Social Work and Addiction - The Relationship

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Did you ever wonder what exactly a social worker does?
In honor of National Social Worker Month, let’s take a peek at the job of a social worker, and the important role they play in addiction treatment.

What is a Social Worker?

A Licensed Clinical Social Worker, commonly abbreviated to “LCSW”, is a therapist who is trained in the assessment, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental, behavioral and emotional disorders. The focus of social workers is helping to improve the quality of life of the clients they serve in general, and vulnerable segments of the population in particular. They can be found in health clinics, hospitals, government agencies, residential treatment centers, and private practices.

What Do Social Workers Do?

So, how do social workers succeed in creating positive outcomes for their clients? They utilize many therapy modalities - such as psychoanalytic, behavioral, cognitive, humanistic, and integrative therapies - to diagnose and treat mental illnesses. They refer clients to psychiatrists or doctors when they feel medication would be beneficial, and they connect their clients with valuable resources and support systems that can give them the aid they require. Social workers guide their clients through challenges and personal difficulties, helping them come out stronger in the end.

Role of Social Work In Addiction Treatment

When it comes to substance abuse treatment and recovery, the expression “It takes a village” couldn’t be truer. Successful and sustained sobriety requires the devoted involvement of an array of professionals, each bringing unique strengths and skills to the table. That being said, social workers are an integral part of the addiction treatment team. Working alongside medical doctors, psychiatrists, therapists and 12 – Step sponsors, social workers serve as not only therapists, but case managers who coordinate care, advocate for their clients, and secure all necessary services and resources.

Quite often, addictions develop as a result of a pre-existing mental health condition – such as anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder. When these conditions are compounded by an addiction, they are known as “co-occurring disorders”. Treating just the addiction (or the problems caused by the addiction), without addressing the root cause itself, would be useless – and only result in a relapse.

This is why social workers are so critical to addiction treatment: Thanks to their education and psychotherapeutic training, they are capable of identifying the underlying causes of a substance use disorder. They are able to identify the needs of their clients beyond the scope of their surface issue, and as such, can create an effective treatment regimen and oversee its execution until the intended results are achieved. This integrated treatment approach allows the client to heal from the inside out, addressing past traumas and wounds and helping them build their life anew.

Additionally, social workers may discuss at length the impact that the client’s social environment had on their development of substance use disorder. Aside from pre-existing mental health conditions, a toxic environment - whether at home, school, or on the street – can be a major contributing factor to an addiction. To rectify this, social workers will guide clients in identifying unhealthy environments, avoiding them, and forming new and positive relationships.

Common Intervention Strategies in Social Work

In their efforts to facilitate true healing for their clients on the path to sobriety, social workers will use many different clinical and practical strategies in their treatment. They may use Cognitive or Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Trauma Therapy, Motivational Interviewing, or Medication – Assisted Treatment (like Suboxone, Buprenorphine, Methadone or Naltrexone).

They might also provide their services in a variety of settings, such as individual therapy, group talk therapy, and family/ couple counseling sessions. Used effectively, these methods can bring true healing and relief to people suffering from substance addictions.

Thanking Our Social Workers

Now that we have a clearer understanding of the invaluable role which social workers play in the world of addiction recovery, let’s pay tribute to these mental health heroes! Social workers across all fields give heart and soul each day to help their clients live their best lives, and for that they deserve our sincere admiration and gratitude. If you or a loved one has been helped by a social worker in the past, reach out thank them for the positive impact they had on your life!

Which mental health hero would you like to hail this month? Nominate your person of choice below for a chance to win Beats headphones!
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Are you or a loved one struggling with a substance use disorder? There is help, and there is hope! Reach out to Avenues Recovery Center to hear how we can help you begin your journey home today.

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