Recovery is Real – Certified Peer Specialists positively impact the lives of those in recovery

When people who have had experiences with emotional distress or trauma are able to give others encouragement, hope, assistance, understanding and share resources that aid in recovery, it is called peer support. One of the most helpful things one can say to, or hear from, another is “I’ve been there.” Certified Peer Specialists (CPS) are trained to share their experiences in the mental health system and in recovery to effectively carry the message that “Recovery is Real!” CPS’s share their lived experience, strength and hope with people using mental health services, mental health professionals, policy makers and others. A CPS can affect peoples’ beliefs about their own capacity to recover and challenge assumptions about the capacity of others to recover.

Certification and educational requirements for becoming a CPS varies by state. In Massachusetts, the Transformation Center offers training and certification, with funding from the Department of Mental Health (DMH).  DMH has collaborated with the Transformation Center for 11 years, and last year we celebrated a decade of CPS training.  The Transformation Center has trained over 1100 individuals of which 750 became certified. The CPS course is approximately 8 weeks long, which consists of single-day trainings and a 3-day retreat.

Peer Specialists or “Peers” are employed throughout the DMH system, and in other behavioral health settings.  As an agency, DMH employs Peers in their state hospitals, state-operated Group Living Environments, and in some Case Management offices.  DMH’s providers employ Peers in their Program of Assertive Community Treatment (PACT) Teams, Respite Care, Homeless Outreach teams, and in our newest service, Adult Community Clinical Services (ACCS), which replaced Community Based Flexible Supports.  Peers are also employed in Recovery Learning Communities, some Acute Care Inpatient Psychiatric Units, and with MassHealth’s Accountable Care Organizations’ Behavioral Health Community Partners. Each of these programs provide support, treatment and/or resources for those with lived experience.

As we enter a new decade of peer support, Peers are focusing and specializing in their areas of interest.  For Peers who are 50+, there are Certified Older Adult Peer Specialists, who specialize in the needs of older adults.  For people interested in working with teens and young adults, there are Peer Mentors who work in Community Service Agencies.  For individuals who have had some history with justice system involvement, DMH has piloted a Forensic Peer Specialist training.  In addition, through cooperation with our Federal Partners and Work Without Limits (WWL), a Deaf Certified Peer Specialist training was held two years ago in Worcester, to offer Deaf individuals a way to give back to their community and learn job skills.  DMH teamed up again with WWL Benefits Counseling to offer a Nuts & Bolts of Social Security Disability Benefits and Work training given exclusively to Peer Specialists working in the field, with rave reviews two years in a row.

As people flourish with the support of Certified Peer Specialists, the demand for trained Peer Specialists has and will continue to grow. Recovery is real, after all.

If you would like to learn more about
becoming a peer specialist visit here

ICAN, Massachusetts Advocates for Children

A partnership between Work Without Limits and Massachusetts Advocates for Children, the Institute for Careers and Networking (ICAN) is designed to introduce high school students with disabilities to a wide range of companies with opportunities for jobs and/or internships. Students attend approximately 5-7 sessions hosted by businesses in the local area to learn about different industries, occupations, and work environments. While not a guarantee, the goal is for the participating companies to either hire qualified students or graduates into paid internships or jobs depending on the interests, skills, and preferences of the individual. Work Without Limits was pleased to partner with the Massachusetts Advocates for Children on the development of ICAN. Work Without Limits would be excited to bring this program to interested school districts via contract or through a grant collaboration.




Contact Kathy Muhr, Director of Community Engagement for more information.

Somerville ICAN:

Group of students, employers, facilitators and teachers at Partners Healthcare posing with certificates at graduations ceremony

A graduation was held on January 4th for 20 students from Somerville High School and Full Circle as participants of the Somerville ICAN (Institute for Careers and Networking) program, a collaboration of Massachusetts Advocates for Children and UMass Medical School’s Work Without Limits.

The ICAN program introduces students with disabilities to a range of companies who are all committed to including people with disabilities in their workplaces. Participants learned about different industries, occupations, and work environments. In addition, the program offers students the opportunity to make professional contacts at participating companies that they can leverage as they transition from school to career.

Throughout the fall, Somerville ICAN participants had an opportunity to visit 5 exciting companies representing different industries; Cambridge Health Alliance; CVS Health; PwC; Vinfen; and Partners HealthCare.  Students were able to see first-hand what it is like to work at large corporations, a hospital and a non-profit agency. This was a great opportunity to get a feel of the various career paths that lay ahead of them.  While visiting the companies, students took part in a number of activities that included a company tour, learned about current hiring practices, job and internship opportunities, and the technical and soft skills needed for success.

Though not a guarantee, it is a goal of the participating companies to either hire qualified students or graduates into paid internships or jobs depending on the interest, sills, and preferences of the individual.