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Peer Specialist: A Great Job For Persons with Mental Illness

Updated on March 17, 2010

Peer Specialist

Helping Others
Helping Others
It's like having your own business.
It's like having your own business.

A Great Job for Persons with Mental Illness

If you have a mental illness as I do then you know that finding employment can be to say the least difficult, at the worst, impossible. However I finally stumbled upon a job that is perfect since one of the main requirements of the position is that you suffer from a mental illness and that you are a consumer of mental health services.

The position is called "Peer Specialist". The training takes a week but is usually covered by one of the mental health agencies and sometimes the employer that is going to hire you. The pay is decent and the employer will work around your doctors visits and make sure you are not under so much stress you can't do your job. In my case I can go in at 10 am instead of 8:00 since I am not a morning person. There is also the extra perk of not worrying that someone will discover your secret.

A peer specialist works in both the clinical setting, counseling others with mental illness and helping them find the services they need without involving the state services such as welfare, CPS, or juvenile. You will always work with these agencies as needed as an advocate for the family. In some cases you will offer to supervise the child instead of him being removed from the home or school. Sometimes you are there just to listen. In the home setting, you make home visits to see how the family is doing and what needs they may have. You will then assist them to in getting their needs met. One good example is when you are talking to the client about their mental illness, if they are worried about their rent not being paid they are not hearing you, their mind is somewhere else. It is a great position and requires little more than excellent communication skills, both written and verbal. You are pretty much able to set your own hours other than having to be available in a crisis. The best thing about the job is the ability you have to help someone like ourselves learn to cope with their illness and solve problems they encounter in daily living.

I hope anyone with mental illness will consider this position as a good employment opportunity. It is a fairly new position, created to lighten the load of the therapists and counselors since there is a severe shortage of both. My starting pay at the local mental health center to start is $ 18.50 an hour.

If you are interested in more information you can email me through hubpages and I will send you the information to contact someone providing the training.

The hubs below were written in my desperate attempt to return to work after being disabled, reading them you will see the many benefits the position I am writing about offers to someone with a disability compared to the way we are treated by someone who doesn't understand the ups and downs of living day to day with mental illness.

Make sure you're ready

After being on disability for 10 plus years and trying to survive on the megar $ 533.00 per month I decided to ask for my "Ticket to work from Social Security." Since I felt I had been stable working at home, I decided to give it a shot. After all, living on disability isn't that great.

I trolled the classifieds for a few months and noticed one ad that had been there for a long time. That should have been my first warning. But since it was for a Litigation Specialist I thought maybe there wasn't enough candidates or they didn't have the qualifications. I applied on Friday and was hired over the phone on Sunday. I forgot to tell, you that I the interview was at 4:00 pm and please be on time the Attorney doesn't like to wait. The Attorney did not arrive until 6;30 pm. I waited until 8:30 pm, another missed warning sign. The other sign I missed was that the 5-6 girls working there were dressed like prostitutes.

Finally I had my interview. it lasted about 15 minutes. I was told the hours were 9-6, mon-fri. The pay would be $ 650.00 a week, with a $ 100.00 dollar bonus for each new client you brought in each week. He told me he was impressed with my resume which had references from State and Federal judges, lawyers and the U.S. Attorney General. See ya Monday. No handshake, no description of job duties. I was still happy, after being home ten years, it seemed a godsend.

On Monday I got up early. hard for a bipolar person to do. I put on my best suit, applied my makeup and twisted my hair into a school teacher professional bun and arrived 30 minutes early. I waited in the hall for 30 minutes waiting for someone to arrive. They did, at 9:20.

I was given a desk in the reception area with the other ladies, if you could say that. I was informed that I was to call the Attorney every morning when I arrived so he could make sure I was there. I was then told that every morning each of us had to make twenty collection calls. The amounts were from 1998 to 2007. Many were disconnected or you got a machine and left a message. This was unacceptable to Mr. Attorney, he wanted his money. His distaste was shown by throwing files at us while the F... word was used in almost sentence, even if clients were present.

I guess he wasn't very happy with me on the first day. I was called to the office at 8:30, remember I was supposed to go home at six. I was given a training manual and told my performance was unacceptable. I read the manual that night. I was beyond shocked. just because the office closes at 6 that does not mean you go home at 6:30. You will also call me when you leave for lunch, and when you return to tell me where you went. Lunch if you get one is only 30 minutes, where does he think you are going ? In the three days I stayed I never got a lunch, worked 13 hours a day and it was still never enough. The end for me came on the third day when Mr. Attorney told me he didn't give a damn what I had to say to get a client to sign the contract. Promise them the moon and stars, if they say they have lost a family member tell them you have too, gain their sympathy, embellish the truth. He also tells the clients the down payment is $ 50.00, but what he leaves out is the fact that he will not meet with the client or even start the papework or show up to court for them until they pay the whole balance of $ 3000.00 to $ 5000.00 dollars. Since most of his clients are illegal immigrants, you do not even translate the contract to them, just say what he tells you to.

On my third day, I wrote my letter of resignation and put it on his desk. On that day he did not show up for 4 clients in court. Their bonds wee revoked and they were incarcerated. I knew at that moment, no matter how badly I needed a Job, I could not work for someone who had no ethics. I have been in corrections for 25 years and have never seen anyone sink so low. I collected my things and my check. In three days I worked 38 hours and was paid $ 180.00 dollars. Not even minimum wage, but I was free. If I have nothing else I have my pride and the good feeling in my heart of knowing I could never hurt another human being, no matter what they have done.

I kept the training manual and will be faxing it to the Bar Association.

Now that I have no job again, I am returning to my love, writing. I may never be rich but I will still have my pride, professionalisim and dignity.

A Few Months Later

 I am still looking for somewhere to fit in. I take applications and resumes...."You're overqualified" "We just filled the position" . What the hell does over qualified mean?  I thought the whole idea was to get an education. That's why I spent 150,000.00  on student loans. When I was recently declared by my Dr. as totally and permenately disabled the loans were written off or discharged.

Even though my diagnosis is severe, I don't lose hope. I love to write. I want to write a book. My life has been one big drama after another. It would make a good story and a good educational book. It would also be good for me, to leave something behind so my children know the reasons for my behaviors and moods.



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    • profile image

      Craig 23 months ago from Dushore, pa

      Are you working still as a CPS?

      I love doing that but I must say.....where are you doing that and getting paid $18.50?

      I totally feel you on cannot, under ANY circumstances, sell your soul to an employer. additionally; if you had pursued unethical practices and your office was "caught," this guy (low-life) would have sold you out.

    • profile image

      tristamae 5 years ago

      I am about to obtain state (WI) certification as a peer specialist and am wondering if anyone can provide samples of job interview questions specific to this type of employment. I understand the typical questions likely to be asked. Thanks in advance for any information you can provide.

    • healthierinfo profile image

      healthierinfo 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      dont lose hope.even permenantrly disabled means u cant live do what u love to do and be happy

    • profile image

      Rhonda watson 6 years ago

      peer specialit.I am in wichita falls,tx

      please send more info who i should contact

    • christalluna1124 profile image

      christalluna1124 7 years ago from Dallas Texas

      Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to stop by this hub...the past month or so has been a long dark one for me... I am trying to pull myself out of it slowly but surely. I am beginning to write again a little at a time.

      Warmest regards,


    • pmccray profile image

      pmccray 7 years ago from Utah

      Man what a horrible ordeal, its the kind of job that makes you feel you need a shower after leaving. What a jerk, I'm glad your doing what makes you happy. After all that's what it's all about.

    • saraseibert profile image

      saraseibert 7 years ago from Kansas

      wow, It's amazing how someone's personal experiences when shared can help others. I hope to have success even some what close to yours soon ;)

    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 7 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      What a brilliant solution to "our" problem! I'm so glad I found this hub and you! MM

    • profile image

      Tiggerpaws 7 years ago

      I salute you. I don't know how

      you did it, but I would have

      been carried off by the police

      in a meltdown state.

      That guy would have hated me.

    • butters12345 profile image

      butters12345 7 years ago from England

      Great Hub ;)

    • christalluna1124 profile image

      christalluna1124 7 years ago from Dallas Texas

      Thanks Bean,

      I figured it out and it didn't even add up to minimum wage. I may be mentally ill but stupid I'm not.

      Warmest regards,


    • crazybeanrider profile image

      Boo McCourt 7 years ago from Washington MI

      I don't think I would have lasted that long. You gave the guy more hours than he deserved.

    • christalluna1124 profile image

      christalluna1124 7 years ago from Dallas Texas

      Well Guys I am still looking for a job. Not much in the work at home department except scams. Maybe next time around will be better.

      Regards, Chris

    • christalluna1124 profile image

      christalluna1124 8 years ago from Dallas Texas

      The return to work was difficult enough without being treated like dirt by this man. A lawyer is supossed to be a professional, though I have found that many are much less. To me the ability to walk away and retain my dignity though I needed the money meant more to me than any job. thank you all for your comments, care and concern.


    • heart4theword profile image

      heart4theword 8 years ago from hub

      Good Girl! You deserve better than that! Sounds like this man is desparate, maybe sinking fast. With your experience, something better is bound to come along:) Keep your chin up, hold your head high:) Thank you again, for sharing:)

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 8 years ago from Houston, Texas

      You obviously care about people and the truth and that lawyer (like so many others who give all lawyers a bad name) is the antithesis of truth and honor. Nice to meet you here! You did the right thing!

    • ethel smith profile image

      Eileen Kersey 8 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Nice to have you back gal

    • Tammy Lochmann profile image

      Tammy Lochmann 8 years ago

      I am so glad to see you. Sorry to hear you had such a bad experience though. That guy gives lawyers a bad name not like they had a great name to begin with. They had no idea who they were dealing with. At least they paid you.

      Great to see you, Tammy