Office of Consumer Affairs
Certified Peer Support and Wellness Specialist Skills Training and Certification 

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As of July 27, 2017 there are 400
Certified Peer Support and Wellness Specialists in Nebraska.
To identify, equip, train, certify, and further educate peers with the skills required to provide relationship building and trauma informed peer support for people utilizing behavioral health services.
History and Moving Towards:
Peer Support is an evidence-based practice. Peer support specialists identify that they have lived experience. The Peer Support workforce works from the perspective of their lived experience with mental health, substance use challenges, trauma, and their own personal recovery and wellness journeys to assist in educating others about the reality of success, hopes, and dreams and the multiple pathways to recovery. This mentoring is a shoulder-to-shoulder process where both parties, the mentor and mentee, learn and grow from the experience.
The Certified Peer Support and Wellness Specialist Skills Training grew out of a Transformation Transfer Initiative (TTI) Grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)  in 2009. This grant allowed the purchase of the training from Focus on Recovery United, which included Heather McDonald of FOR-U, Chyrell Bellamy of Yale University, and Shery Mead and Chris Hansen of Shery Mead Consulting. A curriculum for the State of Nebraska’s Office of Consumer Affairs was purchased that focuses on trauma-informed Intentional Peer Support. 
In 2009 a group of 9 facilitators were trained. In 2013 a group of 10 facilitators were trained. Training for the facilitators was made possible by the TTI grant awards in 2009 and in 2013.  These facilitators along with the Office of Consumer Affairs have added curriculum in advocacy, self-advocacy, and Nebraska specific history. Currently there are 16 active facilitators from the Office of Consumer Affairs Facilitator's Circle. 
To stay up to date with the Nebraska Office of Consumer Affairs and current initiatives related to Peer Support, be sure to join the Office of Consumer Affairs Open Door Calls and Office of Consumer Affair's People's Council Advisory Committee.
The Office of Consumer Affairs Facilitator's Circle conducts a minimum of one to two Peer Support and Wellness Specialist (PSWS) trainings per year. Peer support and wellness specialists work in hospitals, addiction treatment facilities, outpatient care facilities, hospital diversion services, family and youth agencies, police departments, emergency rooms, support groups, mental health programs, and much more! 
Peer support training programs are for individuals with experience with any lived behavioral health condition and/or trauma. Certification and training is a great opportunity for those who are working/volunteering in the behavioral health field serving military, veterans, individuals, families, and/or children/youth who have been impacted by a behavioral health condition and/or trauma.
The Nebraska Office of Consumer Affairs Facilitator’s Circle offers a 60 hour training that includes a mix of in-person, personal study, and online training. In person training is delivered over five days, 40 hours (forty) , from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The training delivery may vary from back to back  days to one day a week for 5 (five) weeks. The remaining hours are personal study and online training.
All training applications are posted here. Please subscribe to this page and you will be automatically notified when applications are released.
Eligibility to take the exam through the Division of Behavioral Health Office of Consumer Affairs is for persons who have completed a forty hour (40) Peer Support Training Program and have a certificate of attendance/completion from training facilitators of a Peer Support Training program. All persons who hold a certificate of attendance/completion of 40 hours of any peer support training are invited to sit for a statewide exam to become a Certified Peer Support and Wellness Specialist (CPSWS). Traditionally, only 74% of candidates pass the exam; we encourage people to consider this before taking the exam.
Certification as a Peer Support and Wellness Specialist certifies that you have met the requirements to be eligible to obtain certification, demonstrated knowledge of peer support competencies, and have successfully completed and passed the State Quiz. In addition, training programs are generally designed as workforce development programs to provide tools to work as a peer specialist in various fields, however additional training may be required by employers. Certification does not guarantee employment.
Upcoming Quiz Dates
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* Please note that space is limited. Be sure to sign up once dates are available.
Co Reflection and Continuing Education
The Nebraska Office of Consumer Affairs recommends that Certified Peer Support and Wellness Specialists participate in quarterly co-reflection (formerly known as co-supervision). Co-reflection is an opportunity to discuss what is working well within your role as a Peer Support Specialist and ways to continue developing as a professional. With co-reflection you are able to stay connected to others, refresh training skills, and stay informed about all things peer support. The Office of Consumer Affairs recommends that CPSWSs maintain quarterly co-supervision and six hours of continuing education annually. 
CEUs that the OCA is looking for include the following:
  • Mental health and/or substance abuse recovery
  • Peer Support
  • Education that relates to our expertise of wellness versus illness and diagnosis
  • Systems transformation
  • Trauma
  • Community integration
  • Cultural and linguistic competency
  • Person/ family centered practice
  • Housing, supported employment, and vocational rehabilitation
  • Smoke free living
  • Advocacy, etc.


2012 Report on the employment of Peer Support and Wellness Specialists and what participants say about the training.


For more information contact:
Cynthia Harris,M.P.A., M.S., CPSWS
Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services
Division of Behavioral Health
Office of Consumer Affairs
402-471-7859 (fax)
301 Centennial Mall South
PO Box 95026
Lincoln, NE  68509