Becoming a peer support worker in New Mexico was honestly one of the best decisions in my life. It changed everything and sent me in a completely new direction.
That being said, enough about me.
This guide will tell you everything you need to know about becoming a peer support worker in The State of New Mexico. Plus, there are some tips included to make the process as easy as possible. So, if your ready, lets get started.
Getting Started With OPRE
OPRE stands for Office of Peer Recovery and Engagement. This is a branch of the New Mexico Human Services Division and is specific to peer support.
They provide the CPSW (Certified Peer Support Worker) training, and help individuals in their career development.
Aside from the training, the provide support and opportunities for continuing education. They also sponsor peer run organizations throughout the state.
What Are The Qualifications To Become a CPSW
As far as qualification, let’s start with the basics. First, you have to be at least 18 or older. Second, you need a minimum of a high school diploma or GED. These two are pretty straight forward and don’t need an explanation.
For the rest of the qualifications, we will take a minute to break things down. That way, you have a clear understanding of what you need.
Have A Minimum of 3 Years In Recovery
When filling out the application, you will need a letter of reference to support this. Usually, it can come from a therapist, counselor, or sponsor. Alternatively, if you are already working in the field, a letter from you employer might also be accepted.
Basically, you just need someone who is an upstanding member of the community who is willing to vouch for you.
Remember, integrity is important. While it might be tempting to find a way around this requirement, it’s there for a good reason. If you don’t have the required time in sobriety, there are plenty of opportunities to help others in the mean time.
Complete 40 hours of supervised hours of volunteer or paid work with direct client contact in a behavioral health agency
When completing your 40 supervised hours, try to find something that matches what you want to do. Do you want to work in behavioral health? Maybe you want to do community outreach or work with the homeless?
Depending on where you live, there are quite a few options for completing your hours. If you can find something that matches your overall career goals, then you will be ahead of the game.
With first hand experience, you will be better prepared for when you land that dream job that you have been waiting for.
Complete an application
The whole process is fairly simple. In fact, you can complete the application online ( You can also download it and complete it by hand). Inside, there are questions that ask about yourself, your recovery, and why you think peer support is important.
As we mentioned before, you will also need a letter of reference validating your three years in recovery. After you submit your application, you will receive a call from OPRE to complete a follow-up interview.
Don’t worry, it’s nothing intimidating. Mostly, it just covers some of the same stuff you talked about on your application.
Just be yourself and you will do just fine.
Agree to abide by the New Mexico CPSW Code of Ethics
The CPSW code of ethics is simply a document that describes what is expected of you in this role. It covers topics such as confidentiality, non-discrimination, integrity, as well as other important information.
The code of ethics is separate from the peer support core competencies. Anyway, you will cover all of this material during your training.
Successfully complete the Peer Support Worker training offered through OPRE by State Approved Trainers
Ahh, the test. This is where most people start to get nervous. However, if you paid attention and participated during your training, then you really have nothing to worry about. Plus, there will be a review day before the test!
This is where the training group gets back together and takes a day to, well… review. I recommend taking advantage of this if exams make you nervous. TIPS LINK
You can take the test online or in person at designated testing centers throughout the state.
Taking The Test Online
I should warn you though, taking the test online can be kind of a hassle. when taking the test online, you will need to sign up for a proctoring service so they can monitor you.
In other words, don’t get any ideas about taking a peak at the answers. They will have you clear out the room you plan to take the test in and you cannot be interrupted until you have finished.
You are not allowed to have your phone, a notebook, or really anything for that matter.
Before taking the test, they will ask you to show them your entire surroundings through your camera. When I say your entire surroundings, I mean your entire surroundings. This includes your desk, the walls, and even under your chair!
They look at everything.
That being said, the proctors are supportive and will answer any questions you have.
How Much Does Peer Support Training Cost?
In New Mexico, the training is currently free! Well, it’s paid for by the state anyway. I’m not sure that anything in life is actually free. Along with the training, recertifications and many of the required CE’s are also free of charge.
Peer Support Training In New Mexico
The training to become a CPSW is actually really fun. I enjoyed every minute of it and am thinking of becoming a “state approved trainer” myself. Anyway, in this section we will discuss the training and take a look at what you can expect.
How Long Is The Training?
There is a total of 40 during the training. From there, it is split up into 5 days, Monday through Friday, from 8am-4pm. There is an hour break for lunch and the trainers are good about taking regular 15 minute breaks to let people move around.
If you need to be excused or have an emergency come up, be sure to communicate that with whoever is leading the training. While it is required that you attend the full training, they also understand that life happens and sometimes you may need to step out for a few minutes.
If something comes up where you will need to miss an entire session, let them know as soon as possible. Depending on the situation, they may be able to work with you to ensure you complete the training successfully.
What To Expect In Peer Support Training
Each training group typically has around 25 individuals at a time. As far as trainers, there are usually two that run the group together.
The training is very interactive and covers each of the 19 modules in the peer support training handbook.
After being registered for the training, a handbook will be mailed to you. Take some time to look through it before hand if you can. This will allow you to have a better idea of what is to be covered. Moreover, it will give you a chance to think about questions you may have about the material.
When in the training, the more you engage, the more you will absorb.With interactive questions, small groups, activities, and role playing there are plenty of opportunities to get involved.
And yes, I did say role playing.
Don’t worry, its not as bad as it seems. It is a very welcoming atmosphere and everyone there is supportive. Not to mention, the role playing exercises are extremely helpful in teaching different skills and how to apply them.
A little advice, if you are confused about something, whether it is a concept, skill, or even just about something you heard, ask questions!
Don’t be nervous, chances are, you’re not the only one. Besides, your group leaders are more than happy to answer questions and provide a little deeper explanation.
Requirements For The Training
In order to be successful in the training, you will need to have your handbook with you. There is quite a bit of reading to cover and without it, you might end up feeling a little lost.
So don’t forget it!
(If you haven’t received your handbook by the time you start your training, be sure to let someone know. This way they can help you get one ASAP.)
Other than the handbook, all you really need is an open mind and a willingness to participate.
If you are taking the training remotely, then of course, you will need a computer and solid internet connection.
In any case, I also recommend taking something to write with, that you can take notes and write down questions you may have. The training handbook is yours to keep, so you can take notes inside the book to keep everything organized.
Completing Your Peer Support Training
After you complete your training, you will have some time before the test. Typically, you will be scheduled to take the test about a month after you complete the test. As we mentioned before, the training group meets one time for a review day before the test.
It’s not required, but its a great opportunity to ask last minute questions and brush up on what you have learned.
How To Apply To Be A Peer Support Worker
The application process is super simple. As we mentioned before, it consists of answering a few questions, provide a letter of reference, and doing a follow up interview. Depending on how many requests have already been submitted, sometimes it can take a minute before you are actually scheduled for training.
Personally, I had to wait about a month to begin my training after submitting my application.
However, there is no way to tell how many people might be ahead of you in the process. If you are wanting to become a CPSW in New Mexico, I would go ahead and submit the application. This way you are already on the list.
NMCBBHP stands for The New Mexico Credentialing Board for Behavioral Health Professionals. They’re the ones who give out actually give out the certifications for peer support. In fact, when it comes to any jobs dealing with mental health, addiction, and other behavioral health stuff, this is the go-to authority.
That being said, aside from receiving your certification, you most likely won’t really have to deal with them much. Other than to submit CE’s and recertify that is.
I guess what I am trying to say is, it may sound intimidating, but it’s really not.
You will need to create an account with Certemy in order to receive your certification. This is a platform where all of your information is stored and communicated to the NMCBBHP. This includes your supervision hours, test scores, and continuing education credits.
In fact, this is actually referred to as your Certemy wallet. So, after each step of the certification process is completed, you will need to upload these documents so that they can be reviewed and verified by the NMCBBHP.
Additionally, whenever you complete CE’s in the future this is where you will submit them as well.
Getting Certified As A CPSW In New Mexico
In New Mexico, there are actually a few different types of peer support you can provide. It really just depends on your life experience. Moreover, there are a few advanced certifications you can obtain with the right training.
Certified Peer Support Worker (CPSW)
The Certified Peer Support Worker (CPSW) training program helps people who have gone through tough times with mental health and/or substance use issues and are now doing well, to support others going through a similar recovery process.
Since they’ve been through it themselves, CPSWs are uniquely qualified to make the services offered by agencies and organizations even better. In New Mexico, CPSWs work in places like provider settings, peer-run wellness centers, and Managed Care Organizations.
Certified Family Support Worker (CFPSW)
The Certified Family Support Worker (CFPSW) provides support to parents and primary caregivers. They work closely with these individuals, helping them become more independent when working with child services.
In other words, they help them reconnect with their children and build strong family dynamics. They make sure that these caregivers’ opinions are heard and assist in strengthening natural support systems.
CFPSW’s model advocacy skills as well as how to develop professional relationships.
Sometimes, the CFPSW shares their own experiences to connect with caregivers who’ve been through similar things.
The Family Peer Support Worker uses a compassionate and strength based approach that focuses on families and children. They take into account the family’s background, culture, beliefs, and what’s important to them. preferences.
Certified Prevention Intern (CPI)
The Certified Prevention Intern (CPI) is like a beginner’s certification for people starting in the prevention field. The cool thing is, you don’t need to take an exam to get this certification. All you have to do is show that you have the skills for prevention work and do well in your academic studies.
When you have the CPI, it means you’re recognized as a newbie in prevention, and you can provide prevention services, but you’ll have someone supervising you. Of course, you need to follow all the laws and rules that apply to your work.
Keep in mind that the Intern status is only good for five years. Within that time, you’re expected to pass the international IC&RC Written Prevention Exam and apply for the full CPS credential. It’s like leveling up in your prevention career!
Certified Prevention Specialist (CPS)
A CPS (Community Prevention Specialist) is someone who helps communities and individuals stay healthy by preventing problems before they become big issues. Prevention specialists take action ahead of time to stop or lessen the impact of common public health and social problems.
They can specialize in different areas like stopping substance abuse, dealing with behavioral issues, tackling violence and bullying, preventing crime, and fighting illnesses.
To become a CPS, they need supervised experience in providing services to prevent substance abuse and have worked directly in prevention-related fields.
They could have experience in child welfare, mental health, behavioral health, infectious diseases, or substance abuse prevention, for example. Their main goal is to keep communities safe and healthy by stopping problems from happening in the first place.
Senior Certified Prevention Specialist (SCPS)
The Senior Certified Prevention Specialist (SCPS) is like a higher level of the CPS we talked about earlier. These folks make sure that programs and the people funding them are really doing what they’re supposed to do – keeping the public safe and well.
To get the SCPS certification, Prevention Specialists have to show they know their stuff through their experience, education, and passing a tough exam. They need to be really good at what they do and understand how different cultures play a role in prevention work.
Certified Wraparound Facilitator (CWF)
A CWF (Child and Youth Wraparound Facilitator) is someone who helps kids and teens in New Mexico. They do this by supporting the services and systems that the young person and their family already have, and they also help find new services if needed.
These facilitators provide intense care coordination for youth who may have a diagnosis of serious emotional disturbance (SED), have had trouble with many different living arrangements, or have been involved with Juvenile Justice & Protective Services.
Moreover, they work with young people and their families to make the services they already have work better.
Plus, they step in when previous services and attempts to help didn’t go as planned.
In a nutshell, CWFs are there to give young folks and their families the extra support they need to improve their lives and keep them out of situations where they might need to live away from home.
Recertifications For Peer Support Workers
Once you have obtained your certification as a peer support worker in New Mexico, the story doesn’t end there. You will need to go through the recertification process if you want to keep your position.
Let’s look at how you go about doing that.
Continuing education is required to maintain your CPSW certification. You will need to obtain 20 CE’s (Continuing Education Credits) every two years. Withing that 20 hours, 6 hours must come from ethics, and another 6 from cultural competency.
While its not hard to get CE’s, I would recommend not putting it off till the last minute.
OPRE puts out a monthly newsletter announcing upcoming trainings that are free of cost. That being said, sometimes training fill up fast. Even more, there are only so many trainings each month.
Unless you want to pay for your CE’s, this is why you should get started on them early.
Submitting Your CE's
After completing your continuing education hours, you will need to log back into your Certemy account. From here, you simply need to submit the receipts for the hours you have completed. Afterwards, they will get reviewed by the New Mexico Credentialing Board of Behavioral Health Professions.
Then you are good to go!
Are You Ready To Be A CPSW?
So, this is what it looks like becoming a peer support worker in New Mexico. Overall, its actually a fairly simple process and there is plenty of support along the way.
If you are considering this as a career choice, I highly recommend it. If you are still unsure, check out Is Peer Support A Good Career Choice in 2023. It breaks things down a bit further and will hopefully be able to help you decide.
Each day comes with it’s own rewards and challenges. Moreover, it’s one of the few careers where you it actually benefits you in a deeply profound way.
Not to mention, it pays fairly well too.
Taking The Next Steps
I hope you decide to take the next step and join the growing community of peer support professionals and here at MHAPSS we are here to support you every step of the way.
Who knows, we may even end up working along side each other one day!
If you are looking for more resources to help you in your peer support journey, be sure to sign up for our newsletter. You’ll be getting ideas for discussion topics, insights about mental health and addiction, as well as inside tips about working in the field.
Thank you for taking the time to read more about peer support and feel free to reach out with any questions or concerns. Also, drop a comment below and tell us where you are in your own peer support journey.
We love to get to know our readers and look forward to having you as part of the community.
What are the requirement s to become a peer support worker in New Mexico?
In New Mexico, to become a peer support worker, you must meet the following requirements: Be 18 or older, have a high school diploma or GED, have three years of continuous recovery, complete 40 supervised hours at an approved agency, complete an application, agree to abide by the New Mexico code of ethics for CPSW’s, and successfully complete the peer support training.
How much does peer support training cost?
As of right now, it’s free!
How long does it take to get certified as a peer support worker?
The training itself is a week long, and then there is a waiting period of about a month between the training and taking the test. However, depending on when you submit your application, there may be a waiting list to take the training. In other words, time frames can vary. Once you start your training though, things move pretty quickly.
How hard is the training/test?
The training is actually pretty fun as long as your involved and participating. Meaning, it’s really not that difficult if you are taking it seriously. As far as the test, it’s the same idea. If you were paying attention during the training, then you shouldn’t have any problems on the test.
Elijah Meason is a Certified Peer Support Worker in the State of New Mexico. He is a SMART Recovery facilitator and is working toward getting his Masters degree in social work. He is currently working at a dual diagnosis treatment center helping individuals overcome mental health and addiction challenges.