Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers

Mental health and substance abuse social work is a quickly growing field in Western Massachusetts. Much of the growth is expected from increased demand, as more people seek treatment for mental illness and addiction. 

Mental health and substance abuse social workers support and treat people with mental illness or substance abuse problems may involve providing individual or group therapy, outreach, crisis intervention, and training in how to perform daily activities of living.

Mental health and substance abuse social workers:

  • Educate and counsel patients and their families regarding their conditions, treatment options, and available support services
  • Connect patients with services such as housing, meal services, transportation, or hospice care for a terminally-ill patient
  • Create care plans by monitoring, evaluating, and recording a patient’s progress according to measurable goals

Employment opportunities can be found in:

Education and training requirements

Most social workers hold a bachelor’s (BSW) or master’s degree in social work (MSW), and in Massachusetts, you must also be licensed by the Massachusetts Board of Registration of Social Work.

An LSW (Licensed Social Worker) requires a bachelor’s degree or a combination of education and work experience. Learn more about the requirements for an LSW.

There are two degrees of licensure that require a master’s degree – LCSW (Licensed Certified Social Worker) and LICSW (Licensed Independent Certified Social Worker). An LICSW requires a current license as an LCSW as well as a certain number of hours of clinical and supervised experience. An LICSW certification allows you more independence in your practice.

Mental health and substance abuse social workers are also expected to have:

  • A deep understanding of human development and behavior
  • Strong cultural competence, including appreciation for the effects of various social, economic and cultural factors, and an understanding of how these factors interact
  • The ability to work independently and as a part of a team

Western MA Fast Facts

  • Workers in Pioneer Valley: 850
  • Education Requirements: Masters degree
  • Entry Level Salary: $22/hour
  • Experienced Salary: $34/hour