What Does a Substance Abuse Social Worker?

Social workers in many fields work with clients whose lives are affected by addictive behaviors. Expertise in this realm can support the responsibilities of social workers in fields such as mental health, corrections, and homelessness.  More specifically, a substance abuse social worker may specialize in the treatment of addictions in residential programs or therapy settings.

Specialists often work with dual-diagnosed patients who are undergoing treatment for mental health issues as well as addictions. Substance abuse social workers often provide therapy that equips their clients to overcome addictive thoughts and behaviors.  They also facilitate transitions into the community for recovering addicts by connecting them with resources for housing and employment, and they may conduct support groups to further assist addicts on the path to recovery.

Typical Roles and Responsibilities of the Substance Abuse Social Worker

  • Substance abuse social workers are responsible for addressing the mental and emotional ramifications of addiction. They may work in facilities such as:
    • Mental health clinics
    • Psychiatric hospitals
    • Residential recovery clinics
    • Community centers

Substance Abuse Social Worker Average Salary

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that substance abuse social workers earn a median annual wage of $47,190. Psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals offer higher mean salaries – around $53,000 per year – and have the highest concentration of jobs in the field.  Salaries vary based on location, role, and level of licensure.

Substance Abuse Social Worker Education & Experience Requirements

Nearly all positions in the field call for clinical social work licensure at the master’s degree level. Some states or positions may require additional certifications or courses.  The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) offers a credential for MSW holders with post-graduate experience in the field of substance abuse.  The first step toward licensure or additional certifications is always a master’s degree in social work that is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) – find a program that meets your educational and professional goals here.

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Field of Practice: Drugs and Alcohol / Addictive Behaviors
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Field of Practice: Drugs and Alcohol / Addictive Behaviors
Want to learn more about becoming a substance abuse social worker? See the overview, responsibilities, and salary of this career path.
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