The 12 Core Functions of Substance Abuse Counselors in New Jersey

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Drug and alcohol abuse counselors in New Jersey play a pivotal role in one’s ability to recover from substance abuse. These counselors serve as leaders and support systems for individuals who may not have anyone else. Substance abuse counselors help struggling addicts to build plans specific to their own needs, allowing individuals to make a full recovery. Without the help and guidance of addiction counselors, some people may never be able to recover from addiction.

Substance abuse counselors work in an extremely delicate environment, where their words and advice profoundly impacts the lives of their patients. With that being said, each professional addiction therapist must perform 12 core functions of substance abuse counseling. Let’s take a look at each of the 12 core functions of substance abuse counselors and how they help addicts recover.

#1. Patient Screening

Counselors have to pay attention to many factors when accepting new patients. The patient screening function is the first step in helping a patient, making this crucial for counselors to use the correct diagnostic criteria. In other words, patient screening is the act of determining whether the client’s habits constitute addiction, abuse, or recreational use.

Counselors will examine the patient’s nature of substance abuse, the psychological health of the individual, physical condition, motivation for recovery, whether they have previously attended treatment, and much more.

#2. Patient Intake

After the patient assessment, the counselor is required to fill out documents and examine the technical aspects of patient admittance. While this step is simpler than the first, it may be stressful and time-consuming. This all depends on the volume of paperwork and the specific process and guidelines of the treatment facility. Also, substance abuse counselors must sign consent forms when gathering information from or providing it to outside sources. These consent forms protect the confidentiality of the patient, making them vital to the process of substance abuse counseling.

#3. Orientation

The third of the 12 core functions of substance abuse counselors includes patient orientation. After completing the screening and intake procedures, the patient will have to become accustomed to the roles, guidelines, and processes of the program. In other words, patient orientation includes learning the rules of the facility, be aware of disciplinary actions for broken rules, and learn about their own patient rights.

#4. Assessment

After completing orientation, the patient will be assessed by their counselor. The assessment takes place in one-on-one meetings between patient and counselor and will determine the course of action taken during treatment. During an assessment, counselors will decipher the strengths, weaknesses, and problems of each patient. This helps to determine the course of treatment a specific patient requires.

#5. Treatment Planning

Once a patient is fully assessed and the best path of treatment is determined, treatment planning begins.

To begin, the substance abuse counselor must determine the rank of the problems and establish goals for the patient. Both long-term and short-term goals are set for every patient. This helps to take care of the most severe problems and work toward full rehabilitation. Once the problems are revealed and goals are set, the counselor works with the patient to identify which types of addiction treatment therapies to utilize. Typically, the counselor will provide the patient with a rough timeline, outlining how long their treatment will take.

#6. Counseling

Next, counseling begins. Different facilities and substance abuse counselors in New Jersey will utilize varying types of treatment modalities, however, most offer both individual and group therapy. During this step, counselors help patients to meet their goals, explore new issues, address feelings and emotions, and much more.

In other words, the counselor will select the proper therapy type, apply techniques to assist the patient, continue individualized counseling, offer therapeutic advice, reach solutions or meet goals, and implement the treatment plan.

#7. Case Management

This portion of treatment is a broad section, as it includes activities that bring people, services, and agencies together in a predetermined framework of action. These methods are necessary to establish the short-term and long-term goals of the patient. Oftentimes, case management includes help with healthcare, insurance, employment, legal issues, and more.

Case management is required to include coordinating client care services and explaining the management activities to the client. This must be done in a way that patients can understand the methods and goals of their case management.

#8. Crisis Intervention

Even with the most effective treatment plans, drug and alcohol recovery can become difficult. Every patient recovering from addiction will likely experience some form of psychological distress, causing crisis intervention to be one of the 12 core functions of substance abuse counselors.

During crisis intervention, counselors will recognize the specific crisis occurring, set an immediate course of action, and utilize the crisis to alter the treatment plan accordingly. For example, if a patient is threatening or attempts suicide, they may be placed on 24/7 watch and evaluation.[1] Additionally, this would trigger an alteration to treatment planning to ensure the crisis does not happen again.

#9. Patient Education

Substance abuse counselors continually provide information to their patients throughout the entire addiction treatment process. Both formal and informal processes are used to keep patients educated and up-to-date about treatments, discoveries, progress, and additional relevant factors.

#10. Referral

In some cases, a patient’s needs cannot be met by a specific counselor or treatment facility. When this occurs, the counselor must provide relevant information to the patient regarding their needs and how they can be met. The counselor must identify which of the patient’s needs the program cannot meet while determining if supplemental assistance can be offered without leaving the facility. Additionally, the substance abuse counselor may take advantage of community resources and support systems.

#11. Keeping Records and Reporting

The results of treatment must be carefully documented and recorded. This is done to track patient progress and develop plans for the patient’s future. While reports, notes, discharge summaries, and other types of information must be kept confidential, it should also be properly tracked. This helps to identify where the patient has improved and in which areas they still require further treatment.

#12. Cross-Consultation

The final core function of a substance abuse counselor is to communicate with other professionals to receive advice and help with treatment. Client treatment and services often benefit from the utilization of in-house and outside resources. The goal of cross-consultation is to ensure the highest quality and most comprehensive care. By consulting with other professionals, counselors can ensure their treatment plan is accurate and effective for their patient’s specific needs. Additionally, some counselors may have limited knowledge on unique subjects, such as LGBTQ+ specific-treatment modalities – like caring for transgender patients.[2] In these cases, cross-consultation is vital to providing effective and whole treatment.

Attending Substance Abuse Counseling

At New Jersey Interventions, we understand the vitality of substance abuse counseling for the recovery of addiction. If you or a loved one suffer from the effects of substance abuse, it may be time to look into attending addiction therapy and take advantage of the core functions of substance abuse counseling. Contact us today for more information on how to attend substance abuse counseling in New Jersey.



Medically Reviewed: December 4, 2020

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

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