Substance abuse case managers need to have the right skill set, education and personality for the job. Asking specific interview questions for a substance abuse case manager will help you determine whether the candidate possesses the right attitude toward those in recovery and whether he will be a good fit for your agency. More than anything else, a substance abuse case manager needs to show that he is compassionate and dedicated to the welfare of his clients.
In many cases, people who enter the field of substance abuse treatment have their own personal history in recovery. And unlike other fields, where a previous history of substance abuse might be considered detrimental, personal experience in recovery is actually viewed as a plus. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse's description of the Minnesota Model counseling approach, the ideal counselor is actively involved in a chemical addiction recovery program. Counselors and case managers who have been through the recovery process themselves are often more easily able to relate to the struggles of their clients. But those who are not in recovery can also often perform the job well.
Substance abuse case managers come from a wide range of educational backgrounds. In most cases, it's helpful if they have a master's degree in counseling or social work, or have completed a formal training course in substance abuse and addictions counseling. State certification is a plus, although it's not always required. Those who are certified by the National Certification Commission for Addiction Professionals, or NCCAP, have undergone an additional, voluntary certification process. Even without certification, case managers with a strong employment background in the field may also be well-qualified for the position.
Whether through personal or professional experience, substance abuse counselors and case managers are often trained in different approaches to the recovery process. For example, case managers with personal experience in AA might adhere to the 12-step model, while clinically-trained professionals may subscribe to the cognitive-behavioral or community reinforcement approach. In the best case scenario, the counselor's approach should be similar to the one used by your agency. The counselor can also be a good fit for the position if he is open minded and you are able to provide additional training and supervision.
Asking an interviewee about his strengths is a common practice in most fields, but effective substance abuse case managers possess specific strengths and skills. Above all else, the candidate should be caring and compassionate. He should love his work, be able to maintain professional boundaries, display sensitivity and have effective relationship and communication skills, says professor, psychologist and substance abuse counselor Robert Perkinson in his book, "Chemical Dependency Counseling." A good case manager will list several of these qualities as his top professional and personal strengths.