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12 Core Functions: Prepare for the Case Study

Substance abuse counselors are expected to show competency in the 12 Core Functions of substance abuse treatment. Click on each core function to see a full description of it and its global criteria.

12 Core Functions

1. Screening is a tool used to determine whether a client is eligible, and appropriate, for admission into a particular program.

Global Criteria

  • Evaluate psychological, social, and physiological signs and symptoms of alcohol and other drug use and abuse.
  • Determine the client’s eligibility and appropriateness for admission or referral.
  • Identify any co-occurring conditions, such as medical, psychiatric, physical, etc. This will indicatethe need for additional assessment and services.
  • Abide by applicable laws, regulations, and agency policies governing alcohol and other drug abuse services.

2. Intake is the administrative and initial assessment procedures for admissions into a program. Every new client goes through this process.

Global Criteria

  • Complete require documents for admissions into the program.
  • Obtain signed consents in order to protect client’s confidentiality and rights.

3. Orientation includes describing to the client the nature and goals of the program; the rules of client’s conduct and the violations that can lead to disciplinary measures or discharge from the program; in the case of out-patient programs, the hours during which services are available; treatment costs that need to be paid by the client, and client’s rights.

Global Criteria

  • Provide an overview to the program, describing the program goals and objectives for client care.
  • Provide the client with a description of the program rules, and client’s obligations and rights.
  • Provide information about the program hours of operation.

4. Assessment is the procedure used to identify and evaluate client’s strengths, weaknesses, problems and needs. This information is necessary in order to develop a treatment plan.

Global Criteria

  • Gather information from the client regarding history of alcohol and other drug abuse.
  • Use appropriate interviewing techniques.
  • Obtain and corroborate information from significant collateral sources in regards to client’s alcohol and drug abuse and psychosocial history, through the use of appropriate methods and procedures.
  • Identify appropriate assessment tools.
  • Explain assessment rationale to client.
  • Develop a diagnostic evaluation of the client’s substance abuse and co-occurring disorders based on the results of all assessments. The goal is to provide an integrated approach to treatment based on client’s strengths, weaknesses, problems and needs.

5. Treatment planning is the process of identifying and prioritizing problems needing resolution. The counselor and the client work together during treatment planning. In addition, they agree upon immediate and long-term goals, and make decisions in regards to treatment process and the resources to be used.

Global Criteria

  • Explain assessment results to the client in an understandable manner.
  • Identify and prioritize problems based on client’s needs.
  • Formulate immediate and long-term goals using behavioral terms (book recommendation: Martin, Garry. “Behavior Modification: What it is and how to do it.” 9th ed.)
  • Identify the treatment methods and resources to be used as appropriate for each client.

6. Counseling requires the utilization of special skills in order to assist individuals, families, and groups in achieving objectives through the exploration of a problem, the examination of attitudes and feelings, the consideration of alternative solutions, and decision making.

Global Criteria

  • Select the counseling theory (ies) that is/are more appropriate.
  • Apply techniques to help the client, family, or group explore problems and their effects.
  • Apply techniques to help the client, family, or group examine behaviors, attitudes, and feelings.
  • Individualize counseling based on cultural, gender, age, and lifestyle differences.
  • Elicit solutions and decisions from the client.
  • Implement the treatment plan.

7. Case management includes the activities that connect the client with services, agencies, resources, or people within a planned framework of action designed to achieve the established goals.

Global Criteria

  • Coordinate services for client care.
  • Explain the rationale of case management to the client.

8. Crisis intervention includes services that respond to a client’s needs during acute emotional and/or physical distress.

Global Criteria

  • Recognize the elements of the client’s crisis.
  • Implement an immediate course of action appropriate to the crisis.
  • Enhance overall treatment by using crisis events.

9. Client education includes the provision of information concerning alcohol and other drug abuse, its consequences, and available services and resources created to help people overcome their addictions.

Global Criteria

  • Present relevant information about alcohol and other drug use and abuse to the client, through formal and informal processes.
  • Present information about available support services and resources for the treatment of alcohol and other drug abuse.

10. Referral is the process of identifying the needs of the client that cannot be met by the counselor and the agency and therefore assisting the client in finding support systems and community resources that he/she can use.

Global Criteria

  • Identify needs and problems that the counselor and agency cannot meet.
  • Explain the rationale for the referral to the client.
  • Match client needs and problems to appropriate resources.
  • Protect client’s confidentiality by following laws, regulations, and agency policies.

11. Report and record keeping involves charting the results of assessments, treatment plan, writing reports, progress notes, discharge summaries, and other client-related data.

Global Criteria

  • Prepare reports and relevant records. Integrate available information.
  • Chart ongoing information in regards to the client.
  • Use relevant information from records to monitor client’s care.

12. Consultation with other professionals such as in-house staff and outside professionals is important in order to assure a comprehensive, competent care for the client.

Global Criteria

  • Recognize issues that are beyond the counselor’s knowledge and skills.
  • Consult with appropriate resources in order to secure the provision of effective treatment services.
  • Abide by applicable laws, regulations, and agency policies in regards to client’s confidentiality.
  • Explain the rationale for the consultation to the client, if appropriate.


Miller, Geri. “Learning the Language of Addiction Counseling.” 2nd ed


  1. Ursula says:

    You are an amazing asset to the field Samantha!

  2. Tunisha Potter says:

    Great info!

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