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Now that you’ve hired (part 2)… Retaining the Peer Specialist/Advocate (PS/A)

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By Gita Enders, LMSW, MA, NYCPS, PeerTAC Consultant

Now that you’ve hired PS/As, you want to keep them! There are all sorts of costs associated with turnover in any discipline; in addition to the obvious recruitment and training efforts, consider the impact to the treatment teams, reduced capacity for billable services, lowered sense of morale, and loss of institutional knowledge. Service recipients may suffer from the lack of continuity of care. There is also the real risk of your agency acquiring a reputation as being a bad place for peer specialists/advocates to work!

One of the most important aspects in PS/A retention is the effort made to integrate the PS/As into the multidisciplinary structure. If team members are ambivalent about the role of the peer support provider, it may be harder to recommend to, and enroll recipients in, peer-provided services (McCarthy et al., 2019). Some ways of ensuring that this doesn’t happen are including the PS/As in team meetings and agency training sessions, and considering the PS/As’ input with the same regard as that of any other team member (Stefancic et al., 2021). Jones et al. (2019) recommend acknowledging the presence of any stigma, and making targeted efforts at remediation.

In larger agencies, it is important to establish a community of practice. As there will generally be more than one prescriber, social worker, or case manager, it is best to have more than one PS/A in order for caseloads to be kept reasonable and for PS/As not to feel like outliers in the system. In smaller and rural agencies, PS/As can be encouraged to make use of the Academy of Peer Services Virtual Learning Community ( or Families Together resources, which in addition to a wealth of news and resources offer a comprehensive list of support groups for persons working in peer support service delivery.

While most, if not all, PS/As will need to acquire continuing education hours to retain their certification or credential, other professional development opportunities, such as conference attendance, should be made available. The research suggests that such in-person training opportunities are preferred by PS/As over self-study/online training (Jenkins et al., 2018). Where there is an employer-sponsored post-secondary program, PS/As should be supported in acquiring further education.

(Note: Be sure to have the PS/As verify in advance that a particular in-person conference or training will be accepted toward continuing education for the renewal of their certification. This is particularly true for the adult certification. Not all training is accepted by the Certification Board.)

As in other disciplines, supportive and consistent supervision goes a long way toward retaining PS/As, and it is vital that the supervisor have a clear understanding of the role of the PS/A (Kuhn et al., 2015.) In fact, supportive supervision is one of the key elements in peer support worker job satisfaction (Edwards & Solomon, 2023). Group supervision can be a rich tool where there is more than one PS/A, and individual supervision should be scheduled with a realistic cadence. The N.A.P.S. National Guidelines for Peer Support Specialists and Supervisors is an excellent resource for ensuring that supervision of adult CPS aligns with best practices and core peer support values (Foglesong et al., 2022). Families Together in NYS also provides Guiding Principles for the Youth and Family Peer Advocates. 

It should go without saying that competitive salaries and benefits should be available to PS/As. As the discipline becomes more and more professionalized, with standards and practices elaborated in the literature, while some PS/As will need to work fewer hours in order to retain entitlements, many are ready and eager to join the full-time workforce, and deserve to be paid a living wage with respect to the community in which they live and practice.

These are only basic steps toward retaining PS/As, but in closing, if you offer benefits, support, personal and professional growth opportunities, and self-care options to all of your direct practice staff, you stand a good chance of retaining an educated, enthusiastic work force, benefitting your agency as well as the individuals that you serve.


Edwards, J. P., & Solomon, P. L. (2023). Explaining job satisfaction among mental health peer support workers. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal.

Foglesong, D., Knowles, K., Cronise, R., Wolf, J., & Edwards, J. P. (2022). National practice guidelines for peer support specialists and supervisors. Psychiatric Services, 73(2), 215-218.

Jenkins, S., Chenneville, T., & Salnaitis, C. (2018). Are peer specialists happy on the job?. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 41(1), 72.

Jones, N., Niu, G., Thomas, M., Riano, N. S., Hinshaw, S. P., & Mangurian, C. (2019). Peer specialists in community mental health: Ongoing challenges of inclusion. Psychiatric Services, 70(12), 1172-1175.

Kuhn, W., Bellinger, J., Stevens-Manser, S., & Kaufman, L. (2015). Integration of peer specialists working in mental health service settings. Community Mental Health Journal, 51, 453-458.

McCarthy, S., Chinman, M., Mitchell-Miland, C., Schutt, R. K., Zickmund, S., & Ellison, M. L. (2019). Peer specialists: Exploring the influence of program structure on their emerging role. Psychological services, 16(3), 445.

Stefancic, A., Bochicchio, L., Tuda, D., Harris, Y., DeSomma, K., & Cabassa, L. J. (2021). Strategies and lessons learned for supporting and supervising peer specialists. Psychiatric Services, 72(5), 606-609.