume, proof of residency, evidence of education, and two professional letters of reference (work or volunteer related) must be emailed to [email protected], mailed, or hand-delivered to the Department of Behavioral Health Consumer and Family Affairs Administration, 64 New York Avenue, NE, 3rd Floor, Washington, DC 20002 (Attn: Adrienne Lightfoot or hand-delivered to a CFAA staff member).  No faxed application will be accepted. Only complete applications will be considered for an interview.  Upon review and scoring of applications, selected applicants will be interviewed for entry into the program. Evidence of District residency also must be provided. The application will be reviewed by a Peer Specialist Certification Committee made up of consumers and the Office of Consumer and Family Affairs. 

Click Here for 2019 Peer Specialist Certification Application  (Word)

Interviews will take place according to the schedule below. Each participant will be eligible to apply for a transportation scholarship contingent upon availability of funds and completion of all certification requirements.

2019 Peer Specialist Certification Training Schedule

64 NY Ave NE
Jan 4, 2019
12 pm
Jan 28 - Feb 28
9 am - 12:30 pm Mon - Thur
Mar 12 - Apr 20, 2019
(Location TBD)
Mar 29, 2019
12 pm

Apr 22 - May 23
5:30 pm - 9 pm
Mon - Thur

May 14 - Jun 15, 2019
64 NY Ave NE
May 31, 2019
12 pm
Jul 24 - Jul 25
9 am- 12:30 pm
Mon - Thur
Jul 23 - Aug 31, 2019
GRADUATION September 20, 2019    
  Applications accepted on a rolling basis  Test Dates - to be determined  



Nov 13, 2018
Dec 11, 2018
Jan 8, 2019
Feb 12, 2019
March 12, 2019
April 9, 2019
May 14, 2019
June 11, 2019
Applications will be reviewed and scored. Applications with a score of X or above will be granted an interview on a first come, first served basis.


Field Practicum

After successful completion of class work, an 80 hour field practicum must be performed with a DBH community based behavioral health provider. The field practicum will be arranged with the Consumer and Family Affairs Administration. 

Certification Examination

After the field practicum is completed, a date to take the certification examination must be arranged with Consumer and Family Affairs Administration. 

Peer Specialist Certification Waiver

DBH accepts applications for a Peer Specialist Certification Waiver [PDF]. An applicant may request the waiver of the requirements to complete any or all of the classroom work and the field practicum based upon prior coursework or certification as a peer specialist or equivalent granted by DBH or another jurisdiction, or based upon prior or current work experience.


Service Details: 
Service Contact: 
Raphaelle Richardson, Director
Contact Email: 
Contact Phone: 
(202) 673-4377
Contact TTY: