Mental health and Substance Abuse Social Workers are categorized as Social careers according to the Strong Interest Inventory® assessment. This comprehensive database of careers has been refined since its initial release in 1927, and is used to help people find fulfilling careers that align with their personal interests, workplace and personal preferences, leadership style, and a number of other characteristics. Social careers center on instructing or helping others. People with a proclivity for social careers tend to enjoy comforting or guiding others, especially in situations in which they may be vulnerable. Such individuals are often naturally happy, positive people, who derive professional satisfaction from time spent in a social environment.
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers are responsible for assessing and treating people who may have mental, emotional, or substance abuse problems. Clients are often referred to them by other organizations. As they get to know their clients, Social Workers must interview them; review any records, court orders, or other documentation; and work with other medical or psychiatric professionals to coordinate a therapy regimen. Once a plan is established, counselors then facilitate individual or group sessions to assist them in dealing with their challenges, including substance abuse, illness, unemployment, or other kinds of issues. Along the way, they monitor their clients carefully to track their progress with respect to their treatment goals. If clients are having trouble staying on track, counselors may refer them to other resources to facilitate their progress. They may also modify treatment plans as needed in order to ensure optimal outcomes.
Most work that Mental Health and other Social Workers do is in person, face-to-face counseling with their clients either in individual, one-on-one sessions or in small groups. Their primary technology is computers, which are used primarily for organization and documentation. The software used can be broader, including scheduling software, desktop publishing and word processing software (e.g., Adobe PageMaker, Microsoft Publisher, Microsoft Office Suite), and medical software (e.g., James Frazier Associates DataStart; Social Work Software ClientTouch, etc.).
In addition to these technical skills, most Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers have graduate degrees, including a Master’s or Doctorate degree in social work or a related field. In their degree programs, they develop an in-depth knowledge of human psychology and techniques for delivering therapy and counseling services. They may also hone their customer service skills, and develop an academic foundation in sociology and anthropology. Of course, a professional proficiency in English as well as other languages spoken by their clients is necessary. Active listening and comprehension skills and social perceptiveness are important because of the highly interpersonal nature of this career. This combination of social and linguistic skills and professional and scholarly expertise allows Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers to provide their clients with the nuanced, personalized support that they need in order to get their lives back on track.
Nation-wide, the average salary of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers is $42,170 per year. However, there is considerable variation among states, with New Jersey, Connecticut, and Wyoming leading the nation, with averages nearing $60,000 per year. In New Jersey, the best paid Social Workers may earn nearly $100,000 per year. On the other hand, in the south, including in Oklahoma and Tennessee, the same individuals may make as little as $17,000 per year. The fastest growth for Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers is in Utah, which is projected to add almost 1,000 new jobs before 2024. The national growth rate is projected to be 18.9%, which means over 23,000 jobs are expected to be added nation-wide by 2024,
Below are some employment trends for Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers:
- Median wage: $20.28/hour; $42,170 annually
- Employment: 118,000 employees
- Projected growth (2014-2024): much faster than average (14% or higher)
- Projected job openings (2014-2024): 50,700
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Bureau of Labor Statistics wage data and 2014-2022 employment projections Onetonline.org