What is a peer worker?
A peer worker is someone who has personal experience with mental health challenges, or cares for someone with mental health challenges. They use this ‘lived and living experience’ to support others through their recovery. A peer worker may provide support through one-on-one sessions or running groups. They work to empower others to manage their own recovery journey.
Peer workers may have other skills, training or education, but the main criterion is a lived or living experience of mental health. The heart of peer work is to walk alongside others on their recovery journey.
Knowledge and skills
Peer workers will have lived or living experience of mental health challenges. They may also have experience caring for someone with mental health challenges. They will offer support to consumers and carers.
Other desirable skills to have as a peer worker include:
- Good communication – being able to draw from your own experiences
- Active listening – listening for the untold story with empathy
- Self-care – knowing how to take care of your own wellbeing
- Maintaining consumer privacy
- Being comfortable following policies and procedures
- Maintaining boundaries – Only talking with people you are supporting in work time, in an appropriate and safe way
- Basic literacy and computer skills – to be able to manage emails, case notes, and other programs
Lived or living experience of mental health challenges. Or caring for someone with mental health challenges. Personal experience of mental health challenges and recovery. And an awareness of how to draw on these learnings when connecting with others.
- Certificate IV Mental Health Peer Work
- Intentional Peer Support training
- Previous relevant work experience
Formal training courses and qualifications
Not all organisations need employees to have formal training to become a Peer Worker. But some specific positions need certain qualifications and experience for you to take on the role. We have outlined some training and qualifications below:
Certificate IV in Mental Health Peer Work
Certificate IV in Mental Health Peer Work is built to harness your lived or living experience of mental health challenges as either a consumer or carer. It allows you to support consumer or carer peers. It is available from many providers around the country. Certificate IV in Mental Health is recommended in states where the peer work certificate is not available. Below are some links to providers in each state.
Some states have programs to encourage people to enter the peer-work space. Some of them are below.
TEMHCO provides the NT Peer Workforce Project which is working with people to complete their Certificate IV in Mental Health.
LEWP offers a free Orientation to Mental Health Peer Work Program for people who may be thinking about a career in mental health Peer work within SA.
This is a paid 12-month program where participants begin employment with one of six mental health organisations for two days per week.
Peer-to-Peer Networks WA provide peer support networks and training to encourage people living with a disability or mental health condition to re-enter the workforce.
Other training and learning
If you’re interested in becoming a peer worker, the below training opportunities may be of interest.
Intentional Peer Support is a course recommended by many in the peer space. Intentional Peer Support provides a powerful framework for creating relationships where both people learn and grow together.
Mental Health First Aid training equips participants with the skills, and confidence to recognise and respond to those experiencing a mental health problem or crisis.
Specific roles within the NDIS space, such as a psychosocial recovery coach, can be lived or living experience roles. A psychosocial recovery coach helps people with a psychosocial disability take more control of their lives. Several training programs are available to enter these roles, including Team DSC.
Lifeline offers training in peer support and self-care which may be of interest.
Centre for Mental Health Learning’s website features information on entry-level positions and pathways into peer work roles. They also have a training calendar which may be of interest.
Taking part in volunteering opportunities can provide you with experience in the mental health space. It can be a great first step into the lived experience space.
Visit our Opportunity Connect website to see opportunities and take part in improving Neami’s services.
VMIAC Consumer Register is a space where Victoria consumers can take part in paid events to give feedback on the Victorian mental health system. People on the register are also offered training events to develop their skills.