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12 Core Functions of a Substance Abuse Counselor

Substance Abuse Counselors provide screening and assessment

Substance abuse screening can help you determine where you need help to recover successfully.

If you are seeking information about substance abuse counselors, you may have heard of the 12 core functions of a substance abuse counselor. Note that these core functions are not the same as the 12 step treatment programs you may be familiar with. Rather, the core functions of addiction counseling have been set in place as a standard for counselors to use in their practice, and as a way for them to be held responsible and accountable for their work. These are the steps and processes that a counselor must adhere to with every single patient they see.

What are the 12 Core Functions of a Substance Abuse Counselor?

The following is a simplified explanation of each of the core functions of counseling.

1. Screening: This is the initial evaluation stage, during which a potential patient’s physiological, psychological, and social symptoms of substance abuse are evaluated. The client’s need and eligibility for treatment is assessed, and based these and other factors, a counselor will decide whether or not to admit the patient for treatment.

2. Intake: For all intents and purposes, this can be seen as an extension of the screening stage. During this process, the decision to admit the patient is documented extensively and made official.

3. Orientation: These first three core functions of addiction counseling may not be exact in order; the orientation stage may take place before, during, or after the screening and intake stages. The main goal of orientation is to familiarize the client with the general rules and goals of the counseling program, and what the client can and should expect over the course of treatment.

4. Assessment: Moving on to the next stage of the 12 core functions of a substance abuse counselor, this is when the counselor/patient relationship really begins. In this stage, the counselor works with the patient to gather his history, relating but not limited to any problems with substance abuse. This information-gathering can take the form of interviews, testing, and review of patient records.

5. Treatment Planning: Now the counselor and patient really start to work together; during this process, the counselor and patient identify the problems that are in need of resolution, and discuss and agree upon an appropriate treatment process by establishing short- and long-term goals.

6. Counseling: The counselor assists his patient by examining the patient’s actions and problems, and by helping the patient see the consequences of his substance abuse and destructive behaviors. The counselor also works with his client to come up with solutions that the patient can agree to and be held accountable for and, together, the two implement their treatment plan.Substance abuse counseling

7. Case Management: This core function of counseling brings the various parties and resources together for the purpose of coordinating services for the client. After a treatment plan has been established, the gathered resources come together to help meet the patient’s needs as mapped out in the treatment plan.

8. Crisis Intervention: Of the 12 core functions of a substance abuse counselor, this one may be the most intermittent. It involves taking immediate action in response to any serious or crucial crises that come up during the course of treatment.

9. Client Education: It’s part of the counselor’s responsibility to provide resources and information to other groups and individuals who may also have issues with substance abuse. These resources should be aimed at informing and educating the general public, and letting them know what resources and services are available.

10. Referral: Over the course of the other core functions of addiction counseling, it’s likely that a patient will express certain problems and needs that cannot be met by his counselor. When that happens, the counselor should assist the client in matching his needs to the appropriate resource, such as a different counselor or treatment program.

11. Reports and Record Keeping: As with most jobs, it’s important to document the administration and results of assessments and treatment. Counselors are responsible for taking notes, writing reports, and keeping track of other data relating to each patient.

12. Consultation with Other Professionals in Regard to Client Treatment/Services: The last of the core functions of counseling is one that many patients may underestimate. By consulting with other staff and peers, counselors can ensure that the patient has been provided with the best and most thorough care and treatment.

Understanding the Core Functions of Counseling will Make you a Better Patient

So, what does all this information have to do with you? You’ll be happy to know that, as a potential patient, it’s not necessary that you memorize and fully understand these core functions of counseling. That being said, by at least familiarizing yourself with these standards, you can be more proactive in your search for a substance abuse counselor and in your treatment in general. Knowing these 12 core functions of a substance abuse counselor will help you to understand what’s going on over the course of your treatment, and it will allow you to ask the right questions of your counselor and to be an active and engaged participant throughout your entire treatment process.