Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers
Training and Education
|Recommended Degree Level||Bachelor|
|Number of Jobs, 2012||109,920|
|Annual Job Growth Rate||4.8%|
|Job Openings per Year (est.)||6,940|
- Most jobs in this field require an associate degree or bachelor degree in social work or a related discipline.
- Social workers who intend to go into private practice must typically obtain a master's degree in order to obtain a license to practice.
- Entry level positions might require only a high school diploma.
- Continuing education training is available and is required in order to maintain certain high-level positions in the substance abuse social work field.
A brief introduction to mental health and substance abuse social worker careers. Produced for the US Dept. of Labor.
A Day in the Life
As a mental health and substance abuse social worker, you will spend much of your time dealing with the issues and concerns of individuals in recovery programs or in the early stages of their treatment plans. You will be called upon to counsel and support your clients throughout their treatment and to evaluate their progress toward sobriety and stability.
Your duties will include some or all of the following:
- Performing evaluations on incoming clients to determine their commitment to the process
- Helping clients to recognize their disease and to identify triggers for addictive behaviors
- Working with clients directly to discuss obstacles and issues in their path to sobriety
- Developing ongoing treatment plans in conjunction with clients and their families
- Providing families with information and guidance on how to assist the healing process
- Creating short and long-term strategies for addiction management and control
- Encouraging clients to take action to repair their personal lives and to seek stable employment, if appropriate
- Referring clients to other facilities and services for additional help in their recovery
Some clients may benefit from inpatient treatment in a substance abuse treatment facility. Your duties in these facilities will typically be more specialized and may involve working with a team of other counseling professionals to manage the mental health and substance abuse issues of your clients.
Certifications and Licensing
Certification and licensing requirements for mental health and substance abuse counselors vary depending on the environment in which they work. Some programs and facilities may not require that staff be licensed or certified. Private practitioners, however, must be licensed by the appropriate state board or governing body. The requirements for state licensing typically include the following:
- An accredited master's degree in social work, counseling or a related field
- Experience in the counseling field
- A passing score on the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification or the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination
Available certifications for substance abuse and mental health counselors include the National Certified Counselor, Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor and Master Addictions Counselor qualifications from the National Board for Certified Counselors. NAADAC also offers a number of specialty qualifications that include Nicotine Dependent Specialist and Spiritual Caregiving to Help Addicted Persons and Families certificates.
Full-time versus part-time:
Mental health and substance abuse counselors generally work full-time hours. While scheduling may be flexible, professionals in this field typically remain on call during off hours and may be required to perform shift work or to return to work if staffing needs require it.
These online resources can provide valuable information for individuals interested in pursuing a career as a social worker in the field of mental health and substance abuse treatment.
- U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Handbook -- Perhaps the most comprehensive resource for information on any career in the U.S., the Occupational Handbook provides in-depth information on the working environment, typical duties, salaries and job prospects in the field of mental health and substance abuse counseling and treatment.
- National Board for Certified Counselors -- The National Board for Certified Counselors provides certification opportunities and information on continuing education for those working in the counseling field. This organization offers three certification tracks, two of which are specifically designed for mental health and substance abuse social workers.
- Addiction Technology Transfer Center Network -- One of the best resources for substance abuse counselors, this website offers information on cutting-edge research, continuing education and employment trends in the field of addiction and related mental health disorders.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse -- Operating under the auspices of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, this organization provides a wide range of grants, services and information for professional social workers and counselors in the field of substance abuse and addiction treatment.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration -- This government agency provides support and information for substance abuse and mental health counselors. Its focus is primarily on grants, education and support for victims of disaster, military personnel and their families and local addiction and mental health treatment centers.
- NAADAC -- Established in 1974 as the National Association of Alcoholism Counselors and Trainers, NAADAC is a member organization for addiction specialists and mental health counselors. The organization provides a voice for these health care professionals and offers a number of certification programs designed specifically for substance abuse social workers.