Provider Preparedness for Treatment of Co-occurring Disorders: Comparison of Social Workers and Alcohol and Drug Counselors

Colleen Fisher, Jennifer S McCleary, Peter T Dimock, Julie Rohovit

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Substance use and mental health disorders remain significant behavioral health concerns in the United States and other Western nations. Nearly half of the 20.3 million adults with substance use disorders in the US have a co-occurring mental illness. Despite growing research support, integrated treatment by providers with expertise in both mental health and substance use is critically lacking. As part of a co-occurring disorders (COD) training initiative in the USA, this study investigated providers' (n = 438) past training, current COD service provision, and future training needs. Specifically, we examined the extent to which social workers were prepared to treat individuals with COD compared to alcohol and drug counselors. Unsurprisingly, social workers reported receiving significantly more mental health related training, while alcohol and drug counselors reported more substance use related training. Alcohol and drug counselors reported significantly more COD-specific training including general COD, psychopharmacology, COD treatment, and relapse prevention. Social workers were significantly more likely than alcohol and drug counselors to report wanting more training in substance use disorders and culturally-specific intervention techniques. These findings suggest that tailored training and licensure changes are needed to enhance social workers' capacity for competent COD treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)626-641
Number of pages16
JournalSocial Work Education
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Earlier versions of this article were presented at the Council on Social Work Education’s Annual Program Meeting (November 2013, Dallas, Texas, USA). This study was supported by funding from the Minnesota Department of Human Services, Adult Mental Health Division.


  • Co-occurring Disorders
  • Education
  • Mental Health
  • Social Work
  • Substance Use
  • Treatment


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