Ethical Guidelines: Hiring and Working with Peer Specialists

Darby Penney, M.L.S.

This presentation will explore the ethical issues raised by the use of peer specialists and similar positions within traditional mental health agencies over the past 20+ years. We will discuss how this development has affected the field’s understanding of genuine peer support rooted in mutuality. The presenters, who were instrumental developing these positions in New York, will discuss ethical concerns raised by the way these positions have often been co-opted. They will offer recommendations for new guidelines to address these concerns and talk about how to minimize co-optation and maximize genuine peer support.

Learning Objectives:

Participants will:

  1. Understand the philosophical and practical distinctions between free-standing peer support that is rooted in mutuality and the role of peer staff in traditional programs.
  2. Be able to describe three ethical concerns raised by hiring peer staff to work in traditional mental health programs.
  3. Be able to describe three approaches that may address the ethical concerns raised by using peer staff in traditional programs.