What is WISE U?

WISE U is an 11-day interactive peer training course that Cal Voices' (Formerly NorCalMHA) WISE Program offers quarterly. WISE U is designed to increase the peer workforce and aid in the development of peer support services already within substance-use disorder and mental health service settings. 


The primary goal is to assist WISE U participants with placement into a  full-time or part-time, paid or volunteer peer position in the public mental health field. 


Following the 11-day peer training course, each successful applicant is matched with a WISE U Career Mentor who will work with them to create their individualized career plan to help gain or maintain peer employment. 


WISE U was created by Peers. Taught by Peers. For Peers.  We are peer employment experts. 


Applications are continuously rolling

Who are Peers?

A peer has personal lived experience as a consumer and/or family member whose duties include a peer support role and contributing to the recovery culture of a team.​

Functions of a peer:

  • Model recovery

  • Offer support to help people experiencing mental health challenges lead meaningful lives in the community

  • Promote recovery

  • Teach skills

  • Enhance hope and social networking

  • Supplement existing treatment with education, empowerment, and aid in system navigation

  • Give helpful resources

What is Peer Support?

Peer support is considered a best practice by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Research shows peer support services can have a big impact on the consumers they support by:

  • Reducing symptoms and hospitalizations

  • Increasing social support and community participation

  • Decreasing lengths of hospital stays and costs of services

  • Improving well-being, self-esteem, and social functioning

  • Encouraging more thorough and longer-lasting recoveries

What does WISE U Cover?

The training is based on Substance And Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) core principles for peer support as well as organizational knowledge from Cal Voices' (Formerly NorCalMHA), one of California's oldest peer-run consumer advocacy agencies.

  • Understanding of the Recovery Model

  • Key concepts of Recovery

  • Guiding principles of recovery-oriented care

  • Core principles and values of peer support

  • ​Enhancing hope and social networking for clients served

  • Effective strategies to promote and model recovery

  • Meaningful support skills to help people experiencing mental health challenges

  • Sharing your story of lived experience

  • Cultural competence

  • Recovery planning

  • Trauma-Informed care

  • Mental Health First Aid/Crisis Management

  • Group facilitation of peer support groups

  • Identifying and maintaining ethical boundaries

  • Supplementing existing treatment with education, empowerment, and aid in system navigation

This training is designed to increase the workforce and development of peer support services in substance use disorders and mental health services settings. Funded by the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD).

What does a Peer do?

Peer providers, (e.g., peer support specialists, recovery coaches) are people who use their experience of recovery from mental health and/or substance use disorders to support others in recovery. Combined with skills learned in formal training, like WISE U, their experience and institutional knowledge put them in a unique position to offer support. 

Peer roles:
  • Facilitating support groups

  • Peer counseling

  • Advocacy

  • Personal plan creation

  • WRAP® Workshops and Support

  • Health education/navigation

  • Cultural brokerage

  • Service referrals

  • Systems navigation

  • Benefits/healthcare acquisition

  • Crisis intervention

WISE U Background

WISE is a program of Cal Voices (a continuation of NorCal Mental Health America), one of the oldest peer-run consumer advocacy agencies in California. Established in 1946.


For over 70 years Cal Voices has focused on advocating for the interests of public mental health consumers and increasing the accessibility, quality, and affordability of mental health care. Since our beginnings, we have branched out to more than advocacy by providing peer support in collaboration with various counties and agencies throughout California. Along the way, we picked up some valuable knowledge about how to build capacity for the peer role and incorporate peer support workers as a meaningful part of the multi-disciplinary team of mental health professionals.

Workforce Integration Support and Education (WISE) was created in 2014. Funded by OSPHD with dollars from Prop 63 (MHSA), WISE supports, trains, and provides technical assistance to agencies employing peers and the peer providers themselves. The WISE U curriculum was developed through years of data collection, analysis and research.

WISE U is a recognized training program in preparation for the MHA National Certified Peer Specialist Certification. Learn more here.

720 Howe Ave, Suite 104

Sacramento, CA 95825



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