If you are interested in working with clients and their families through challenging life situations, social work or substance abuse counseling may be career paths you want to explore. Social work and counseling are both fields that have grown substantially in recent years. While there is substantial overlap between the two fields, there are several factors to consider when choosing which direction to go.
A Career in Social Work
Following the path to becoming a social worker allows you to provide support to individuals, their families, and at-risk populations. While a social worker does help people obtain mental health services, their work often goes beyond mental health needs. In addition to providing one-on-one counseling, social workers often assist clients in obtaining services that improve their environment including connecting them with housing programs, support groups, employment assistance, and other resources.
A degree in social work can allow you to take on careers such as:
- Behavior specialist
- Care coordinator
A Career in Substance Abuse Counseling
While a substance abuse counselor can provide many of the same services to clients that a social worker would, much of their work focuses on individual growth, both mentally and emotionally, through individual therapeutic sessions. Substance abuse counselors help clients work through difficult emotional hurdles and other life experiences that may threaten their sobriety. Through regularly evolving sessions, clients learn how to develop healthy coping mechanisms and are better able to adapt to different situations.
Generally, a substance abuse counselor has obtained a counseling degree and has chosen to specialize in addiction counseling. The legal requirements to practice as a counselor vary from state-to-state so it is important to explore the specific requirements for a counseling degree by region.
How Do They Compare?
While both a licensed social worker and substance abuse counselor can provide mental health services, substance abuse counselors largely focus on helping clients through behavioral therapy and other forms of mental health treatment while social workers help clients form meaningful connections within communities of support. Additionally, while a person can operate within the scope of both jobs, the two occupations are not interchangeable. Generally, the role of a social worker is broader than the role of a counselor.
Both paths require completion of a program and in some cases, licensure must also be obtained. These requirements are largely dependent on what state a person lives in. It may also depend on what your career goals are. If you are more interested in a concentrated area of practice, counseling would provide you with the tools and resources to focus on specific areas of interest. If you prefer an environment that allows you to work in a variety of settings and provides you with the flexibility to adapt to varying client needs, social work may grant you more freedom to explore that. Regardless of which path you choose to follow, the need for both substance abuse counselors and social workers is growing and demand is expected to continue trending upwards.
Interested in becoming a substance abuse counselor?