Testimonials

While the evidence is rapidly growing in support of the peer support movement, hearing real people share their thoughts about their own experiences as peer specialists truly shows the impact of the role. View videos and read below for peer specialist testimonials.


Why did you want to become a peer specialist?

After a Peer Specialist made such a positive impact on my life I wanted to help others see the possibility of regaining a fulfilling life as possible even while living with a mental illness. Becoming a Peer Specialist allowed me to recover to a level I never thought possible, and the very best part is contributing to others' recovery process!
—Christi C., Stockton, AL, Peer Specialist

I actually didn’t [want to be a peer specialist]. I was homeless and wanted a job. When I found out it was helping people in my situation I got excited about the idea.
—Matt H., Madison, WI, Veteran, VA Peer Support Specialist

I wanted to become a peer specialist because I wanted to use my experiences recovering from physical injuries as well as mental injuries to help other Veterans. I felt like after 27 years in the military and several deployments I could relate and understand others struggles and questions. I could offer hope and help nonmilitary care givers perhaps understand Veterans better.
—Gretchen E., Atlanta, GA, Veteran, VA Peer Support Specialist

I wanted to share my journey with others in hopes of inspiring someone else to begin their journey in recovery. It was a way to help others and just maybe they won’t have to hit the very rock bottom, plus it’s kind of cool having a job where I can share those things and it be ok to.
—Bryan R., Oklahoma City, OK, Veteran, VA Peer Support Specialist


How has being a peer specialist changed your life?

[Being a peer specialist] has been the single most important part of my own recovery. It’s not the only facet but has touched every area of my life where medication and therapy have not.
—Matt H., Madison, WI, Veteran, VA Peer Support Specialist

Work is such an important part of my recovery; peer support gave me an avenue to become successful again, to obtain mastery over a product and service that is of value to others.  I can't imagine being who I am today without all that becoming a peer specialist taught me.
—Jana S., Phoenix, AZ, Peer Specialist, Coordinator, Peer Career Advancement Academy

[Being a peer specialist] gives me [a] great job working with Veterans. It is the kind of position that makes you feel good at the end of the day. Being a peer support is all about giving, and that always feels good not only to me but hopefully to those who are needing someone to come along their side with some assistance, to demonstrate hope.
—Gretchen E., Atlanta, GA, Veteran, VA Peer Support Specialist

[Being a peer specialist] has changed my life for the better in so many ways! First, just in myself: my self-confidence, self-esteem, motivation, leadership skills. I have traveled all over the country as a training consultant and to many conferences. I have been trained and facilitate groups with my fellow Veterans. I have learned to advocate for better services and let the Veterans and others know how important it is to have a voice.
—Olga W., Dallas, TX, Army Veteran, VA Peer Support Specialist

Being a Peer Specialist has allowed me to reconnect with other peers and to gain tools to add to my toolbox in my own recovery. It takes me back to when I was in the service and it has saved me from self-destruction.
—Bryan R., Oklahoma City, OK, Veteran, VA Peer Support Specialist


What advice would you give to an individual interested in becoming a peer specialist?

Be passionate and honest. Know who you are and be ready to share your true, honest experience and struggles. Make sure they see and feel the hope in your heart and soul.
—Olga W., Dallas, TX, Army Veteran, VA Peer Support Specialist

Be you and let your heart take the wheel. Remember to practice what you preach. Share what’s relevant and be the best role model you can, be the spark in the fire that sends them blazing into recovery.
—Bryan R., Oklahoma City, OK, Veteran, VA Peer Support Specialist

If you want to be a peer specialist, understand that it requires an openness about your life, and an investment in the other person, unlike any other profession. The reward for sharing and supporting someone on the road to their recovery is worth far more than the risk of self-disclosure. It is what keeps my life in balance.
—Matt H., Madison, WI, Veteran, VA Peer Support Specialist

Ask yourself if you are far enough along in your own recovery to be helpful. If you are still struggling daily perhaps allow some more time. But if you have turned that corner and feel healthy and know how to take care of yourself then this is a very rewarding position. It is an opportunity to use a part of your life that has been challenging and hard for something good. It helps your own recovery to see good things come from your own struggles.
—Gretchen E., Atlanta, GA, Veteran, VA Peer Support Specialist


How do peer specialist services make a difference?

Peer specialists make a difference because we bring real life, been there done that experiences to the table. We are walking testimonies that recovery is possible. We provide insight that can only come from someone who has had the same or similar struggles. Where others may judge or become impatient, peers are usually more empathetic. We know how hard recovery can be and where pitfalls may occur.
—Gretchen E., Atlanta, GA, Veteran, VA Peer Support Specialist

The lived experience of recovery, resiliency, wellness, are contagious. People catch it from us, and wonder what it is. When they ask, it is the opportunity to share precious practical wisdom they can instantly apply to their own lives. We make a difference because we provide a grounded, reality based approach to living every day that is workable for all humans. How many providers can make that claim? I've seen people who languish under traditional treatments come alive after one or two sessions with peer support. The relationship activates our healing. It's that simple, and that profound.
—Jana S., Phoenix, AZ, Peer Specialist, Coordinator, Peer Career Advancement Academy

I’ve found I can reach into a deeper place and make a connection there with those I serve. I’ve seen more hope for recovery in peers I’ve observed than I’ve experienced anywhere else in the medical system. To have a person walk with you who has walked there before is more hopeful and motivating than someone shouting from overhead to come up to their level.
—Matt H., Madison, WI, Veteran, VA Peer Support Specialist

[Peer support] is a way for a person who is struggling to see someone in recovery and have a role model, and also to have access to those who have been where they are now. Peer Services offers resources from those who have used them which means they can offer their experience with them. There is no one else on the staff that can offer lived-experience and that makes the difference to the patient.
—Olga W., Dallas, TX, Army Veteran, VA Peer Support Specialist

This allows peers to connect on an equal level and give hope to each other. It is inspirational to know you are not alone and that there are really a ton of others out there that have experienced similar times and struggles.
—Bryan R., Oklahoma City, OK, Veteran, VA Peer Support Specialist


What is your favorite part of the day when working as a peer specialist?

My favorite part of the day is when I see the sparkle return to someone eyes. When they finally come to a place where they actually believe that their life does not have to be limited. The sparkle represents hope and hope breeds desire and desire brings results. It is the sparkle that brings a smile to my face.
—Gretchen E., Atlanta, GA, Veteran, VA Peer Support Specialist

There are so many things I could say are my favorite part of the day. I guess though [that] it is the end, when I’m ready to go home. I don’t know if I can change the world or have an impact at that level, but I believe I can change my world. So when the end of my work day comes, I can breathe easier and feel satisfied that I did my part to meet the needs of those around me. No other job I’ve had has offered that kind of peace of mind at the end of the day.
—Matt H., Madison, WI, Veteran, VA Peer Support Specialist

Seeing the light bulb come on in someone's face when they realize they know the answers they seek, they are within, when they grasp the reality of recovery for themselves.  It is priceless.
—Jana S., Phoenix, AZ, Peer Specialist, Coordinator, Peer Career Advancement Academy

My favorite and most rewarding thing is when a Veteran may say, for example "I started going to Church again because of the conversation we had the last time I was in the hospital" or "when I first came in this hospital I had no hope and it wasn't until I heard your Recovery Story that I felt hope again". There have been many times that I have had my doubts but it never fails when God lets me know through one of the many patients I have seen these past 8 years that what I am doing is making a difference!
—Olga W., Dallas, TX, Army Veteran, VA Peer Support Specialist

Every bit of it! The moment that you see the spark, that AHA moment when they get it and then watching them grow in their own recovery. Seeing it become the “drug” of choice.
—Bryan R., Oklahoma City, OK, Veteran, VA Peer Support Specialist

For more stories of hope and inspiration, check out the Peer Leadership Podcast!

To submit your own testimonials, please fill out this form.