Expand mobile version menu

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Worker  What They Do

Just the Facts


Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers Career Video



Assesses and treats individuals with mental, emotional, or substance abuse problems, including abuse of alcohol, tobacco, and/or other drugs. Activities may include individual and group therapy, crisis intervention, case management, client advocacy, prevention, and education.

This career is part of the Human Services cluster Counseling and Mental Health Services pathway.


A person in this career:

  • Counsels clients in individual or group sessions to assist them in dealing with substance abuse, mental or physical illness, poverty, unemployment, or physical abuse.
  • Monitors, evaluates, and records client progress with respect to treatment goals.
  • Interviews clients, reviews records, conducts assessments, or confers with other professionals to evaluate the mental or physical condition of clients or patients.
  • Collaborates with counselors, physicians, or nurses to plan or coordinate treatment, drawing on social work experience and patient needs.
  • Counsels or aids family members to assist them in understanding, dealing with, or supporting the client or patient.
  • Refers patient, client, or family to community resources for housing or treatment to assist in recovery from mental or physical illness, following through to ensure service efficacy.
  • Modifies treatment plans according to changes in client status.
  • Educates clients or community members about mental or physical illness, abuse, medication, or available community resources.
  • Assists clients in adhering to treatment plans, such as setting up appointments, arranging for transportation to appointments, or providing support.
  • Increases social work knowledge by reviewing current literature, conducting social research, or attending seminars, training workshops, or classes.

Insider Info

Dig into the details and check out what people in this job have to say about their work.



Working Conditions and Physical Demands

People who do this job report that:

  • You would sit most of the time. There's some walking and standing. You may have to lift and carry things like books, papers or tools weighing 10 lbs. or less.
  • Work in this occupation requires being inside most of the time
  • Work in this occupation involves sitting more than one-third of the time

Working in this career involves (physical activities):

  • Seeing clearly up close
  • Speaking clearly enough to be able to be understood by others
  • Identifying and understanding the speech of another person

Work Hours and Travel

  • Regular working hours and limited travel

Specialty and Similar Careers

Careers that are more detailed or close to this career:

  • Addictions Counselor -- Helps their clients identify and overcome addictive behaviors and may provide counseling to family members or loved ones who have been affected by addiction.
  • Chemical Dependency Counselor -- Creates individualized rehabilitation programs to assist drug addicts in mastering their harmful addictions.
  • Criminal Justice Social Worker -- Provides aid, comfort and health assistance services to inmates and their families.
  • Crisis Intervention Counselor -- Provides immediate aid to individuals going through severe trauma.
  • Probation Officer -- Duties includes supervising released convicts; helping parolees find work and rehabilitate; creating pre- and post-conviction investigative reports for the courts; acting as a witness in court proceedings; monitoring rehabilitation and making recommendati
  • Psychiatric Social Worker -- Duties include counseling and helping families understand and deal with the patient, supervising and directing other workers, developing or advising on social policy and conducting social research to advance knowledge.
  • Community Mental Health Social Worker --