Self-empowerment Through Peer Recovery Support

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People in long-term recovery know the drill.

They have been down. They got up. And they’re staying up.

With some training and supervision, they can share their experience, understanding and reassurance with others who are recovering from substance use disorder. In fact, they may be able to help others become ready and willing to seek treatment.

Peer recovery support,” as it is formally called, can be extremely empowering for people before, during and after going through treatment. Peers can help reduce fears, answer questions, support motivation and convey hope.

Services provided by peers can include:

  • Education and advocacy
  • Mentoring
  • Attending recovery and support groups with clients
  • Helping clients access resources to get jobs and housing
  • Support in transitioning from treatment into the recovery community.

Peer recovery support services are part of Substance Use Disorder reform passed during the 2017 Minnesota legislative sessionIndividuals providing peer support must complete training, certification, and continuing education requirements. Training must address ethics and boundaries, mentoring, advocacy, culturally based approaches, and community resources. The Minnesota Certification Board sets the policies and procedures for certification.

An individual providing peer support must have a minimum of one year of recovery from substance use disorder and be supervised by a qualified Substance Use Disorder (SUD) professional who understands the responsibilities and scope of work of a recovery peer.

Peer recovery support services are part of Substance Use Disorder reform passed during the 2017 Minnesota legislative session, which included person-centered changes intended to provide the right level of service at the right time and treat addictions like other health conditions. The state received federal approval for the reforms, which we at the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) have been implementing over the past four years.

Peer support is not limited to people seeking to recover from substance use disorder. Minnesota also offers certified mental health peers and family peers. In fact, more than 1,000 people in our state are certified as peers, providing services in an array of facilities and programs, including intensive residential treatment services, adult rehabilitative mental health services, chemical dependency licensed treatment facilities, assertive community treatment teams and Recovery Community Organizations (RCOs).

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More than a dozen RCOs in Minnesota provide services outside of traditional treatment, expanding the continuum of care for individuals with substance use disorder. RCOs are independent, non-profit organizations led and governed by people in long-term recovery, their families, friends, and allies as well as addiction and recovery professionals. RCOs work to increase the prevalence and quality of long-term recovery.

In working to ensure a solid continuum of services, DHS is proud to collaborate with all of these organizations. And we are pleased that peer recovery support is a vital part of the continuum.


Paul Fleissner is director of the Behavioral Health Division of the Minnesota Department of Human Services.

Last Updated on September 9, 2021

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