MHA Peer Training Academy


Information and Application Packet

The MHA Peer Training Academy offers a 4-week classroom training and up to a 12-week internship experience that gives people in mental health recovery an opportunity to use and develop their lived experience into a professional and supportive role in mental health services.

To apply, applicants must (at a minimum):

  • Have a mental health diagnosis
  • Have earned a high school diploma (or GED/TASC/HSE ) or higher.
  • Have a minimum of 12 months of mental health recovery

We seek applicants with diverse experiences. People with mental health conditions who also have co-experiences, such as a history of incarceration, housing instability, substance use, military service, or identity as LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC, are strongly encouraged to apply.

Application Deadlines:

  • Applications are due five (5) days before the start date.
  • Please see the bottom of the page for a list of upcoming start dates and application due dates.

For questions about the Peer Training Academy, please contact MHA Education Support Specialist – Elizabeth Turek

MHA Peer Training Academy Application Checklist

These documents are vital to your application. Your application will not reviewed until all items are received.

: Please complete the online or printable application. Applicants do not need to be enrolled with ACCES-VR to apply.

ESSAY:  Please answer all four (4)  questions fully and succinctly:
Please limit the essay to 2 pages, typed, single-spaced.

  • What is the role of a peer provider as you understand it?
  • How long have you been in recovery? Please describe your journey.
  • Why do you want to become a peer provider?
  • What do you intend to do after completing the MHA Peer Training Program?

COPY OF EDUCATIONAL DIPLOMA COMPLETED:  high school or college diploma/transcript or equivalency (GED/TASC/HSE) accepted. Transcripts must clearly state the graduation date.

TWO LETTERS OF REFERENCE: Please include how long, and in what capacity they are known to you and why they would recommend you for the program. Examples of references include: friends, co-workers, religious leaders – anyone who can discuss your recovery journey.
No relatives, therapists, or current /past providers, please.

RESUME: If available, or provide an outline of your work/volunteer history for the past 10 years.

Once completed, please submit all materials to our office. You’re welcome to bring them to drop them off in person or mail to:

          Mental Health Association of Rochester/Monroe County, Inc.
          274 N. Goodman St., Ste. D103
          Rochester, New York 14607
          Attn: MHA Peer Training Academy

Once you’ve submitted your application with all supporting documents, you’ll be contacted about your eligibility after the deadline. For more information about the admissions process, please refer to the FAQ section of this application.


Application Deadlines: Applications are due 5 business days before each start date.

Sessions occur in January, March, May, July, September, and November.

Please contact us or visit our website calendar for our start dates, located at the bottom of this page.

Any application received after the deadline may be considered for the current term if space is available. Otherwise, the application will be considered for the next available term.

Overview and Outcomes

The MHA Peer Training Academy provides a 4-week classroom-based training and up to a 12-week volunteer or work experience to specifically train people in mental health recovery to work as Peer Specialists in human service agencies.  With your full participation and commitment to our program, you will be able to seek employment as a Peer Specialist or Family Peer Advocate and gain the skills necessary to become certified in NYS.

The MHA Peer Training Academy consists of three parts:

I. 4-week Classroom Training (approximately 60 hours)

Our classroom curriculum is designed to develop you in three key areas of workplace effectiveness:

Professional Development – not only do course topics address the how/why of the peer profession but the knowledge, tools, and skills that form a well-rounded practice of Peer service provision.

Work Readiness – these courses offer comprehensive training in obtaining and maintaining competitive employment in a field you enjoy. Each week in the program, you’ll attend our Networking & Career Support group and meet with an Employment Specialist to support your job search.

Individual Wellness – our training provides a solid foundation of self-directed recovery tools that every effective employee needs. 

II. 12-week Volunteer or Work Experience (work week max of 20 volunteer hours)

Upon completing the classroom training, you will get an opportunity to interview with a diverse group of partner agencies from Monroe County for your volunteer or work experience.

Volunteer or work opportunities you may obtain include: group facilitation, peer coaching, navigating health/benefits systems, and advocacy. You’ll work up to 20 hours per week on a volunteer basis. You’ll also attend a weekly Networking & Career Support group at the MHA to facilitate an optimal learning experience as well as further enhance peer community around your employment goals. Employment offers may be extended to you from local agencies during this period, and these positions can be accepted in lieu of volunteering.

III. Competitive Employment Support

Upon completion of the internship, you can then move on to the final phase of the program – employment! This class provides you with mutual support for your job search. Also, agencies seeking peer providers often contact us directly to fill part-time and full-time positions. We discuss these in the weekly Networking & Career Support group meetings. We also offer free Employment Support Services from resume building to on-the-job coaching.

Benefits of The MHA Peer Training Academy

Although it is not necessary to attend and complete MHA’s Peer Training Academy in order to become employed as a peer, our program offers unique opportunities and benefits that other employment outlets do not offer.

Classroom Instruction
You’ll be taught by professionals that work in the field. You’ll practice the material along with your classmates to develop your competency and understanding: studying alongside your peers,  discussions with trainers and staff bring the information alive in real-world ways. And most important to our students – you will not be alone in the process.

Teamwork Education (Cohort based)
Both students and staff work together to secure a safe learning environment. You’ll learn to work in a group setting and be part of a team – as workplace skills require.

Supportive Peer Staff
Our staff provides support throughout your participation in the program. As a peer run program, we understand the strengths that peers bring to the recovery process. Our intention is that you discover for yourself your greatest asset – your own personal lived experience. You’ll work with an employment support specialist during your training, and they will support you throughout employment obtainment and retention.

Annual Graduation Ceremony
We celebrate the accomplishments of MHA graduates by providing a graduation ceremony where you, your invited guest(s), and our program supporters come together for a luncheon program. Graduates receive certificates of completion- partner agencies receive recognition and awards, and everyone experiences a great afternoon of community!

Peer Certification Preparation
The New York State Peer Specialist Certification and the Family Peer Advocate Certification are both simple but detailed processes. Your training at MHA will support you in obtaining the state certification as well as increase your chances of obtaining employment.

Note: The Peer Specialist Certification is a New York State initiative offered by the NYS Office of Mental Health – Consumer Affairs and is separate from MHA’s Peer Training Academy program. For more information about the New York State Peer Certification process, please visit

Note: The Family Peer Advocate (FPA) Certification is a New York State initiative of Families Together NYS and is separate from MHA’s Peer Training Academy program. For more information about the FPA Certification process please visit

Considerations For Successful Academy Completion

The MHA Peer Training Academy’s design works on a group level:
All expectations, standards, structures, and rules support the safety and success of the entire group of students as a group. The standards ensure equity for all students and offer effective methods for employment preparation as well as self-directed recovery.

The MHA Peer Training Academy is employment-focused, which means:
The training and staff are solely focused on your ability to obtain and maintain work as a peer specialist in human services. Each student is expected to support their own well-being while abiding by the program’s structure and design. Students often find support through each other in the classroom, and job coaching is available at no cost to you.

The MHA Peer Training Academy is meant to be followed “as is”, which means:
The entire program – from classroom training through volunteer or work experience completion – offers a very specific structure to be followed as designed and within the time structure allotted. Any student who deviates from the structure may face difficulties in completing and graduating from the program. As such, the program cannot be ‘divided’ up, and students are expected to commit to the entire program as a whole. A maximum of 3 days can be missed; any more than 3 will result in having to withdraw from the program. Students who withdraw have the option to re-enter the program at a later date.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is a typical class like in the MHA Peer Training Academy?
Each day for the 4-week classroom portion of the program, we encourage all students to arrive 15 min before class begins.  You’ll have time to settle into your classroom, have a snack, chat with your classmates and take care of any personal needs before the session starts. Classes are usually 4 hours, with a short break midway.

2. How much does the MHA Peer Training Academy cost?
MHA programs are free of charge for all participants.  We receive funding from the Office of Mental Health (OMH), ACCES – VR, as well as grants and generous donations from private funders.

 If possible, we request that students apply for ACCES VR services to help fund their own needs that would support their participation in our program.

3.  Do you offer any financial help/bus fare during the training?
We don’t offer financial support, but if you are assessed as able to work and are enrolled to attend the MHA Peer Training Program, an MHA Education or Employment Specialist can assist you with possible alternative methods of transportation.

4. I’m interested in attending the MHA Peer Training Academy, but I have a long-standing weekly appointment that conflicts with classroom time. What should I do?
If you are accepted into the MHA Peer Training program, please note we have guidelines regarding absenteeism to ensure each student’s knowledge and competency from the various trainings. We suggest that you make your appointments so that they do not conflict with your classes. The program carries a strict 3 missed day policy.

5. I’m concerned about my history of incarceration and/or convictions. How will that affect my chances of actually getting work?
It depends on the conviction.  Convictions that typically prohibit or limit employment in human services:

  • Sexual assault charges
  • Arson
  • Felonies against vulnerable populations (such as children, the elderly, and disabled persons)
  • Violent crimes within the past 10 years

(This list is not all-inclusive, and there may be other convictions that may prevent successful employment in human services)

Please check the Justice Center’s website for more details

Justice Center of New York State

6. I want to keep my SSI/SSDI benefits. Can I work part-time as a peer specialist?
Yes, there are part-time and per diem peer specialist jobs available. Please check on the websites or for examples of work available. In addition, you have the option of utilizing our Certified Work Incentives Specialist who can assist you in determining how work can affect your benefits.

7. This program requires a great commitment of time – can you guarantee me employment?
The Mental Health Association has established and maintained strong relationships and a positive reputation among local agencies that employ peers. We partner with local agencies and connect them with the MHA Peer Training Academy for employment candidates. Due to the breadth of topics in our training, our peers can seek positions as peer providers and other roles in human services not necessarily designated as peer positions.

We’ve spoken to working MHA Peer Training Academy graduates and their supervisors across Monroe County to ensure we offer information and training that supports real-life situations. This program works if you work it!

With all that said – we can’t guarantee you work. It is up to you to commit to the program and your personal growth and competency to work in the field.

8. The MHA Peer Training Academy sounds great – I’d like to help empower others in their recovery, but I need to start working now. What should I do?
The MHA offers Intensive Supported Employment (I.S.E.) Program – a supportive employment service to help people in mental health recovery gain employment of their choosing. The program is on an ongoing, year-round enrollment basis. If interested, please call our main line at (585) 325-3145 and ask for an employment specialist.

9. Is there any support for me once I start working?
The MHA offers job coaching and mentoring services to help people in mental health recovery maintain employment of their choosing. In addition, we offer work-related benefits advisement services to assist you in making decisions regarding SSDI/SSI/Medicare/Medicaid benefits while working, as well as help you with regular wage reporting to Social Security. If interested, please call our main line at (585) 325-3145 and ask to speak to someone regarding these services.