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Working with substance misuse clients can be challenging, demanding and unpredictable. It is a role where you need to combine professional and good inter-personal skills to enable you to respond effectively to a range of scenarios.

Bring your existing skills with you

People who become successful substance misuse workers often come from a variety of backgrounds, such as nursing, criminal justice, social care, youth work or counselling. Also, those who have personal experience of addiction or dependency can apply for this type of work. These are experiences that can help enhance what you have to offer as a substance misuse worker.

Knowledge of healthcare is an asset

Background knowledge in healthcare can be an asset because you will be helping people to tackle and recover from dependence on drugs, alcohol or solvents. That can involve helping clients to access counselling or medical care services. The role may involve working in an addiction clinic, potentially as a specialist nurse, prescribing medication and supervising detox programmes or needle exchange.

Be mobile

Being mobile is important as it the role may involve working in different locations: outreach work will see a substance misuse officer visiting substance users and helping with issues such as accommodation whilst drop-in centre work is liaising and speaking to clients about their needs and finding ways of supporting them towards recovery. There are elements of counselling and rehabilitation and arrest referral work, offering support to clients arrested for drug-related offences, or seeing clients in prison.

Effective communicate skills

Education and training is a critical aspect of helping people with substance misuse issues move forward with their lives, so good communication skills are important in officers as they support clients in accessing services with help with reading, writing, maths, computer and job-search skills. The role may also include carrying out risk assessments or designing training and care programmes.

How to gain experience

Volunteering is an excellent way to gain relevant experience and eventually find paid work. It gives the employer a chance to see your skills and lets you decide whether this is the career for you. Most drug and alcohol support organisations offer volunteering opportunities and training.

Employers often ask for between six months and two years’ relevant experience, whether paid or unpaid, and the ability to work with vulnerable people. They may also for professional qualifications in social work, nursing or counselling, depending on the job, while qualifications such as an Award or Certificate in Working with Substance Misuse can offer the specialist knowledge to be more effective.

Your CV

Demonstrate your relevant experience, qualifications and skills clearly on your CV but also be prepared to detail your interests as this gives an employer a broader insight into your character and personality as well as additional skills you can bring to the team.

If a career as a substance misuse officer appeals, take a look at our latest substance misuse worker job opportunities or phone us to speak with one of our trained consultants.
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