Peer Ethics and Confidentiality

On this page, you’ll learn about peer worker professional responsibilities related navigating ethical issues while providing services. Once you have completed this section, you should be able to:

  • Describe common ethical consequences peers encounter at work
  • Explain some key steps to take and key steps to avoid while providing services
  • Discuss examples of best practices of peer ethical behavior

Ethical and Boundary Considerations

Peer support specialists may encounter several ethical issues in their work. It’s important to acknowledge that there are different types of peer workers. Some peer support is entirely voluntary. This peer support is grounded in mutuality, where there is an equitable give-and-take within the relationship. However, paid peer support shifts the roles somewhat. The focus of this content is for peer recovery support specialists who are paid to do the work of peer support. 

Ethical Best Practices

As an example, the following is reprinted from the Arkansas Peer Code of Ethics:


  • I will keep my personal recovery first.


  • I share my lived experiences to help others.


  • I will provide services in a respectful way.
  • I affirm the right and dignity of each person I work with.
  • I empower others to identify and achieve their needs and goals.
  • I advocate for individuals with mental health and/or substance use disorders.
  • I will not stop services without telling the person I am working with and will make a referral for continued services when appropriate.
  • I will only provide services inside my area of lived experience, training, competence, or scope of practice.
  • I provide recovery support services regardless of someone’s age, gender, race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, religion, marital status, political belief, language, criminal history, socioeconomic status or mental or physical condition.


  • I respect the privacy of those I serve, and I will follow confidentiality guidelines as required by law.
  • I will tell my supervisor and the local child/adult protective agency if I suspect or have reason to believe that a child, individual over the age of 62, or individuals with a developmental disability has been abused or neglected or if I have knowledge of, observe a child being subjected to, conditions that would reasonably result in harm to the child.
  • I will inform my supervisor immediately if an individual I am working with has a risk of physically harming themselves or someone else.


  • I act in accordance with the law.
  • I do not use physical force, verbal/emotional abuse, or make promises of benefits.
  • I represent myself and my capabilities accurately.
  • I do not provide or accept gifts from people that I serve.
  • I will not engage in sexual/intimate relations with individuals that I serve/have served or their families.
  • I do not provide services to individuals with whom I have had a prior sexual relationship.
  • I will not promote any service which would result in my personal gain.


  • I will improve my recovery service knowledge/skills through ongoing education and training.

The California Department of Health Care Services adapted the Medi-CAL Code of Ethics for Peer Support Specialists in July of 2021.View this document here


NAADAC. Arkansas Peer Recovery Code of Ethics. Available at,and%2For%20substance%20use%20disorders.