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SAMHSA News - January/February 2007, Volume 15, Number 1

Addiction Counseling Competencies Updated

SAMHSA recently updated and reissued a guide that outlines professional standards for substance abuse treatment counselors and competencies associated with positive treatment outcomes.

As a national best practices guide, Technical Assistance Publication (TAP 21), Addiction Counseling Competencies: The Knowledge, Skills, and Attitudes of Professional Practice, is the update to the 1998 edition.

Developed by the National Curriculum Committee of the Addiction Technology Transfer Center (ATTC) network with the participation of NAADAC, the Association for Addiction Professionals; SAMHSA; the National Association for Children of Alcoholics; the Annapolis Coalition; treatment providers; and experts in addiction research, TAP 21 identifies 123 competencies essential to the effective practice of counseling for psychoactive substance use disorders.

The publication also presents the knowledge, skills, and attitudes (KSAs) counselors need to become proficient in each competency. Information on an appropriate scope of practice for the field is also included.

The updated TAP 21 reflects SAMHSA’s commitment to workforce development, which is one of the Agency’s priority areas. The previous edition of this publication was instrumental in evaluating addiction counseling curricula, advising students, and assessing counseling proficiencies.

Almost a decade ago, the National Curriculum Committee conducted focus groups and a national survey to obtain feedback from the field about the original publication’s impact.

The process of revision began in 2000 and ended in 2005, with the committee examining how best to package and present the publication to help people learn key elements and adopt new strategies.

TAP 21 contains feedback-based improvements from addiction practice and education professionals as well as references to literature published between 2000 and 2005. But the overarching competencies remain largely unchanged from the original publication.

SAMHSA’s National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information (NCADI) and the ATTC network distributed thousands of copies of the original guide over the years. It is a benchmark by which curricula are developed and educational programs and professional standards are measured for the field of substance abuse treatment in the United States.

TAP 21, Addiction Counseling Competencies: The Knowledge, Skills, and Attitudes of Professional Practice, can be ordered free of charge by contacting SAMHSA’s National Clearinghouse at 1 (800) 729-6686 (English and Spanish) or 1 (800) 487-4889 (TDD). Ask for publication number (SMA) 06-4171.

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