Peer Support Specialists

If you want to learn more about peer support specialists, you’re in the right place. Read to learn about who we are, where we work, and get answers to frequently asked questions. 

Who are PSS?

A Peer Support Specialist (PSS) is an individual who is personally living well in recovery from a serious mental illness.  A Peer Support Specialist uses their recovery story to instill hope.  They provide support to other peers and assist them in reaching and maintaining their personal recovery goals. In addition, a PSS can serve as an advocate, provide information, help access community resources, and model competency in recovery and wellness. Peer Support Specialists promote skills for improving mental and physical wellbeing and increasing resiliency.  They promote self-determination and support peers in maintaining relationships and increasing a higher level of control and satisfaction over their lives.

Where do PSS work?

Peer Support Specialists are employed in mental health facilities, social service agencies, peer run recovery centers, peer run respites, integrated health homes, hospitals, prisons, with law enforcement agencies and other healthcare organizations.  Peer Support Specialists may also serve on a variety of advisory boards and committees at local, state, and national levels.

PSS Trainings

PSS Training
August 2021


Applications CLOSED July 9, 2021
(At this time, PSS training is being prioritized for individuals currently employed as a PSS. Those with a pending employment opportunity will also be considered.)

Phase 1: Online Training

July 19 - August 13, 2021

Phase 2: Virtual In-Person Training

August 23-27 and
August 30 - September 3, 2021
M-F 8:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.


Virtual via Zoom

Training Details


The 48-hour training requires successful completion of online and in-person training, which includes the following topics and skills

  • History of the Peer Support Movement
  • Challenging Stigma
  • Five Stages of Recovery
  • Role of the Peer Support Specialist
  • Strengths & Resilience
  • Trauma Informed Care Principles
  • Ethics & Boundaries
  • Wellness & Self-Care
  • Advocacy (individual and system)
  • Engagement Skills (active listening, effective use of personal recovery story, navigation of resources, cultural competence)
  • Activation & Self-Management Skills (problem solving, goal setting, shared decision-making, action planning for prevention and recovery)

Grounded in adult learning theory, this training:

  • Covers competencies for Peer Support Specialists set by Mental Health America and SAMHSA
  • Trains to the Iowa Peer Support Specialist Scope of Practice
  • Meets quality training standards
  • Prepares participants for certification by the Iowa Board of Certification

10-Day Training

You must commit to attending the entire 10-day virtual training. Training is M-F, for two full weeks, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Lodging Information

You must arrange and pay for your own lodging (if applicable).


This training is FREE, however, trainees must pay for their own lodging, food and travel costs. If you are currently employed as a Peer Support Specialist, check with your employer about covering these expenses.


You must make arrangements for your own food.  You will have an hour for lunch and there are many food options near the training site. Most training locations do not allow outside food to be brought in.


Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires a reasonable accommodation in order to participate in this training, please contact us at 319-356-8637 or 319-356-7020 or email us at IowaPeerSupportTraining@


If you are not currently employed as a PSS (and will not have your costs paid by your employer), you may be eligible for a stipend that would reimburse you for part of your training related expenses.  You would be required to pay the initial costs of you hotel, gas and meals and submit a form for reimbursement upon completion of the training. You must submit the stipend application 2 weeks before the first day of training. Stipends must be applied for, processed and approved BEFORE the training.  If you would like more information about applying for a stipend please email: IowaPeerSupportTraining@

PSS Application Requirements

You must have a high school diploma or GED.

The training will provide you with in-depth knowledge and skills. However, in general the PSS role involves the ability to:
  • Model effective coping and self-help techniques
  • Work with individuals from diverse socio economic and cultural backgrounds
  • Attend workplace meetings and complete agency requirements
  • Assist people with finding community and natural supports and teaching them how to utilize these services
  • Advocate for someone’s needs and accompany them to meetings as needed
  • Work as a member of an interdisciplinary team focusing on each persons need for recovery
  • Communicate effectively both verbally and in writing
  • Adhere to confidentiality and understand protected health information
  • Maintain records and provide accurate documentation
  • Use computers ( i.e. Basic computer skills-email, web searches, word processing)
  • Ability to maintain a part-time or full-time work schedule
  • Willing to share your own personal story of living with and recovery from a mental illness

You must be 18 years of age to take Peer Support Specialist training.

  • To apply send an email request to:
  • You will receive an email response within 48 hours with a link to the online application.
  • Applications will be screened when the application process closes. See date listed under specific trainings for closing dates. Training spaces are limited, so apply early.
  • You will be asked to provide contact information for 2 references.
  • Once your application is received, you may be contacted with information regarding a phone interview.
  • After the screening interview, you will be notified about whether or not you will be accepted for training. This is generally around 3 weeks before the in-person training starts. 
  • At this time, Peer Support Specialist training is being prioritized for individuals currently employed as a PSS. Those with a pending employment opportunity will also be considered.