Supporting the Supporter

by Jim Hajny, Executive Director

May 30, 2023

Keeping your CBHPSS supported in their recovery is vital for retaining your employee long term. By the very definition, "Behavioral health peer support" means the use of a peer support specialist's personal experience with a behavioral health disorder to provide support, mentoring, guidance, and advocacy and to offer hope to individuals with behavioral health disorders.” Your employee is a person who is in recovery. This means they are actively working on themselves, which may include peer support groups, medication, counseling, meditation, a regiment of diet and exercise, journaling and the list goes on and on. As their employer you may be thinking, “Where do I fit in?”

Partners holding big jigsaw puzzle pieces flat vector illustration. Successful partnership, communication and collaboration metaphor. Teamwork and business cooperation concept.

The employer’s responsibility is to provide clinical supervision and support. We have a blog post specifically for clinical supervision so I won’t cover it here. So how do we support our CBHPSS? We start with having open dialogue about what the CBHPSS may need during the interview process. Do they attend a Tuesday noon support group? Do they see their counselor across town at 3pm on Thursdays? Ask. How will this affect the workflow in the office. Is there a reasonable accommodation that the CBHPSS needs in the workplace?  Open the dialogue about their recovery and keep it open throughout their employment. Once working make sure they are utilizing their lived experience with a behavioral health diagnosis to support others. Often CBHPSS get slipped into other roles such as case managers. This moves them farther away from sharing their experience in recovery and being much more clinical. No, CBHPSS are not clinical in nature. Yes, they may work in a clinical setting. But the nature of the work for CBHPSS is recovery support not clinical. Next make sure they are keeping up on their CEU’s a minimum of 20 per year are required by state rule. We see many CBHPSS in December trying to acquire all 20. Continuing education should be all year long and promoted in the workplace.

What types of supporters does your organization offer its employees? Not CBHPSS, all of your employees? Mental and emotional wellness is important for everyone. If you don’t have support in place for all the staff you are missing an opportunity to build better relations, have more effective and happier staff. Here are some suggestions.

  • Quarterly outings
  • Monthly drawings for fun giveaways
  • Employee of the month awards (or annual)
  • Free snacks in the breakroom once a week
  • Trauma informed care training
  • Increasing Employee Assistance Program (3 is not enough)
  • Casual Fridays

You can come up with a plethora of ideas to motivate staff and make the workplace more supportive by doing a simple search online. Or ask other organizations what they do. This should be for everyone not just CBHPSS.


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