Iowa Peer Support Training Portal

Iowa Peer Support & Family Peer Support Training Program

In February of 2015, the Iowa Department of Human Services contracted with the University of Iowa’s (UI) Division of Child & Community Health (DCCH) to train the Peer Support and Family Peer Support workforce in Iowa.  DCCH engaged collaborative partners to assist with the project including; UI National Resource Center for Family Centered Practice, ASK Resource Center, Child Health Specialty Clinics and NAMI Iowa.  During this six year project these agencies will collaborate with key stakeholders to develop curricula, conduct training, educate supervisors, provide continuing education and make recommendations about certification.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a Peer Support Specialist and a Family Peer Support Specialist?

  • A Peer Support Specialist (PSS) is an individual who is personally living well in recovery from a serious mental illness. They work with people who identify themselves also as a person with a mental illness.
  • A Family Peer Support Specialist (FPSS) is a parent or primary caregiver of a child with an emotional, behavioral or mental health disorder.  They work with families who also have children identified with a serious mental health disorder.

I’m not a parent or a primary caregiver, but I have a great passion for families, can I become a FPSS?

No, you must meet the qualification of being a parent or primary caregiver of a child with a mental, emotional, or behavioral disorder.

I live with a family member who has a mental illness; do I qualify to become a Peer Support Specialist?

No.  You must be someone who has personally experienced a loss of a significant role in his/her life due to the experience of serious mental illness.

What skills do I need to be a Peer Support Specialist or Family Peer Support Specialist?

The training will provide you with additional knowledge and skills but in general both roles involve the ability to:

  • Model effective coping and self-help techniques
  • Work with individuals from diverse socio economic and cultural backgrounds
  • Attend workplace meetings and complete agency requirements
  • Assist people with finding community and natural supports and teaching them how to utilize these services
  • Advocate for someone’s needs and accompany them to meetings as needed
  • Work as a member of an interdisciplinary team focusing on each persons need for recovery
  • Communicate effectively both verbally and in writing
  • Adhere to confidentiality and understand protected health information
  • Maintain records and provide accurate documentation
  • Use computers ( i.e. Basic computer skills-email, web searches, word processing)

Are there age limits to take the training?

You must be 21 years of age to take either training.

What level of education do I need to take the training?

You must have a high school diploma or GED.

Where are the trainings and how long do the last?

The trainings will be scheduled at various locations across Iowa.  The Peer Support Specialist Training is currently 40 hours long, delivered in one week (Mon-Fri).  The Family Peer Support Specialist training is 42 hours long.  It is conducted in two segments of three days each.  There is generally two to four weeks between each segment.

I believe I meet the requirement of having lived experience as both a Peer Support and Family Peer Support Specialist.  Am I able to take one of the trainings and work in either role?

No, these are different trainings and each have a different focus.

What is covered in training?

Topics covered in training relate to the core competencies required to perform the role of a Peer Support or Family Peer Support Specialist and cover such areas as:


Will there be a test at the end of the training?

Throughout training there will be lecture, discussion, role-plays, homework, and skills practice. The goal of training is to prepare you for employment in the workforce. We will strive to make training a supportive, interactive and thought provoking environment.  The focus will be on knowledge acquisition and skills development. Successful completion of training will depend on your participation in training, completion of homework and a final exam. A test will be available within a week or two after the training ends.

Will I receive certification at the end of the training?

The difference between a certificate of training completion and certification is often confusing.  Certification generally includes completing training, an exam, work supervision and continuing education. When you have successfully completed either training you will receive a Letter of Acknowledgement. Completing training is a requirement for certification.