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Substance Use in Social Work

9 core (required) credit hours 

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  • Identify the types of substance and medications that are misused or abused which can lead to dependency and/or addiction.
  • Understand the effects of substance abuse on brain functioning.
  • Diagnose use, abuse, and dependence and recognize the appropriate level of care to begin treatment.
  • Identify co-occurring mental health and/or health issues and when and how to coordinate treatments using a multi-disciplinary approach.
  • Identify, implement, and evaluate evidence-based treatment modalities.
  • Identify strategies for prevention.
  • Identify developmental issues, human behavior, and diversity in the social environment for individuals with substance use disorders, to include the impact on individuals, family, and groups.
  • Learn a conceptual framework for dealing with substance use treatment as it incorporates issues of special risk populations, cognitive impairment, supervision, recovery management, and continuing care (including relapse triggers).
  • Practice within the values and ethics that apply to both the standards of treatment of substance use disorders and social work practice.


  • Students must take one additional Practice class outside their primary Area of Focus (AOF) to meet graduation requirements. For example, if Substance Use is the student’s primary AOF, they would be required to take an additional Practice course in another AOF such as Aging in Social Work, Child Welfare in Social Work, Forensic Social Work, Global Social Work, Health in Social Work, or Mental Health in Social Work.
  • The Substance Use AOF is not available to students in the Three-Year or Online Programs.
  • Students may take up to 16 credit hours in any one semester without requiring pre-approval from the MSW Program Director.
  • Students in the Advanced Standing program must complete a minimum of 45 credit hours.
  • Students in the two-year program must complete a minimum of 60 credit hours.
  • Students must earn a passing grade of C+ or better.
  • Students must maintain a cumulative 3.0 GPA in order to be in good academic standing.

Types of Practicum Placements:
Inpatient, residential, and outpatient mental health and health programs serving persons with substance abuse including adult and juvenile justice facilities.


Last Updated: 6/13/23