The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

Peer Specialist Integration Into the Mental Healthcare Workforce

Friday, January 17, 2014
HBG Convention Center, Bridge Hall Street Level (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Wendy L. Brooks, MA, Research Associate, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX
Jillian M. Bellinger, PhD, Research Associate, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX
Stacey Stevens-Manser, PhD, Research Scientist, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX
Michele Murphy-Smith, PhD, Research Associate, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX
Background and Purpose:

Workforce shortages and a focus on illness management in the public mental health system present profound systemic barriers to recipients advancing beyond services and into meaningful lives in their communities. A body of research demonstrates that trained peer support providers offer an innovative solution to these limitations, through recovery-promoting support services. The use of these providers, known as Certified Peer Specialists (CPS), has shown improved service satisfaction and outcomes for persons receiving services. Although CPSs are increasingly utilized in mental health service settings, they are still a nascent workforce, and less is known regarding specific job roles or relative integration within the mental health system. Gaining understanding of the unique roles that CPSs play in the mental health system, the degree of their integration into the workplace, and how this is linked to job satisfaction is critical to ensuring the retention and overall effectiveness of this viable workforce.



This study utilized a cross-sectional design. All trainees who completed the state recognized Certified Peer Specialist training between March 2010 and July 2012 (309) were sent a link to an online survey via e-mail, with 111 responding to the survey (35.9%). Survey items measured job satisfaction, job tasks performed, and workplace integration (6 items measuring collaboration, support, and supervision). Descriptive analyses were used to illustrate the job roles and workplace integration of CPSs. Standard multiple regression analyses were employed to determine the extent to which six indicators of workplace integration predict job satisfaction for CPSs. 


Overall, CPSs reported high job satisfaction (M=4.26 out of 5). The two most frequently reported job tasks performed were one-on-one support (74%) and helping people advocate for themselves (69.8%). Regarding workplace integration, nearly two-thirds (61.5%) reported collaboration with other CPSs on a regular basis, whereas collaboration with other staff was less common (30.2% worked on treatment teams and 38.5% served on workgroups and committees). Support from other staff was high (M=7.31 out of 10) as was support from supervisors (M=8.50). Respondents also reported that supervisor’s understanding of their CPS job role was high (M=7.94 out of 10). Standard multiple regression analysis examining predictive power of the six indicators of integration revealed that only one was a significant predictor of job satisfaction (p(Beta)<.05). Follow-up simple regression analysis showed the predictive power of supervisor’s understanding of CPS job role (F(df)=7.32(82), p=.000, R2=.309) accounted for nearly the entire variance in the six-indicator model (R2=.316).

Conclusions and Implications:

This study revealed the unique job roles of the CPS workforce as well as their level of integration into the public mental health system, and how this impacted their job satisfaction.  Results suggest that supervisor’s understanding of CPS job role has a significant impact on job satisfaction, more so than any other aspect of integration. Therefore, better integration and retention of this innovative workforce in the public mental health system may be achieved through targeted efforts to educate supervisors about the job roles and responsibilities specific to peer specialists.