Syllabus - Reentry Peer Support Specialist Counseling Course

Download - Peer Support Checklist


For further information please contact Abigail Rabinowitz via email: [email protected] or at 708-990-7849


Reentry Peer Support Specialist


Program Description

The Hinda Institute as part of its’ Reentry Education Program is currently piloting a "Reentry Peer Support Specialist" certification. This program will teach you how to offer psychosocial support as a peer counselor. 

Introduction to the Hinda Institute

Over 40 years, the Hinda Institute has provided counseling, visitation and support to those who encounter the criminal justice system; the formerly incarcerated, spouses, parents and children in order to lower recidivism rates and ensure that those coming out of prison do not return. We help with job placement, housing, training, social support, therapy and spiritual guidance.
The Hinda Institute has a dynamic reentry program post incarceration.The program assists our clients to rebuild their lives for good, post incarceration. 

The program provides:
Education, resources and support for clients as they reenter society;
Support groups; and caseworkers to assist our clients.  

The objectives of the program are to: 

  1. Help those who are re-entering society to support themselves. 
  2. Help those who are re-entering adapt socially, psychologically and spiritually.
  3. Providing basic legal guidance. 

A large component of the program involves education.

The program includes courses on:

  1. Psychosocial topics like PTSD,
  2. Legal advice and
  3. Practical courses like finding a job after incarceration. 


For further information on courses and other services, please contact the Program Coordinator Abigail Rabinowitz, at 708 990 7849.  

Our mission is simple: 0% recidivism, 100% acceptance.



What is a Peer Support Specialist?

A Reentry Peer Support Specialist is a person with personal experience in overcoming the challenges of reentry such as employment which is often coupled with addiction, family alienation or mental health challenges, such as trauma and PTSD. They therefore understand on a personal level what the client is experiencing. 

Counselors and other care providers with experience in this area may need to maintain professional distance and not discuss their past, but this limitation is not in place for peer support specialists.

A peer specialist in this context may have the same mental health conditions, but has learned how to manage and control it through therapy, medications, and other means.

1) A peer specialist offers supportive peer counseling though sharing lived experiences and expertise to client throughout the reentry process. They provide mentoring and act as a participant in the patient's therapy along with other trained care providers. 
Clients can get help with the recommended steps and activities, as well as having a friendly ear available when they are struggling. Peer specialists can also offer advice to people looking for stronger relationships, setting life goals and developing basic social skills.

2) A peer support specialist is an expert on finding resources and working to find solutions and refer clients as part of a multidisciplinary team.  
Clients can meet with the peer support specialist to talk about options and learn more about the choices that may be available to them (online or in person if available).
Please find a more detailed list of competencies and objectives below. 

Please find a more detailed list of competencies and objectives below. 


Job Description
A  Peer Support Reentry Support Specialist assesses the client’s personal, medical, emotional, social and environmental situation to plan for treatment course through home, community, and meetings (either in person or online). 

They motivate and support clients to assist them in their diverse challenges during reentry and co-occurring health issues. 

The Peer Support is an advocate for clients and links them to community services as needed.  

They will be trained in client-centered, strength-based, and trauma-informed care services customized to client’s needs. 

They will complete case management tasks with clients within a shared caseload.  

The Peer Support will be trained in crisis/on-call coverage as directed.


Advantages of Certification

There are many benefits of this certification for you. 

  • Certificates can assist with parole and probation requirements.
  • A Reentry Specialist Certification will help with finding employment in an area where you already have expertise and experience. This a new field and people are looking for employees. 
  • You will have an opportunity to validate and use your experiences to help others. This will allow you to give back to the community, build confidence and simultaneously gain self-awareness.

Most importantly, you will get a high level of training at a very low cost.

The training includes: 

  • An opportunity to practice counseling others. 
  • Personal counseling mentorship and support. 
  • Training by experts in the field. 
  • Opportunities to dialogue and learn from your peers. 


Program Requirements

To receive the certification:

  1. You must successfully pass 3 prerequisite courses and mandatory training. This means you must pass three tests and any required role plays. 

  2. As part of the program, you will also need to meet with a professional to deal with any latent trauma, biases and transference. You will also need a self-care plan. 

  3. You will need to complete the practicum requirements. 

  4. The final courses will teach you how to offer psychosocial support as a peer counselor. There is a fee associated with the last two courses. 


Courses and Requirements 

Please find below a list of courses and requirements.

All courses are offered by online instruction.


Curriculum Hours Details
Selection Process  1 hour  Post application you will be interviewed, as we have limited space.

1. Mandatory courses

  • External Courses 
  • Can be done online 
  • No cost

Suicide Prevention

(Options: Suicide Awareness , AFSP , or equivalent)  

2 Mandatory, online 

Child Protection 

(Options: IL Child Protection or equivalent

2 Mandatory, online 

2. Prerequisite Courses: Winter 2023

Choose 3 from Courses Below

  • Alternate courses on re-entry in social work, psychology, or sociology will be accepted
  • No Cost 
  • Course registration will open approximately one month prior to start date
What Happened to Me?
7 hours of sessions 

via ZOOM 

Peer Counseling Fundamentals

8 hours of sessions 

via ZOOM

with 5 hours of practicum

Conflict Mediation in Family - Post Incarceration  8 hours of sessions 

via ZOOM

Wednesdays May 10 to June 7 from 7-8 PM CST

Mental Health First Aid 

1 Day

(5-8 hours)

ZOOM outside agency 
From Victim to Survivor to Offender  8 hours of sessions  via ZOOM Wednesdays from July 12 to August 23
Peer Support Reflection & Skill-Building Sessions 3 hours

Thursdays February 16, March 16, and April 20 from 7-9 PM CST

3. Personal Counseling 24 hours To look at transference, countertransference and bias 

4. Certification Courses for Reentry Peer Support Specialist: Summer 2023 

Cost per course - $250 

  • Open to those in the "Re-entry Peer Support Specialist Program" only
  • You will receive a certification of completion from the HINDA Institute 
  • Prerequisite course must be completed first
  • Practicums can be completed after the course, however you will not receive the certificate until practicum is completed.
  • Must past assessment post course
  • 3 sessions plus practicum hours
  • Course registration will open approximately one month prior to start date
Facilitating a Support Group as a Peer Support Specialist  Dates TBD (June/July 2023)
Counseling as a Peer Support Specialist  Dates TBD (June/July 2023)
5. Practicum  50 Hours *

Practicum hours are designed to be aligned with specific courses. HINDA will assist in finding practicum opportunities but ultimate responsibility for securing practicum and completing hours is on the student. 

Recommended timeline: 

  • 5 hours in Winter 2023 
  • 10 hours in Spring 2023 
  • 35 hours in Summer 2023 

*Additional hours are required for national certification. 

*Maintain a log of all completed hours. 


You need to complete 50 hours of doing peer support or leading support groups to pass the certification. You will need to complete a list of objectives which will need to be signed by your supervisor. 

The courses within the reentry program are facilitated by professors or experts in social work, sociology or psychology. The courses are developed by experts in instructional design and include measurable objectives, evaluations and structured interactive learning. 


Lead Facilitator
Prof. Kutzen is Founder and Director of Employee Consultation Services, a comprehensive human resources firm, specializing in designing and managing occupational health services.  
Her background and experience focus on guiding organizations in policy evaluation and developing practices related to corporate social responsibility, specifically their relationship between corporate activity and social issues.

Additional services include implementing and managing workplace Employee
Assistance Programs, trauma /critical incident debriefing, conducting programs in human resource development and family business consultation.

Dr. Kutzen is a cum laude graduate of the University of Chicago. School of Social Service Administration.  She received her Ph.D. in Social Work from the University of Illinois at Chicago, Jane Addams College of Social Work. Nationally recognized as a pioneer in the delivery of social services in the workplace, she is a member of the Academy of Certified Social Workers, the National Association of Social Workers and its Illinois Chapter.

She is Adjunct Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Jane Addams College of Social Work and Hebrew Theological College. Skokie, IL.

Dr. Kutzen has expanded her interest and gained expertise in the area of assisting in the re-entry issues facing post incarcerated individuals, their families and children. She currently volunteers to provide these services with the Safer Foundation, Adult Transition Center and the Hinda Institute.

There is no fee associated with any of the prerequisite courses, personal counseling, or practicum opportunities.

However, the two final certification courses (Facilitating a Support Group as a Peer Support Specialist, and Counseling as a Peer Support Specialist ), each have a fee of $250 per course.




Training Objective

In accordance with policies standards and best practices, the learner will be able to:

1. Initial intake and assessment 

Assess client’s personal, medical, emotional, social, and environmental situation 

Asses mental health needs as a first responder 

Identify client needs and potential crisis situations

Identify crisis situations and the appropriate response in accordance with organizational policies

2. Develop plan and strategies 

Coordinate and develop the establishment of an individual plan, goals, coping methods and strategies with the client, client’s support system, and other care providers as necessary

Develop a plan in collaboration with the client and support team

Recognize and act on opportunities to move clients to appropriate levels of care; provide referrals to additional services as indicated. 


3. Links to Community Resources and Support (Case Management)

Identify resources for clients  

Assist and advocate for clients in obtaining appropriate resources 

Cultivate contacts within agencies


Educate and assist clients with applying for entitlements; i.e. Supplemental Security Income, Social Security Disability Insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, and LINK 


Coordinate intakes to medical appointments, therapy sessions support groups and other resources as required


Interface and collaborate with parole and probation as appropriate


Assist clients with reentry housing, homelessness, employment, substance use, budgeting, social support, and medication challenges


Advocate on client’s behalf and empower clients to advocate on behalf of themselves when appropriate


Assist clients in learning and improving independent living skills


4. Supportive Peer Counseling 

Meet with clients regularly to offer one on one peer support and counseling

Provide peer support and counseling both individually and in support groups

Work collaboratively with clients to identify coping skills to assist in managing symptoms and stressors experienced


Provide peer-oriented individual supportive counseling which includes coaching clients in communication skills such as engaging clients, active listening and conflict resolution.  


Facilitate support groups to use the group process to encourage the exchange the ideas and shared problem solving 


Model and coach clients through discussing shared lived experiences, challenges and successes. Model good communication skills, effective coping skills, and self-help strategies


Actively participate in Peer Support meetings and activities to gain additional support in position

Participate in peer support groups

Identify the symptoms of PICS (PTSD) and other mental health crises, coping strategies and refer to support systems


Assist in the development of social skills through understanding the application of basic conflict mediation, life coaching goal setting, restorative justice and counseling techniques

Assist clients in finding strategies to deal with the challenges of reentry 

Cultivate self-awareness and identify transference, and countertransference and biases that interfere with peer support through therapy


5. Crisis Intervention 

See objective above

Respond to immediate requests for assistance, critical incidences and client’s emergencies 


Provide on-call and crisis coverage as assigned


Assess for crisis situations and assist clients in identifying the signs and symptoms of crisis requiring further professional or medical care 


6. Administration

Complete notes, adding assistance and goals for clients in database (add documentation) 


Comply with all policies in terms of handing confidential and proprietary information


Use release of information when communicating with other agencies 


Actively participate and consult using a team model 


Communicate and consult effectively within the team model for a multi-disciplinary approach to client care within team meetings 


Perform other related duties and/or projects as assigned such as social supports or research into resources 


Use provided database to track clients, goals and notes


Bonus Optional Criteria

Acquire a CRSS or peer support or reentry specialist degree within 2 years of hire

Experience working with people with mental health and/or substance abuse diagnoses preferred Experience in community-based services preferred


High School Diploma or GED or Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree in any field. 


Verifiable personal experience with psycho-social rehabilitation services, psychiatric disorders, substance abuse, and/or development disorders


Sustaining interest and compassion in working with adults with psychological, social and medical problems