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Career Profile: Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers

Assess and treat 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.

Salary and Outlook

According to the US Department of Labor, there are 124,000 people employed as mental health and substance abuse social workers in the United States. The median annual salary is $48,700. Entry level employees earn approximately $30,770 per year and senior employees earn approximately $87,420 per year.

Estimates do not include other potential benefits such as health insurance, overtime pay, or retirement benefits that may be offered by employers.

Job Duties

  • Refer 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.
  • Plan or conduct programs to prevent substance abuse, combat social problems, or improve health or counseling services in community.
  • Counsel clients in individual or group sessions to assist them in dealing with substance abuse, mental or physical illness, poverty, unemployment, or physical abuse.
  • Collaborate with counselors, physicians, or nurses to plan or coordinate treatment, drawing on social work experience and patient needs.
  • Monitor, evaluate, and record client progress with respect to treatment goals.
  • Interview clients, review records, conduct assessments, or confer with other professionals to evaluate the mental or physical condition of clients or patients.
  • Supervise or direct other workers who provide services to clients or patients.
  • Modify treatment plans according to changes in client status.
  • Assist clients in adhering to treatment plans, such as setting up appointments, arranging for transportation to appointments, or providing support.
  • Educate clients or community members about mental or physical illness, abuse, medication, or available community resources.
  • Counsel or aid family members to assist them in understanding, dealing with, or supporting the client or patient.
  • Increase social work knowledge by reviewing current literature, conducting social research, or attending seminars, training workshops, or classes.
  • Develop or advise on social policy or assist in community development.

Career List

Job Outlook


Total Current Jobs:
124,000
Annual Openings:
14,000
Increase in Openings by 2030:
15%
Annual Salary Range:
$30,770 - $87,420
Education Requirements:
Master's degree or higher