Journey hosts peer-led training about peer support roles in Wisconsin

By Riley Hays, Case Manager and Certified Peer Specialist, Forward Solutions CSP

On February 24, Community Support Programs (CSPs) attended a two-hour training called “The Role of Certified Peer Specialists: A Training for Non-Peer Specialists,” designed to demystify peer support at Journey. 

Organized and led by peer professionals, Tara Wilhelmi of the Black-owned grassroots recovery and wellness organization EOTO Culturally Rooted, LLC. and Alysha Clark of Chrysalis, the training was offered to both clinicians and peer specialists that work collaboratively within Journey CSPs.

During the training, Wilhelmi and Clark introduced the values, ethics, and core skills of Wisconsin’s Certified Peer Specialist role. Wilhelmi and Clark also led a thought-provoking dialogue about mental health and substance use biases and explained the purpose of self-disclosure, a skill used by peer specialists to deepen connection and inspire hope. As the training ended, CSP staff were encouraged to brainstorm ways to increase advocacy for peer support, not only within Journey programs but also in our communities and to our legislators. 

Sharing knowledge and wisdom

Through Journey’s partnership with EOTO and Chrysalis, the creators of the Certified Peer Specialist Learning Community, the training was made possible. “I’m excited for the level of interest and commitment to understanding and integrating peer support,” Wilhelmi said.

Born from a vision of supporting and expanding the peer support movement in Dane County and across the state, the Certified Peer Specialist Learning Community created a cohort of peer service providers, like Safe Communities, Tellurian Behavioral Health, and––you guessed it––Journey. 

Last year, EOTO and Chrysalis met with the cohort for six months to provide technical assistance and train on peer support best practices. With a fast-growing peer workforce of nearly 2,000 Certified Peer Specialists and Certified Parent Peer Specialists in Wisconsin, guiding providers towards implementing true peer support was the goal. 

Now that the cohort is over, Wilhelmi is optimistic about the impact that the learning curriculum will have on peer support in Dane County. “I’m really hoping for their continued partnership because if they shift, it will really change the county’s culture around peer support. If we can adjust and really work in partnership to change the culture, it will be a big step forward for the practice of peer support within non-peer-led organizations in our county.” 

Supporting lived experience

Journey is committed to assuring fidelity to the Certified Peer Specialist profession. Throughout its programs, Journey has provided peer services for decades, but staff with lived experience have not always held the title. For example, our Outreach Workers in the Emergency Services Unit who have shown up for peers in times of crisis. 

Because of Journey’s participation in the cohort, Chief Clinical Officer Nichole Wright had a vision of her own. The monthly Peer Collaborative workgroup, led by Wright and made up of many voices, including peers, is part of Journey’s larger effort in the preservation and expansion of peer support. 

Throughout 2022, Wright endorses that the workgroup met to define the role and responsibilities of peer specialists and reflect on how to best support them. From creating connection spaces to envisioning career pathways, the future looks bright for Journey’s peer specialists. Currently, the workgroup’s goal is to hire a new Peer Supervisor. This role will support peer specialists through ethical and reflective supervision and help develop our peer services array. 

Journey will continue to support the delivery of peer support by advocating for equitable pay. With Governor Evers’ investment in mental health care and bipartisan support in the Wisconsin legislature, we are on the right track. 

As Journey’s peer support initiative strengthens and grows, stay tuned to Pathways for further updates.