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Addiction Counselors: The Ultimate Guide of the 12 Core Functions of Addiction Counseling.

Addiction Counselors: The Ultimate Guide of the 12 Core Functions of Addiction Counseling.

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If you plan to earn your addiction counseling certification, one of the first pieces of information you will encounter is related to the 12 Core functions for addiction counselors. To become an effective addiction counselor, you must be competent. When you succeed, the populations you serve have a chance for success (whatever success looks like to them) increases.

The core functions of addiction counseling encompass a wide range of essential tasks one must accomplish daily. Knowing the specifics behind these 12 Core Functions could provide a solid foundation for further exploration if you’ve ever pondered what addiction counselors do. A comprehensive set of criteria governs each function. This article will introduce the 12 Core Functions for addiction counselors and the corresponding global criteria that apply to each function.

Obtaining knowledge of the 12 Cofre Functions before starting your addiction counselor training because the functions will also serve as your map to developing a thorough understanding of your job roles and duties as an addiction specialist. 

Let’s jump in and take a quick look at the 12 core functions:

1. Screening

The screening process determines whether a client is appropriate for a substance use treatment program in need of assistance. Substance abuse counselors must understand addiction and its associated signs and symptoms to screen clients for a use disorder. Before an individual becomes a patient in any substance abuse counseling program, it is crucial to determine whether or not they are an ideal match for the program.

“The global criteria crucial to screening are as follows:

1. Evaluate the psychological, social, and physiological signs and symptoms of alcohol and other drug abuse.

2. Determine the client’s appropriateness for admission or referral.

3. Determine the client’s eligibility for admission or referral.

4. Identify any coexisting conditions (medical, psychiatric, physical, etc.) that indicate the need for additional professional assessment and services.

5. Adhere to applicable laws, regulations, and agency policies governing alcohol and other drug abuse services.”


What this criterion means:

Admitting a potential client for treatment can be a difficult decision. Intake drug counselors must use diagnostic criteria to determine if the person has a use disorder. Often, there are other factors to consider as well before making a final decision.

All counselors must be able to describe the criteria they use and demonstrate their competence by presenting specific examples of how the use of alcohol and other drugs has become dysfunctional for a particular client. Determining a client’s appropriateness for a program requires the counselor’s judgment and skill, and the program’s environment and modality influence it.

All counselors must be able to explain the standards they use to judge if a client is appropriate for their program. They also need to show that they know what they’re doing by giving examples of how someone might use alcohol or drugs in a way that’s harmful to themselves or others. Part of this process is understanding how the program’s environment and methods could influence someone’s behavior.

Shall we move the 2nd, 12 Core Core Function?

2. Intake

After you’ve determined that the client fits your program during the screening process, it is time to begin the intake or admissions process. During this process, treatment program clients complete paperwork unique to the facility. The paperwork often includes signing consent forms, rules and regulations, HIPAA forms, insurance information, demographic data, emergency contacts, an initial biopsychosocial assessment, and a client’s substance use disorder diagnosis.

“The global criteria crucial to Intake is as follows:

6. Complete the required documents for admission to the program.

7. Complete the required documents for program eligibility and appropriateness.

8. Obtain appropriately signed consents when soliciting from or providing information to outside sources to protect client confidentiality and rights.


What this criterion means for this core function:

The intake process is an essential step in counseling. You can consider it an extension of the initial screening. It helps to document the initial assessment and collect vital information from the client. This information helps the counselor understand the client’s needs and determine the best course of treatment. 

In many outpatient programs in NYS, the screening process usually occurs over 3 days. The new client will sit with a CASAC counselor, CASAC-T (counselor in training), or a specialized intake coordinator. 

3. Orientation

During this phase of your client education program, you help them understand the details of the overall program, and you will explain the rules and other regulations of the program. The intake counselor will also introduce the new client to staff while giving them a tour of the facility. During orientation, it is crucial to make new clients feel comfortable, safe, and respected. Their decision to enter a drug treatment program often creates fear and uneasiness for individuals first stepping into recovery.

“The global criteria crucial to orientation are as follows:


9. Provide an overview to the client by describing program goals and objectives for client care.

10. Provide an overview to the client by describing program rules and client obligations and rights.

11. Provide an overview to the client of program operations.” 


What this criterion means:

The orientation is an important part of the client’s journey. It often occurs before, during, and after the client’s screening and Intake. Orientation allows the client to learn more about what to expect from the treatment and ask any questions they may have. Other personnel, such as those specializing in medication, may be brought in for specific aspects of the orientation.

Let’s move to the 4th, 12 Core Core Function.

4. Assessment 

Assessing a client is essential to creating an individualized treatment plan that considers each person’s needs. Gathering information about their background, health status, and drug use patterns all contribute to the assessment process – which ultimately leads to an effective solution.

An assessment is an important part of any drug treatment program and helps better to understand your client’s history and current situation.

The assessment should include their backgrounds, drug use, and health concerns. This information can help to create an individualized treatment plan that meets your client’s needs.

In an assessment, a drug counselor identifies an individual’s strengths and weaknesses and needs to develop a treatment plan.

However, it is essential to note that each client is unique. Therefore no single approach will work for everyone. It is vital to take the time to get to know each client and their struggle before crafting a solution is essential.

“The global criteria crucial to assessment are as follows:

12. Gather relevant history from a client, including but not limited to alcohol and other drug abuse, using appropriate interview techniques.

13. Identify methods and procedures for obtaining corroborative information from significant secondary sources regarding the client’s alcohol and other drug abuse and psycho-social history.

14. Identify appropriate assessment tools.

15. Explain to the client the rationale for the use of assessment techniques to facilitate understanding.

16. Develop a diagnostic evaluation of the client’s substance abuse and any coexisting conditions based on the results of all assessments to provide an integrated approach to treatment planning based on the client’s strengths, weaknesses, and identified problems and needs.”


What this criterion means:

Although assessment is a continual process, there is more attention to this core function in early treatment. It comes from interviews, testing, and reviews of records.

The counselor evaluates different areas of life (for example, physical health, job development, social skills, legal Involvement, and psychological functioning) and sees how alcohol or drug use has impacted the client’s ability to function.

The results of this assessment should give some direction to treatment.

Have you noticed that each of the 12 Core Functions of addiction counselors builds on the previous function?

Attention CASACs and credentialed addiction counselors:

Educational Enhancement CASAC Online’s Screening, Assessment, and Evaluation detail the first four Core Functions for substance use counselors.


The 12 core functions of addition counselors is vital to the field and out CASAC training  is set up so you learn each of these functions.

Considering a Career as a substance use counseling professional?

If you are considering a career as a credentialed substance use counselor, our school follows the same pathway as the 12 Core Functions. You will also get an in-depth look at the science of addiction, ethics, cultural competence, and in other areas of professionalism. 

Alright, shall we keep moving through the 12 core functions of addiction counselors?

5. Treatment Planning

Once you have completed a detailed assessment, it’s time to plan your patient’s treatment. Of course, the patient will be involved during each step of the process, as it’s crucial that they understand the treatment plan and how and why the addiction counselor chose it.

The treatment plan goals and objectives will reflect the needs and changes your client wishes to address during treatment.

Update treatment goals regularly to stay on track with what your client wants to gain from treatment.

Prioritize each problem statement and plan according to the client’s preference, not your own. 

Remember, clients come to treatment with different backgrounds and addiction severity. Yet your client must determine the importance of each agreed upon short and long-term goal.  During the treatment planning core function, you’ll discuss the different treatment methods available to your patient and the resources available to support them through their treatment and recovery. It is essential to consider all of this when creating a treatment plan. New drug counselors sometimes forget that the treatment process should reflect the client’s needs and wants, not the counselor’s.

“The global criteria crucial to assessment are as follows:

17. Explain assessment results to the client in an understandable manner.

18. Identify and rank problems based on individual client needs in the written treatment plan.

19. Formulate agreed-upon immediate and long-term goals using behavioral terms in the written treatment plan.

20. Identify the treatment methods and resources appropriate for the individual client.”


What this criterion means:

The treatment goals/plan is based on the assessment and is a product of negotiation between the client and counselor. The language of the problem, goal, and strategy statements should be specific and expressed in behavioral terms.

The goal statements refer specifically to the identified problem and may include one or a set of objectives ultimately intended to solve or mitigate the problem.

When it comes to goal setting, counselors and clients should always err on the side of specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals.

In other words, goals expressed in terms of change allow you to track progress based on the changes made.  Establish long-term goals immediately. 

Finally, the plan is a specific activity that links the problem with the goal. It describes the services, who will provide them, when, and at what frequency of servicing provision.

The treatment contract is based on the assessment and is a product of negotiation between the client and counselor. The goal statements refer specifically to the identified problem and may include one or a set of objectives ultimately intended to solve or mitigate the problem.

Change is the best indicator of progress in counseling. It can be challenging to determine client progress without specific goals for what you want to change. Try to break your larger goal into more manageable steps, and celebrate each accomplishment along the way! This goes for both immediate and long-term goals. There needs to be a plan or strategy in place that links the problem with the goal. The plan includes describing the services, who will provide the services, and when.

Treatment planning is a dynamic process. 

Throughout treatment, you and the client will update plans and goal statements accordingly.

Drug counselor education and training providers stress to new students the amount of paperwork involved with planning and carrying out the process of substance use counseling. While it may seem like a lot of work, this documentation is essential to helping patients manage their long-term recovery.

Attention Substance Use Treatment Professionals

Check out Educational Enhancement CASAC Online’s NAADAC and OASAS Approved Treatment Planning Client Record Keeping, and Discharge Planning drug counselor renewal training.

Finally, the next Core Function of addiction counseling is why you want to enter the addiction recovery field.

The 6th 12 Core function is …

6. Counseling

Counseling can involve many options, including individual, family, and group counseling. Counseling involves various interventions, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, stages of change, or choice theory, to help patients deal with their issues.

Once a plan is in place, counseling begins.

The goal of counseling is to actively help and support the client in achieving the objectives of their treatment plan.

During counseling, the client will explore an issue, possible consequences and impact, how it relates to attitudes and feelings, and consider alternatives.

The process involves exploring a problem, examining attitudes and feelings, considering alternative solutions, and deciding.

“The global criteria crucial to counseling are as follows:

21. Select the counseling theory(ies) that apply(ies).

22. Apply technique(s) to assist the client, group, and family in exploring problems and ramifications.

23. Apply technique(s) to assist the client, group, and family in examining the client’s behavior, attitudes, and feelings, if appropriate, in the treatment setting.

24. Individualize counseling by cultural, gender, and lifestyle differences.

25. Interact with the client in an appropriate therapeutic manner. 

26. Elicit solutions and decisions from the client.

27. Implement the treatment plan.”


What this criterion means:

Counseling typically occurs after patients have taken several initial steps toward recovery, such as individual counseling, family counseling, and group counseling.

The counselor and client will work together to mitigate the problem statements by working together to complete treatment goals and objectives.

Special skills and interventions utilized to help individuals achieve objectives include:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Reality Therapy or Choice Theory
  • Motivational Enhancement Therapy
  • Recovery Management (relapse prevention)
  • Motivational Interviewing
  • Strategic Family Therapy
  • Client-Centered Therapy 
  • and many other behavioral therapy approaches

Need a refresher on Individual Counseling, Foundations of Counseling, or Group Counseling?

Check out our  NAADAC and OASAS-approved drug counselor training courses. Click here to view our list of 500+ CASAC renewal or substance use counselor renewal training hours.

The 7th 12 Core Function is vital in building your client’s self-esteem and support in early recovery. 

7. Case Management

As a CASAC or other certified addiction counseling professional, you will create a plan for each patient that includes various services.

Case management can include the following:

  • finding 12-step programs or other mutual aid support groups,
  • identifying doctors to treat various physical ailments or mental health disorders,
  • job readiness,
  • GED or higher education applications,
  • housing, or
  • volunteer work.

Each case will be unique and designed to help your client build a network of support in early recovery.

“The global criteria crucial to case management are as follows:

28. Coordinate services for client care.

29. Explain the rationale of case management activities to the client. 


What this criterion means:

When addiction professionals perform case management, persons with use disorders can get help to meet their needs in many different areas.

When it comes to addiction, there tend to be a lot of associated problems that come along with it. That’s where case management comes in – the coordination of a plan involves multiple services. Oftentimes, persons with use disorders will need to meet with various professionals to meet other needs. These needs or issues often directly relate to their use disorder. For example, a person with a heroin use disorder might also have hepatitis, lack job skills, and have pending criminal charges. In this scenario, a substance abuse counselor will get consent to speak with the client’s medical team, career coach and vocational counselor, and attorney.

The counselor’s work with clients doesn’t stop at just monitoring medical treatment and making referrals. To create an effective treatment plan, the counselor must communicate with other professionals the client sees, such as family therapists, mental health professionals, recovery coaches, or parole and probation officers.

Do you think your caseload would benefit if you took a Case Management, Referral, and Service Coordination refresher?

Educational Enhancement has OASAS and NAADAC-approved 12-hour Case Management, Referral, & Service Coordination renewal training. 

The training is 100% online. Self-study. Self-paced. Your client caseload thrives when you work to keep your addiction counseling credential up-to-date, informed, and relevant to the ever-changing addiction recovery field.

The following core function is…

8. Crisis Intervention

Crisis intervention pertains to services that help people with use disorders during emotional and physical distress. Any crisis in early recovery requires immediate action to address its impact. When a crisis manifests from an emotional dilemma, it’s helpful to have a plan ready to help clients work through the situation and return to a more positive state of mind and body.

Crisis intervention is a lot like being a doctor.

You have to recognize the symptoms of a problem and then take action to solve it without hesitation.

Some crisis interventions include the following:

  • assessing a client for suicidal ideations
  • creating a suicide emergency plan
  • helping a client manage an event when they returned to use
  • managing grief
  • a detailed safety plan of action against intimate partner violence
  • divorce
  • death of a loved one
  • loss of a job

“The global criteria crucial to crisis intervention are as follows:

30. Recognize the elements of the client crisis.

31. Implement an immediate course of action appropriate to the crisis.

32. Enhance overall treatment by utilizing crisis events.” 


What this criterion means:

Crises can come in many forms, and counselors need to be able to identify them when they surface. Some everyday situations include the death of a loved one, relationship problems, arrest, suicidal thoughts, or mental health problems.

Counselors need to be able to help clients resolve the immediate problem and use adverse events to enhance treatment efforts, if possible.

A crisis is a turning point in treatment that could jeopardize or end the treatment process. Crisis can sometimes be caused by alcohol or drug use (for example, an overdose or returning to active use) or unrelated to substance abuse.

Let’s move on to the 9h core function…

9. Client Education

Addiction is a disease, and most people (especially persons with use disorders users) are unaware of what drug and alcohol use can do.

Many clients are in denial regarding their substance use disorder or other problems.

Counselors have the unique opportunity to educate their clients using formal and informal interventions. They assist in teaching life skills that lead to better decision-making and more.

Addiction counselors help to educate clients about support services and addiction itself. An essential aspect of this core function is educating clients to make more informed decisions about their care and treatment. Learning about the many resources available to them is vital to effective treatment. 

“The global criteria crucial to client education are as follows:

33. Present relevant alcohol and other drug use/abuse information to the client through formal and informal processes.

34. Present information about available alcohol and other drug services and resources.”


What this criterion means:

Client education is an integral part of treatment. In some programs, clients will participate in formal classes with reading materials and films. Other programs might offer outpatient counseling where the counselor will provide relevant information to the client individually or informally.

Client education may include information about self-help groups and other available resources to clients and their families.

When applying for a job in this field, you must be able to provide examples of the type of education you have provided to clients and how it is relevant to their case.

Let’s move on to #10 of the 12 Core Functions of Addiction Counselors…

10. Referral

Part of providing effective case management is identifying the areas where you can’t help your client and finding other services that can.

For example, if your client has bipolar disorder, been diagnosed with an eating disorder or diabetes, finding professionals to help meet their needs is critical to a successful recovery.

“The global criteria crucial to referral are as follows:

35. Identifying need(s) and problem(s) that the agency and counselor cannot meet.

36. Explain the rationale for the referral to the client.

37. Match client needs and problems to appropriate resources.

38. Adhere to applicable laws, regulations, and agency policies governing procedures protecting the client’s confidentiality.

39. Assist the client in utilizing available support systems and community resources. “


What this criterion means:

Your clients will have many unique needs, and you possibly cannot help them successfully navigate through all of them. 

In these situations, it’s up to you to figure out what they need and pass them off to the right service or providers that can help them.

Part of providing effective substance use treatment is identifying the areas where you can’t help your client and finding other services that can.

For example, suppose they need help with bipolar disorder or have been diagnosed with an eating disorder or diabetes. In that case, finding professionals to help meet their needs is critical to a successful recovery.

Referrals play an essential role in case management and treatment planning. They can help ensure clients receive the care they need before, during, and after treatment.

When performing the 12 Core Function -referral, it’s vital that you follow all laws, regulations, and policies that govern referrals.


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You’ve almost reached the end of the 12 Core Functions of Addiction Counselors. 

Let’s keep going to the 11th core function…

11. Reporting & Record Keeping

The eleventh core function allows you to put your administrative skills to use. Recording and charting the assessment and treatment results helps you establish working techniques and improve your ability to meet your client’s needs.

You’ll analyze relevant information, including assessments, treatment plans, court, parole, probation, ACS reports, progress notes, discharge summaries, and other client-related data. Maintaining organization and patient confidentiality is crucial in this line of work.

“The global criteria crucial to reporting and record-keeping are as follows:

40. Prepare reports and relevant records integrating available information to facilitate the continuum of care.

41. Chart the ongoing information about the client.

42. Utilize relevant information from written documents for client care.”


What this criterion means:

Documentation and record-keeping are essential for addiction counselors.

By documenting the client’s progress, the counselor can:

  • communicate more effectively with co-workers,
  • get feedback from the supervisor promptly, and
  • provide valuable information about other services that may benefit the client.

Maintaining professionalism is essential when providing this documentation.

Finally, the last core function of addiction counseling is…

12. Consultation With Other Professionals

The last core function acknowledges that addiction counselors often have to work with other professionals inside and outside their facility. Clinicians learn the skills and knowledge needed through education, training, and experience. However, there will be times when counselors encounter an issue beyond their skill set. When this happens, consulting with other professionals with more experience or knowledge in that area is crucial.

“The global criteria crucial to consultation with other professionals are as follows:

43. Recognize issues beyond the counselor’s knowledge and skill base.

44. Consult with appropriate resources to ensure effective treatment services.

45. Adhere to applicable laws, regulations, and agency policies governing the disclosure of client-identifying data.

46. Explain the rationale for the consultation to the client, if appropriate.”


What this criterion means:

Substance abuse counselor aims to ensure their clients receive high-quality, comprehensive care. Counselors need to be able to work with other professionals, both inside and outside their organization.

Consulting with other professionals might include knowing when to refer a client to another counselor with more expertise or understanding of when to ask for help from colleagues.

Recognizing when you need to consult with other professionals is crucial for any counselor.

Consultation is an integral part of the decision-making process. It allows stakeholders to come together and discuss the best course of action for a particular client or situation.

Effective consultations function best with the client’s entire treatment team. A group consultation or case conference considers different perspectives, which is a more comprehensive approach. As the primary counselor, you can make final decisions about client care however consulting with other professionals is more in the client’s best interest.

You made it. 

Counselors are an essential component of every treatment facility. 

The 12 core functions are the blueprint for effective substance use treatment. Learning the details of each is fundamental to your career.

In the coming weeks, we’ll discuss each of the 12 core functions of addiction counselors in depth.

Please share this post with a colleague or friend. 

Follow the 12 Core Functions blueprint for addiction counselor training and education, so you can help these young homeless youth, pictured here, transition into a life of purpose and happiness.

Earn your Certificate with our hybrid addiction counseling training.

Our program is 100% online in a hybrid environment. You will learn via self-paced learning incorporating all learning styles, such as videos, workbooks, other resources, and short assessments. Not only will you be working at your own pace, but you will also have virtual instructor-led training to strengthen counseling skills, help you think critically and outside the box, and ask questions of our excellent staff. Our program design lets you move through the distance learning training own pace to achieve certification.

At Educational Enhancement CASAC Online, we can help you fulfill all the educational requirements to earn your addiction counseling certificate. This includes thoroughly understanding the 12 Core Functions and everything else you might need to pass the IC&RC Alcohol and Drug Counselor exam. In other words, we’ve got you covered from start to finish!

You can complete our program in six months. The training is 100% online, with rolling admissions to get started anytime. We offer a high-quality curriculum that instructors teach with real-world experience. Many of our instructors are still working in the addiction counseling industry, so that they can provide you with the most up-to-date information and training.

Here at Educational Enhancement CASAC Online, we’re proud to offer addiction counseling courses that can help students earn their Certificates no matter which states they reside in.

Our online courses are transferable to 47 states thanks to our membership with IC&RC and approval as an education provider in multiple states.

Plus, our curriculum has received approval from IC&RC, OASAS-approved, and NAADAC-approved.

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