The Importance and Value of Continuing Education for Peer Recovery Specialists

As we all know, Peer Recovery Specialists play a crucial role in the recovery community and society at large. We use our lived experience to provide support, offer guidance where appropriate and connect other peers with helpful resources to assist in their recovery journey with mental health and/or addiction challenges. Like most professional fields, the field of peer recovery is constantly evolving, finding new ways to provide excellent peer support and learning more and more about best practices in the field. In order to be effective, it is vital for peer recovery specialists to participate in continuing education opportunities to stay up-to-date on the latest research and best practices. Here are a few reasons why:

First, and obviously, continuing education helps a PRS stay up-to-date on the latest research and best practices in the field as mentioned above. Tell me something I don’t know, right? The truth is, that we all need to be reminded from time to time that our field is not static, rather, it is constantly growing and evolving. Remembering this fact is a catalyst to grow with the field.

Second, continuing education helps a PRS to develop new skills and knowledge. This is important because as further research and best practices are established, better support delivery options become available. In other words, don’t get left behind using outdated support models. As we learn and grow, both personally and professionally, the more effective peers become in their work. This builds confidence, enhances the work experience, and encourages PRS workers to keep on keeping on when times get a little tough.

Third, peers learn from each other’s experience, strength and hope and continuing education is not just an individual endeavor. It is a community endeavor as well. When you participate in continuing education, it breaks the ‘silo effect’, that is, community encourages growth, it builds us up, and it holds us accountable to continue to become the best version of ourselves, personally and professionally. Personal growth and professional growth are intimately tied together, that is, one directly affects the other.

Last, continuing education increases motivation. Fresh ideas and perspectives help us dig deeper through self-analysis and introspection about our own skills and knowledge. If we are open to it, continuing education also teaches us where we need to grow. Growth rightly applied creates ripples of change in the waters of our society.

If you are a PRS, I encourage you to continue your education. It is not only an investment in your future but it is an investment in the lives of peers you support now and the peers you will support in the future. What you put in you get out. But, also what you put in directly affects what your peer clients get out of your support. Let’s give them all we got until we fill up our tank again and become even better at the work we do!

** I would be remiss if I did not mention the issue of learning styles and struggles for many peers. Let’s be real: many of us hated school. We felt stupid. We felt unworthy. We felt like failures. Nothing could be further from the truth. If you cringe at the idea of continuing education because of previous negative experience in learning, you have my sympathy and empathy. I’ve been there. However, we can change. Ask for help. Seek out resources to best support you in your learning struggles. You can do it. I know because I’ve done it. I got my first ‘A’ in a math class in college when I worked with a tutor. What I didn’t know at the time was that I had a math learning disability. Why is this an important detail? Because I have proven you can make the top grade EVEN with a learning disability. You can too.**

Chris Newcomb

Chris Newcomb

VPRSN Coordinator

Chris Newcomb, M.Div., PRS, CPMC, CWF, CSSF is the VPRSN Coordinator on behalf of Mental Health America of Virginia. He holds a Bachelor in Psychology from Radford University and a Master of Divinity from Duke University. In his spare time, he is a singer/songwriter who loves to write new songs, practices Krav Maga, and enjoys time with family and friends.


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