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Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Worker

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Master's degree

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What They Do

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers Career Video

About This Career

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.
  • Collaborates with counselors, physicians, or nurses to plan or coordinate treatment, drawing on social work experience and patient needs.
  • 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.
  • Supervises or directs other workers who provide services to clients or patients.
  • Modifies treatment plans according to changes in client status.
  • Assists clients in adhering to treatment plans, such as setting up appointments, arranging for transportation to appointments, or providing support.
  • Educates clients or community members about mental or physical illness, abuse, medication, or available community resources.
  • Counsels or aids family members to assist them in understanding, dealing with, or supporting the client or patient.
  • Increases social work knowledge by reviewing current literature, conducting social research, or attending seminars, training workshops, or classes.

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:

  • Case Manager — Deals with individuals involved in accident claims to ensure that the individual receives the best possible options.
  • Clinical Social Worker — Evaluates client needs, performs mental health counseling and designs treatment plans, along with other duties that involve interaction with a client's family members or health care professionals such as physical therapists, registered nurses or physician.
  • Clinical Therapist
  • Clinician
  • Counselor
  • Mental Health Therapist — Works with clients who are dealing with a range of emotional or psychological conditions.
  • Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) — Works with individuals, couples, families and groups to help them overcome a range of psychological and emotional issues.
  • Social Worker — Helps individuals, couples, families, groups, communities and organizations develop the skills and resources they need to enhance social functioning and provide counseling, therapy and referral to other supportive social services.
  • Substance Abuse Counselor
  • Therapist


  • Email Support
  • 1-800-GO-TO-XAP (1-800-468-6927)
    From outside the U.S., please call +1 (424) 750-3900
  • North Dakota Career Resource Network
    ndcrn@nd.gov | (701) 328-9733