Guide / Overview

Addictions and Substance Abuse Social Work Program Overview - 2024

Social Worker License

by Social Worker License Staff

Updated: November 7th, 2023

The knowledge and abilities required to work with people and families affected by substance use and abuse are taught in degree programs in addictions/substance abuse social work. The assessment and treatment of substance use disorders, co-occurring mental health and substance abuse disorders, and the effects of addiction on families and communities are some of the subjects covered in these programs. Graduates of these programs are prepared to advocate for laws and initiatives that will address drug misuse and addiction as well as to offer direct services to people and families.

People who are drawn to careers in the addictions/substance abuse profession are frequently sympathetic and kind people who are dedicated to aiding others in overcoming their issues with substance use and misuse. Along with a desire to work with a variety of people and in demanding environments, they may also have great communication and interpersonal skills.

Individuals and families affected by substance use and abuse can receive a range of services from addictions/substance abuse social workers. Assessments, individual and group counseling, program referrals, and family support are a few of the services that may be offered. They might also offer case management services, such as aid in obtaining healthcare and social services, as well as support for legislation and initiatives that aim to combat drug usage and addiction. Additionally, social workers who specialize in addictions and substance misuse may offer outreach programs and community lectures to spread awareness of substance abuse and addiction and stop its beginning.

Overall, addictions/substance abuse social workers are essential in treating substance misuse and addiction because they offer direct services and support to people and their families, speak out in favor of laws and programs that address it, and seek to stop it from happening in the first place.

What should one think about when deciding on an Addictions/Substance Abuse Social Work degree program?

Finding the right Addictions/Substance Abuse social work program can be an exciting and rewarding journey! To determine which school’s program is right for you, there are a few key things to consider.

Explore the Curriculum

One great way to get a feel for a program’s curriculum is to explore the school’s website. You can learn about the courses offered, the structure of the program, and the goals and objectives of the program. You can also reach out to the school directly to ask any questions you may have and get a more in-depth understanding of the program.

Examine the Quality of Professors

The quality of professors is also an important factor in determining which program is right for you. You can research the credentials and experience of the professors who will be teaching the courses you’re interested in. You can also reach out to current students or alumni of the program to ask about their experiences with the professors.

Some specific credentials of social work professors that indicate their quality in the field of addictions/substance abuse social work include:

  1. Advanced Degrees: A PhD or an MSW (Master of Social Work) degree from an accredited institution with a focus on addictions/substance abuse.
  2. Board Certification: A Board Certified Diplomate in Clinical Social Work (BCD) or a Certified Clinical Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs Social Worker (CCATODSW) certification indicates that the professor has advanced expertise in the field of addictions/substance abuse.
  3. Licensure: A licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) or licensed independent clinical social worker (LICSW) certification with a focus on addictions/substance abuse.
  4. Professional Experience: Professors with substantial practical experience working in the field of addictions/substance abuse, such as providing individual, family, and group therapy, as well as managing programs and conducting research in this area.
  5. Research and Scholarship: Professors who have a strong record of research and publication in the field of addictions/substance abuse demonstrate their expertise and commitment to advancing the field.
  6. Teaching Experience: Professors who have taught courses specifically focused on addictions/substance abuse, as well as provided supervision and training to students in this area, can demonstrate a successful track record in instructing students in this specialty.
  7. Service and Leadership: Professors who are active in professional organizations and hold leadership positions within organizations focused on addictions/substance abuse can demonstrate their commitment to the field and their expertise.

How Extensive are Student Resources?

Another important factor to consider is the resources available to students. You can learn about the resources available by exploring the school’s website or reaching out to the school directly. Look for information about things like academic advising, student organizations, and career services.

Make Sure the School Has Quality Alumni Services

Finally, it’s important to consider the post-graduate resources available to students, such as career placement services and networking opportunities. You can learn about these resources by exploring the school’s website, reaching out to the school directly, or speaking with alumni of the program.

A school should be able to provide alumni services to addictions/substance abuse social work program alumni by implementing the following:

  1. Networking Opportunities: The school can host alumni events, webinars, and online forums that provide opportunities for alumni to connect with one another, share their experiences, and build professional networks.
  2. Continuing Education: The school can offer continuing education opportunities, such as workshops, conferences, and online courses, to help alumni stay current with developments in the field of addictions/substance abuse social work.
  3. Career Services: The school can provide career services to alumni, such as job search resources, career counseling, and opportunities to connect with potential employers.
  4. Mentorship Programs: The school can establish mentorship programs that pair alumni with current students or recent graduates to provide guidance and support in navigating the field of addictions/substance abuse social work.
  5. Access to Library and Research Resources: The school can provide alumni with ongoing access to its library and research resources, allowing them to stay current with developments in the field.
  6. Alumni Newsletter: The school can publish a regular alumni newsletter that features updates on alumni accomplishments, news from the school, and information about upcoming events.
  7. Alumni Association: The school can establish an alumni association that provides a formal structure for alumni engagement and fosters a sense of community among alumni.

What are Some of the Common Required Topics/Curriculum Taught in Addictions/Substance Abuse Social Work Degree Programs?

A college student pursuing a degree in addictions/substance abuse social work is typically required to learn the following topics and concepts:

  1. Substance Use Disorders: Students will learn about the diagnosis, assessment, and treatment of substance use disorders, as well as the biological, psychological, and social factors that contribute to addiction.
  2. Interventions and Treatment Approaches: Students will learn about various interventions and treatment approaches, such as individual, family, and group therapy, as well as pharmacotherapy, harm reduction, and 12-step programs.
  3. Case Management and Service Coordination: Students will learn how to provide case management and service coordination to individuals with substance use disorders, including how to link them with appropriate resources and support systems.
  4. Ethics and Legal Issues: Students will learn about ethical and legal considerations related to the practice of addictions/substance abuse social work, including informed consent, confidentiality, and issues related to substance abuse treatment.
  5. Health Policy and Advocacy: Students will learn about health policy and advocacy related to substance abuse treatment, including advocacy for increased access to treatment and support for individuals with substance use disorders.
  6. Trauma-Informed Care: Students will learn about the impact of trauma on individuals with substance use disorders and how to provide trauma-informed care to this population.
  7. Cultural Competence: Students will learn how to provide culturally competent services to individuals with substance use disorders, taking into account the cultural background and experiences of clients.
  8. Recovery and Relapse Prevention: Students will learn about the recovery process and how to support individuals in maintaining long-term recovery, as well as how to prevent relapse.