Training Peer Support Specialists on Aging and Behavioral Health

In partnership with The University of MD Training Center and the Behavioral Health Administration, MHAMD is pleased to offer Behavioral Health, Aging & Peer Support for Certified Peer Recovery Specialists (CPRS) or anyone who provides peer support. The training has recently been expanded from 6 hours to 12 hours to provide more education, learner engagement and practice opportunities. The training is held over 3 days. Please note: Those who attended the 6 hour version of this training are welcome to participate in the expanded version, but you will not receive CEUs for this training.

Upcoming Training Dates:

  • June 14th, 21st, 28th, 2022
    9:30 a.m.- 1:30 p.m. each day
    Location: Virtual via Zoom
    Cost: Free to you, thanks to our generous funders from Baltimore County LBHA
    Register here

Learning Objectives:

This training will prepare peer recovery specialists to:

  1. Describe how aging can impact behavioral health.
  2. Describe how behavioral health can impact the aging experience.
  3. Demonstrate effective strategies for conducting peer support with older adults.
  4. Identify local, state and national resources that support older adults and peer workers.
  5. Apply strategies for starting conversations around culture and meaning.
  6. Identify challenges and barriers to appropriate behavioral health treatment for older adults, including ageism, comorbidities, and historical influences.

This training is approved by MABPCB, Maryland’s peer credentialing board for 12 CEUs in the Ethics Domain. Anyone who provides peer support is welcome to attend. If you live or work in Baltimore County and are interested in receiving announcements about upcoming trainings, please contact Casey Saylor, Older Adult Project Manager at csaylor@mhamd.org. To learn more about older adult behavioral health, visit Older Adults Vibrant Minds.

Are you working on obtaining your CPRS but need more practice hours? Consider volunteering to conduct peer support with older adults through the Connections Project.

What is Peer Support?

Peer support is a practice of meaningful connection, and research indicates it is very effective with behavioral health disorders. The following definition from Mental Health America defines peer support’s context, role, and workforce.

Put simply, a peer is a person we identify with in some capacity. This can include anything from age to gender to sexual orientation to shared language.

In behavioral health, a peer is usually used to refer to someone who shares the experience of living with a psychiatric disorder and/or addiction. In that narrow context two people living with those conditions are peers, but in reality most people are far more specific about whom they would rely on for peer support. Trust and compatibility are extremely important factors.

Peer support is the “process of giving and receiving encouragement and assistance to achieve long-term recovery.” Peer supporters “offer emotional support, share knowledge, teach skills, provide practical assistance, and connect people with resources, opportunities, communities of support, and other people.”1 In behavioral health, peers offer their unique lived experience with mental health conditions to provide support focused on advocacy, education, mentoring, and motivation.

Peer providers can play many roles in support for people living with psychiatric disorders and/or in addiction recovery. They are capable of facilitating education and support groups and working as a bridge linking people to services as they transition from institutions into the community. Peers also work one-on-one as role models, mentors, coaches and advocates and support people in developing psychiatric advance directives and creating Wellness Recovery Action Plans (WRAP).

Peers go by many names and can work in many different settings. Many peers have additional training and certification that demonstrates their skills and knowledge. Combined with their lived experience and ability to engage and connect with consumers, peer supporters are a dynamic and growing group that continue to transform lives and systems.

Peer support is an evidence-based practice. To learn more about how peer support is impacting recovery outcomes, go here. To learn more about becoming a Certified Peer Recovery Specialist in Maryland, go here.

Bringing Older Adult Peer Support to Baltimore County

To ensure that we’re meeting Baltimore County’s needs, our first step was to conduct a needs assessment with stakeholders in older adult behavioral health. Rooted in the understanding that behavioral health peer support is an evidence-based practice, the needs assessment focused on identifying whether or not stakeholders thought peer support would be relevant for older adults, if peer support specialists need to be older adults themselves, what additional information peer support specialists needed to know in order to serve an older adult population effectively, and local referral sources.

19 focus groups were conducted between April 2019 – December 2019. 136 people participated, including older adults, peer support specialists, family members, caregivers, and professionals from health, aging, and behavioral health organizations. Feedback was overwhelmingly positive towards peer support for older adults and participants had many suggestions for its implementation in Baltimore County.

For now, this feedback is being used to inform our Behavioral Health and Aging training and Volunteer Support Program. In the future, we plan to thematically analyze participant feedback and compile it into a report.

Go here to sign up for Vibrant Aging: Peers Program updates.

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