Substance abuse disorder is both a widespread mental health issue and widely misunderstood. A 2017 study by the World Health Organization found that up to 16% of the world’s population suffered from alcohol-related substance abuse disorders, and 3% suffered from substance abuse disorders related to other types of drugs. With how prevalent substance abuse disorders are and their frequent comorbidity with other mental health issues, it is important for social workers to have a framework for understanding these disorders—which is exactly the task of the Council of Social Work Education (CSWE).
David L. Hussey, associate professor at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences, and National Task Force Member at CSWE, addressed these issues as a contributor to the publication “Specialized Practice Curriculum Guide for Substance Use Social Work Practice.”
CSWE is a national association that advocates for and supports accredited social work education in the U.S. According to the organization’s website, it primarily “supports quality social work education and provides opportunities for leadership and professional development.”
This work is an advancement of that mission, as it provides social workers with the necessary tools for helping those who suffer from substance abuse. Though targeted toward social workers who specialize in substance abuse disorders, the guidebook stresses the importance of all social workers having a basic understanding of the development and treatment of substance abuse disorders.
The 139-page work was co-authored by Hussey and a number of faculty members hailing from many different institutions across the country. They “intended to guide specialized practice with individuals and communities affected by substance use” by providing social workers with research methods and advising them on best practices. It addresses all different levels of people impacted by substance abuse, including the individuals with the disorder themselves, their families and the other groups, organizations and communities they are part of. Substance abuse issues can often have wide-ranging effects which touch all of these different circles within an affected individual’s life.
The guide uses a “competency-based framework” in order to teach students how to effectively research and use the best practice methods when working to address substance abuse. This approach focuses on building a student’s “competence” in different areas within a field, and thus develops their ability to apply knowledge to their work in a meaningful and professional manner. The handbook has nine sections, each of which focuses upon one of the nine social work competencies listed in CSWE’s 2015 Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards as they relate to working with individuals who have been affected by substance abuse disorders.
The work provides a comprehensive overview of the ways in which social workers can effectively recognize and discuss substance use disorders. Hussey’s contribution to this work demonstrates Case Western Reserve University’s dedication to advancing social work education not only within our own institution, but nationally as well.