Today, more than 20 million people suffer from a substance use disorder. Of this group, as many as eight million have a co-occurring mental health disorder, too. In addition to the psychiatrists and therapists who care for them, there are also the social workers who support them— typically as staff employed by a rehab center.
Social workers may have any number of specialties. Social workers who work at a drug and alcohol rehab center typically specialize in addiction and mental health. They have received training to serve clients who are diagnosed with a substance use disorder or dual diagnosis. While the role they play in rehabs may sometimes be overlooked, their support is often crucial for clients in recovery.
In short, a social worker, sometimes referred to as a behavioral health technician, provides rehab clients with meaningful support, helping them learn how to manage their disorder and locate resources in the community that can provide them with ongoing support. To learn more about this profession, read on.
Addiction Treatment Centers Rely on Social Workers
Social workers play a key role in rehab patient care. In the addiction treatment field, they work as therapists and should have the appropriate training necessary to provide this level of care. Often, they will meet with rehab clients in both individual and group settings and provide social and emotional support and discuss topics that support recovery.
Social workers at rehab centers can fulfill other vital functions as well. They work as rehab administrators, case managers, and educators. Addiction treatment centers rely on social workers to support clients each day, providing therapeutic support and helping their clients grow in their ability to manage their addiction or dual diagnosis.
Roles and Duties of an Addition Rehab Social Worker
Social workers are highly trained, but their training may take a specific focus. Many social workers choose to work at addiction treatment centers and specialize in alcohol and drug addiction therapy. Depending on their experience, they may fulfill a number of roles at a rehab center, including therapist, case manager, rehab administrator, interventionist, community outreach specialist, patient care coordinator, and patient advocate. Many social workers combine several of these roles during their tenure working at alcohol and drug treatment centers.
Some of the specific duties that a rehab social worker or behavioral health technician may perform include:
- Clinical counseling in individual and group settings
- Client assessment/diagnosis
- Ongoing client evaluation
- Treatment plan development
- Connecting clients to community resources
- Interventionist support and organization
- Community outreach
- Case management services for clients
- Coordination of client care with other clinicians
- Administrative functions (such as directing the treatment center or specific departments)
- Academic research
Social workers are able to provide physical, emotional, and social support for patients. Their work in rehab centers is invaluable to both their clients and colleagues.
Is There a Certification for a Social Worker?
Social work is a professional career that requires graduate work and either a MSW or LSCW degree. To become a social worker, students must complete two years of graduate school training and then two or three additional years of supervised work in a clinical setting. In order to practice, these professionals must be licensed by the state.
What Role Can You Expect to Perform as a Social Worker?
Social workers work in rehabs, hospitals, clinics, and other facilities, but when applying to work at an addiction treatment center, applicants can expect to work closely with clients, providing them with counseling that focuses on their substance use disorder and contributing factors such as past trauma or a mental health disorder.
While social workers can provide counseling and direct therapy sessions, they cannot prescribe medication. However, psychiatrists and other medical doctors may consult with them about patient care and include their assessments in the patient’s treatment plan.
What Is a Typical Day Like for a Rehab Social Worker?
Social workers may fulfill individualized duties for their treatment center on any given day. That said, a typical day might look roughly as follows:
8 AM – 10 AM: Meet individually with clients for one-on-one therapy sessions. Listen and provide counseling that addresses each client’s needs. Update clients’ notes after each session.
11 AM – 12 PM: Meet for group therapy that may be related to any number of treatment approaches such as relapse prevention, 12-step facilitation, anger management, etc…
1 PM – 2 PM: Assist with client assessments for newly enrolled clients. Develop treatment plans based on these evaluations.
2 PM- 3 PM: Meet for group therapy.
3PM – 4PM: Perform administrative duties such as updating client plans, planning group sessions, and performing research.
Is a Rehab Social Worker a Good Job?
Working as a social worker at an addiction treatment center is a good job that can be extremely gratifying as well as professionally rewarding. Generally, social workers go into the field in order to help people. Clients in rehab face difficult challenges as they begin their recovery journey. Social workers perform services that are instrumental to that recovery process.
That isn’t to suggest that rehab social workers don’t have challenging days. Sometimes clients don’t respond to a certain approach or resist putting in the effort necessary to progress in their recovery.
Social workers are in high demand, particularly in the field of addiction and mental health treatment. With the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), insurance providers are now required to provide at least a minimum of coverage for mental health treatment and substance abuse treatment. That means more patients than ever can access the care they need to manage their conditions. Social workers are needed to help them do just that.
Is Working as a Social Worker in an Addiction Treatment Center Right for You?
Social work is a “people” job. Rather than focusing on tasks, you’ll be focusing on people primarily. That type of job isn’t ideal for people who don’t enjoy meeting in social groups or prefer to work independently.
However, for people who love to help other people, social work might be the ideal position. Social workers rely on excellent communication skills. They must be good listeners as well as thoughtful advisors.
One of the difficulties in social work is how emotionally taxing it can be. Clients discuss many personal and often traumatic or distressing situations. Providing empathetic care means facing these challenges, to some extent, together with clients. It can be emotionally exhausting.
Nevertheless, performing this service is often the key to helping clients achieve the lasting recovery they crave. If you enjoy helping people and want to specialize in the addiction field, the need for such roles is great.