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The Substance Abuse Treatment Workforce of South Africa


The purpose of this paper is to describe characteristics of substance abuse treatment counselors in the Republic of South Africa, including demographics, education, training, and job duties. Counselors recruited from 24 treatment centers completed a survey after signing informed consent. Counselors were primarily female (75%), racially diverse (36.4% White, 30.8% Black, 18.9% Coloured, 12.6% Indian or Asian, and 1.4% Cape Malay), and were 38 years old on average. The majority (62.3%) held at least an equivalent of a bachelor’s degree, and just under half (49%) were registered social workers. Counselors had a mean of 5.3 years’ experience in substance abuse treatment. The substance abuse treatment workforce of South Africa appears to be young and educated, yet only one third of the counselors had any formal training in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. South African counselors could benefit from more training in evidence-based techniques.

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