What do Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers Do?
Are you interested in a career that involves offering guidance and advice to emotionally vulnerable people? If so, then you may want to consider becoming a mental health and substance abuse social worker. Substance abuse social workers handle issues regarding the abuse of addictive substances such as drugs, alcohol, and tobacco. They may provide individual and group counseling, case management, and even crisis intervention for the most acute cases. Workers in this industry are commonly employed by hospitals, prisons, government agencies, and community organizations.
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers Skills and Abilities
An educational background in psychology along with a deep understanding of mental and emotional processes is required for this career. Workers should be familiar with how the mind and body respond to chemical substances, and how to properly counsel patients facing addiction. Since you will be discussing extremely sensitive topics, a high degree of compassion and open-mindedness is needed. Knowledge of different communities, ethnic groups, and belief systems is needed in order to provide the best care for patients, who may have varying social backgrounds. Social workers should also understand federal and state laws and how the community at large views substance abuse.
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers Duties
The primary goal of a substance abuse social worker is to provide guidance and advice to those struggling with dependency issues. Counseling is a major part of this job, and social workers spend a sizeable amount of time speaking to both individuals and groups. Social workers may choose to work with one specific demographic (ex: women, children, elderly) or work with the general population. Counseling sessions, home visits, and groups are commonly utilized in an attempt to help substance abusers readjust to everyday life. Substance abuse social workers may also:
- Participate in community awareness programs
- Help patients secure employment or housing
- Work closely with psychiatrists, therapists, and other health workers
- Refer patients and their families to local resources
- Educate others about issues facing a particular demographic
- Monitor patient progress and maintain files
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers Tools and Technology
Substance abuse social workers utilize basic technology to adequately perform their jobs. Communication devices, such as phones and faxes are used to keep in contact with colleagues and send information. E-mails are also used for this same reason, and workers should field comfortable sending data electronically. Computers are also used to input, store, and organize client information and feedback. Basic office supplies such as pens, pencils, and clipboards are important components of any counseling session.
Education and Training for Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers
Becoming a substance abuse social worker requires at least a bachelor’s degree. Approximately 42% of workers held a bachelor’s only, while another 34% possessed a master’s degree. There is a moderate amount of training before being allowed to work independently, and many social workers perform a brief residency under the guidance of more senior level personnel. Substance abuse social workers may work under a psychiatrist or therapist.
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers Salary
The mean annual salary of a substance abuse social worker is $41,400, with the top 10% earning over $70,000 yearly. There was a 1.2% increase in salary for this field over the last year. Workers employed by private physician practices earned the most, while those employed by community organizations earned the least. Social workers in the Northeastern and Western United States earned the highest wages.
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers Jobs by Geography
California, New York, and Pennsylvania employed the highest amount of substance abuse workers in the nation. New Jersey was the top paying state for workers in this field. There was a 1.6% increase in employment levels over the last year, and there are currently 109,460 people employed as substance abuse workers in the country. The New York City metro area had the highest concentration of jobs in this industry.