Welcome to the Gateway Page for the LSSSC Behavioral Health Training Programs.

Our Training Programs

Peer Support Specialists (PSS) are individuals with lived experience in recovery and/or mental health.  They provide support, advocacy, encouragement, affirmation, acceptance, resources, and hope to others.  They share their personal experiences and provide support to help break down barriers and empower people to find and follow their own recovery paths.

Safe and State of the Art learning in PSS online training.  LSSSC began training and supporting individuals seeking to become Peer Support Specialists, as defined by the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), following receipt of a Workforce Education & Training (WET) grant administered by the California Department of Health Care and Information (HCAI) , formerly the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD) in 2021. 

Our on-line programs have evolved over time and are regularly revised and updated to reflect the latest in training technologies, the fundamental principles and methods of Peer Support, and any changes in state regulations or standards.  All of our training programs are web-based, self-paced and meet all of the current California curriculum standards as set by the California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA).

With the introduction of the California 2020 Senate Bill 803, Peer Training was formalized to include Peer Support Specialists as a Medi-Cal provider type.  Effective on July 1, 2022, peer support training efforts within California were standardized under the supervision of the California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA).  CalMHSA is the California Department of Health Care Services agency charged with establishing and maintaining the standards for the state-wide Medi-Cal Peer Support Specialist Certification Program.  Additional information may be found on the CalMHSA website:  https://www.calmhsa.org/peer-certification/

CalMHSA Approved Curriculum

Our Program Coordinator and Peer Support Advocates provide support during the online curriculum, facilitate support groups, and help participants find a placement site to complete their internship and/or shadowing experience.  During the experiential internship/shadowing, participants are able to observe working PSS and apply their skills under supervision.

Lutheran Social Services of Southern California currently offers two CalMHSA approved Peer Support Specialist (PSS) Training Programs.

Medi-Cal Peer Support Specialist Training

This 100-hour core competency training includes 80 hours of video presentations, reading assignments, reflective exercises, and support groups and a 20-hour internship. Participants can access the curriculum from this learning platform at any time and can complete the curriculum at their own pace. The online curriculum covers the importance of peer support, ethics, confidentiality, crisis management, working with parents and family, individuals experiencing homelessness, and justice-involved individuals.

Parent, Caregiver, and Family Member Peer Specialization Training

This 40-hour specialized training is for those individuals who have already completed a basic PSS training program and are currently a California Certified Medi-Cal Peer Support Specialist. This Parent, Caregiver, and Family Member Peer Specialization Program (PCFM) includes 23 hours of online curriculum, 3 hours of support groups, 12 hours of shadowing and a short integrative paper focused on a concept learned in the curriculum and observed and/or practiced during the shadowing experience (2 hours).

A Message From Dr. Gia Hamilton

About Lutheran Social Services

Lutheran Social Services of Southern California began in December 1944 when a group of San Diego area Lutheran congregations came together to discuss how to better assist families in need. They began discussing how to form a Welfare Commission. Their vision expanded when we came together with another group of Lutheran congregations in the Los Angeles area having the very same conversation. Lutheran Social Services of Southern California was officially incorporated in 1946 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit social service agency. The mission has stayed true to its earliest beginnings, to be a servant to those in need.

Today LSSSC serves thousands of individuals and families throughout Southern California with over 70 different programs/services at nearly 20 different locations. We are part of the Lutheran Services in America (LSA) network and strive to serve those in need with dignity and respect.


Frequently Asked Questions

    Welcome to the FAQ Section

    Please click on an accordion menu item below to view the questions and answers for that category. 

    Getting Started

    What is Peer Support?

    Peer support encompasses a range of activities and interactions between people who share similar experiences of being diagnosed with mental health conditions, substance use disorders, or both.  This mutuality—often called “peerness”—between a peer support worker and person in or seeking recovery promotes connection and inspires hope.  Peer support offers a level of acceptance, understanding, and validation not found in many other professional relationships (Mead & McNeil, 2006).  By sharing their own lived experience and practical guidance, peer support workers help people to develop their own goals, create strategies for self-empowerment, and take concrete steps towards building fulfilling, self-determined lives for themselves.

    What are Peer Support Specialists?

    A peer support specialist (PSS) is someone with the lived experience of recovery from a mental health condition, substance use disorder, homelessness, or other live challenges.  They provide support to others experiencing similar challenges.  They provide non-clinical, strengths-based support and are “experientially credentialed” by their own recovery journey (Davidson, et al., 1999).  Peer support workers may be referred to by different names depending upon the setting in which they practice.  Common titles include: peer specialists, peer recovery coaches, peer advocates, and peer recovery support specialists.

    Peer support specialists can help break down barriers of experience and understanding, as well as power dynamics that may get in the way of working with other members of the treatment team.  The peer support worker’s role is to assist people with finding and following their own recovery paths, without judgment, expectation, rules, or requirements.  Peer support specialists practice in a range of settings, including peer-run organizations, recovery community centers, recovery residences, drug courts and other criminal justice settings, hospital emergency departments, child welfare agencies, homeless shelters, and behavioral health and primary care settings. In addition to providing the many types of assistance encompassed in the peer support role, they conduct a variety of outreach and engagement activities.

    How Does Peer Support Work?

    The role of a peer support worker complements but does not duplicate or replace the roles of therapists, case managers, and other members of a treatment team.  Peer support workers bring their own personal knowledge of what it is like to live and thrive with mental health conditions and substance use disorders.  They support people’s progress towards recovery and self-determined lives by sharing vital experiential information and real examples of the power of recovery.  The sense of mutuality created through thoughtful sharing of experience is influential in modeling recovery and offering hope (Davidson, Bellamy, Guy, & Miller, 2012).

    Why Become a Peer Worker?

    Research shows that peer support is effective for supporting recovery from behavioral health conditions.  Benefits of peer support include:

    • Increased self-esteem and confidence (Davidson, et al., 1999; Salzer, 2002)
    • Increased sense of control and ability to bring about changes in their lives (Davidson, et al., 2012)
    • Increased social support and social functioning (Kurtz, 1990; Nelson, Ochocka, Janzen, & Trainor, 2006; Ochoka et al., 2006)
    • Increased empathy and acceptance (camaraderie) (Coatsworth-Puspokey, Forchuk, & Ward-Griffin, 2006; Davidson, et al., 1999)
    • Increased sense of hope and inspiration (Davidson, et al., 2006; Ratzlaff, McDiarmid, Marty, & Rapp, 2006)
    • Increased sense that treatment is responsive and inclusive of needs (Davidson, et al., 2012)
    • Decreased substance use and depression (Davidson, et al., 2012)
    • Decreased psychotic symptoms (Davidson, et al., 2012)
    • Increased engagement in self-care and wellness (Davidson, et al., 2012)

    Adding your own personal story and recovery progress to someone else’s desire to recover will make a difference.


    Who is Lutheran Social Services?

    Lutheran Social Services of Southern California (LSSSC) is a community-based organization, founded by Lutheran congregations in San Diego in 1944 to assist families in poverty.  Today, this agency has become the center of social and economic transformation for disenfranchised populations in Southern California.  LSSSC is a 501(c)(3) non-profit social service agency dedicated to embracing, equipping, training, and empowering vulnerable people in Southern California.  Our vision is to provide integrative, holistic, and trauma-informed care with an intentional commitment to health, wellness, and recovery.  LSSSC provides emergency services, community education and support services, care coordination services, mental health services, housing services, services for individuals with disabilities, academic/after school services, senior services, and workforce development services.

    Who is CalMHSA?

    The California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA, pronounced “Cal-mey-suh”) is a California Joint Powers of Authority (JPA), comprised of County Mental and Behavioral Health Departments.  Our board of directors is made up of county behavioral health directors. Our purpose is to be a separate public entity to provide administrative and fiscal services in support of the Members’ Mental/Behavioral Health Departments acting alone or in collaboration with other Departments.

    CalMHSA is proud to be the certifying entity for the Medi-Cal Peer Support Specialists Certification in California.  We are responsible for the certification, examination, and enforcement of professional standards for the certification. CalMHSA manages the California Certification Registry, Including investigating consumer complaints and imposes disciplinary actions against a Certificant who violates the Code of Ethics.

    The California Mental Health Services Authority works with its Stakeholder Advisory Council and County Behavioral Health Plans to ensure the voice of Peers is reflected in its certification program.

    For additional information regarding CalMHSA and Peer Certification Process please visit this web site:  https://www.capeercertification.org/

    Program & Enrollment Questions

    Are there any fees for the Peer Support Specialist Training Program?

    No, LSSSC received a grant from Health Care Access and Information (HCAi) that allows us to offer the training completely free.


    Can I look for a placement if I am not interested in the ones being offered?

    Yes, you may choose your own placement. However, the Program Coordinator will need to connect with the site that was chosen to confirm placement and discuss internship responsibilities.


    Are classes offered quarterly?

    Our enrollment portal is open all year long. Anyone interested in becoming a Peer Support Specialist with lived experience is welcome to enroll at any time.


    Can I begin my internship as soon as I start the online training?

    We recommend having 50% of the training completed before starting the internship.


    What should I expect after enrolling?

    You should expect a call from the Program Coordinator or Peer Support Advocate within 1 or 2 business days. They will then answer any questions you may have and give you guidance regarding the program.


    Will I still have access to my account after completing the program?

    Yes, you will have access to your account after completing the program to review any lesson you wish to go over.


    Should I create a new account if I lose my login information?

    No, please reach out to the Program Coordinator or Peer Support Advocate for support.





    Navigating the PSS Website

    What Is the Preferred Web Browser?

    Google Chrome is the preferred browser to access the training materials and browse the site.

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