The Substance Abuse Counselor Training and Career Center


Welcome! You have arrived at the Substance Abuse Counselor Headquarters! Here you will find all the information you need for a career as a substance abuse counselor, including training, education requirements, qualifications needed for licensure and certification, and more! The Substance Abuse Counselor Headquarters will help you obtain the knowledge and skills needed to get where you want to be… fast!

12 Core Functions of a Substance Abuse Counselor

The 12 core functions of a substance abuse counselor are used as standards for counselor competency in the United States. These 12 core functions of a substance abuse counselor were developed by examining the criteria by educators and clinical professionals as to which competencies, tasks, and knowledge a skilled substance abuse counselor should have.

The 12 core functions of a substance abuse counselor is one of two (the other being TAP 21) of the most well-known and widely-accepted standards.  Most substance abuse counselor examinations and licensure boards throughout the United States adhere to the 12 core functions of substance abuse counselors as opposed to the TAP 21 or other even lesser known options.  Every substance abuse counselor should familiarize him or herself with these 12 core functions, as they will be required to take classes on the functions and be competent in each of them.

The 12 Core Functions of a Substance Abuse Counselor

The 12 core functions of a substance abuse counselor are as follows:

• Screening

• Intake

• Orientation

• Assessment

• Treatment Planning

• Counseling

• Case Management

• Crisis intervention

• Client Education

• Referral

• Reports and record keeping

• Consultation with other professionals.

The 12 Core Functions of a Substance Abuse Counselor: Accountability

The 12 core functions of a substance abuse counselor were designed to hold counselors accountable.  The first four of the 12 core functions are used to determine if a client is appropriate for a particular program, assessing their needs, and admitting them to the program.

After a client has been admitted, the fifth, sixth, and seventh of the 12 core functions of a substance abuse counselor come into play.  These functions are used daily during a client’s stay in a program and are used to progress the client through treatment. Client education (the ninth of the 12 core functions) is also used for this purpose.  Crisis intervention is used for things such as suicide attempts, arrest during treatment, a major life-changing event such as divorce or death in the family, or a relapse.

Referrals will be used in the event that a client’s needs cannot be met by the current counselor or facility.  It is a substance abuse counselor’s job to make sure the client gets the appropriate level of care, be it under his or her care or another counselor’s.

12 core functions of a substance abuse counselorReports and recordkeeping can be summarized as charting a client’s progress through treatment using progress notes, treatment plan updates, and discharge summaries.  This is important not only for the client in the event they need to be transferred to another facility, but it also helps maintain a substance abuse counselor’s accountability and decrease liability in case of an accident or if charts are subpoenaed by the courts.

Finally, the final of the 12 core functions of a substance abuse counselor is about consulting with other professionals.  Most of the time this is met through in-house treatment team meetings or meetings with direct-care staff members.  This is a necessity for a successful program so that everyone involved in a client’s care will have the most up-to-date information on the client.  If a substance abuse counselor must seek consultation from outside the program, a release of information MUST be signed.

The 12 core functions of a substance abuse counselor are widely used and accepted and must be followed at all times.  In order to keep your license or certification up-to-date, you must take classes on each of the 12 core functions of a substance abuse counselor at least once per year.

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