Substance use disorder (SUD) counseling is an important and highly specialized field of mental health counseling that requires a unique set of skills and knowledge.
To assist professionals in their efforts, the Substance Use Disorder Counseling Competency Framework is a comprehensive guide that outlines the foundational skills, knowledge, and abilities that counselors need to effectively work with clients who are struggling with SUD. This framework is the result of a joint effort between the American Counseling Association (ACA) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). It is designed to provide a set of standards that counselors can use to evaluate, develop, and enhance their practice as they work with clients who are struggling with SUD. This overview will provide a brief look at the essential components of the framework, including its purpose and structure, as well as its implications for SUD counselors and the clients they serve.
Overview of the Substance Use Disorder Counseling Competency Framework
The Substance Use Disorder Counseling Competency Framework is designed to provide counselors with a comprehensive guide that outlines the fundamental skills, knowledge, and abilities needed to counsel individuals with SUD. The framework is divided into three main sections, each of which provides a set of standards that counselors can use to evaluate, develop, and enhance their practice as they work with clients who are struggling with SUD.
The three sections of the framework are as follows:
- Professionalism – This section outlines the foundational skills, knowledge, and abilities that counselors need in order to ethically, effectively, and efficiently provide services to their clients.
- Practice-Centered Skills – This section identifies skills and abilities that counselors can use to retain and expand their practice, including the ability to identify and overcome one’s own personal barriers and professional challenges.
- Professional Growth – This section describes the developmental needs of counselors, including their need for supervision and their need to pursue self-development and lifelong learning.
Implications for SUD Counselors and Their Clients
By adhering to the components of the Substance Use Disorder Counseling Competency Framework, counselors can ensure that they are providing the most effective and client-centered services possible. In turn, this can help to improve the outcomes of their clients, ensuring that they are able to achieve their fullest potential in life. By adhering to this framework, counselors will also be able to receive the recognition and respect that they deserve for their important and specialized work.
This Advisory is based on Technical Assistance Publication (TAP) 21, Addiction Counseling Competencies: The Knowledge, Skills, and Attitudes of Professional Practice. It discusses the development of the counseling competencies and the validated research on which they are based, provides a simplified overview of their structure and the elements of a typical competency, and outlines how these competencies are changing the field of substance use disorder (SUD) treatment nationwide. The Advisory also addresses the critical role of cultural competency.