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5 Traits Needed to Be a Substance Misuse Worker

Substance misuse workers form an essential part of the professional workforce, helping those struggling with addiction and other similar issues get back on their feet and engaging with life again in a value-driven way.   

Their role requires both compassion and resilience, both patience and curiosity and in today’s post, we’re going to be looking at some of those necessary traits in more detail.

What is a Substance Misuse Worker?

Substance misuse workers work with a variety of individuals who struggle with substance problems, including adults, young offenders, children, families, groups, and anyone else struggling with addiction or related issues.  

These professionals help with a wide variety of tasks, including learning and understanding an individual’s particular circumstances, carrying out risk assessment and risk management, filling out forms for benefits, offering daily support, making sure that people attend their appointments, and supplying general emotional support, to name just a few.  

As you can see, it’s a broad role and a role that requires an equally broad skillset. So, without further ado, let’s get into it!

1. Compassion

Compassion is undoubtedly one of the most important aspects of a successful substance misuse worker. Understanding what’s caused a person to get in the situation with substances they have, and being empathetic to those underlying reasons, is crucial in building trust and rapport with the person being worked with.  

The ability to listen – that is, to truly listen and hear what a person is saying – is ubiquitous among substance misuse workers.

It’s not just listening to what’s being said that’s important; it’s taking that information in and responding to it non-judgmentally.  

Addiction and substance-dependence issues often go hand in hand with a variety of other mental health issues, like depression, for instance, and the worst thing that can happen when a person attends the services of a substance misuse worker is to leave feeling shamed or judged. In short? Compassion is crucial 

 2. Resilience and Adaptability

Working with cases of substance misuse can be stressful, and the environment can feel pressurised. The role can be emotionally challenging, and substance misuse workers, therefore, need to be able to withstand copious quantities of stress and turmoil in their day-to-day professional lives.  

Working with young offenders or recovering people with a substance use disorder doesn’t bring with it a whole lot of regularity, and it’s fair to say that no two days are the same. For example, as a substance misuse worker, you might be working with prison services one day and in residential rehabilitation the next.  

You need to be able to – and we know this is a cliched phrase, but it’s true – go with the flow, even when curveballs get thrown your way. But if you’re happy thinking on your feet and feel like you can roll with the punches, you may have what it takes to work in this field.

3. Patience

We’re not going to sugarcoat it. There will be times as a substance misuse worker when your patience is tested. How you respond to those challenges will play a significant factor in whether you’re successful or not in the role.   

People experiencing addiction can act impulsively and without consideration for the feelings of others, particularly if they’re early on in their recovery journey. Sometimes, people will want to push help away and return to the track from which they’ve come.  

It’s a substance misuse worker’s job to be patient in those moments and employ the compassion and resilience we’ve already mentioned – within reason, of course. There still need to be boundaries, and the substance misuse worker should only endure so much in a professional context.  

There’s being patient, and there’s knowing your professional worth and personal values.  

4. Curiosity 

At the heart of every substance misuse worker is a sense of curiosity. Why is that person acting the way they’re acting? How can I approach this situation in a way that’s both delicate and confident? What are the best steps to take for this person moving forward?   

It’s a role filled with as many questions as it is answers, and it’s the substance misuse worker’s job to answer those questions to the best of their ability to help the people they’re caring for go on to lead fulfilling and purposeful lives.

5. Teamwork 

Substance misuse workers typically collaborate with colleagues and other key stakeholders to deliver successful outcomes to the people with whom they’re working. Contributions to multi-disciplinary meetings are commonplace, and it’s also not unusual for workers to help volunteers and peer mentors wherever possible. This job role promotes person-centred care whilst also having people at its heart.  

It’s also worth remembering that substance misuse workers don’t just deal with the individuals themselves struggling with addiction or substance dependency; they deal with their families and support network, too, so you really do have to be a people person!  

How to Become a Substance Misuse Worker

There are several ways to become a substance misuse worker, including apprenticeships, college courses, direct application and volunteering 

Apprenticeships (which come in either a peer worker advanced apprenticeship or an early intervention practitioner higher apprenticeship) don’t have entry requirements. However, it can be helpful to have certain GCSE and A-level qualifications.  

The college route can be taken by anybody and be studied full- or part-time. You can apply directly to the employer if you already have enough experience in relevant fields like care and criminal justice. Likewise, you might be eligible for a substance misuse worker role if you’ve volunteered and built up experience working with drug or alcohol charities.

Want to Become a Substance Misuse Worker?

If, having read this, you think you fit the bill to become a substance misuse worker, we’d love to hear from you! We offer a wide array of jobs in the criminal justice department, including substance misuse worker roles.

Carry on reading