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Substance Misuse

Course Code: SOWK 2360
Faculty: Child, Family & Community Studies
Department: Social Work
Credits: 3.0
Semester: 15 weeks
Learning Format: Lecture
Typically Offered: TBD. Contact Department Chair for more info.
course overview

Students will study several approaches to work with people with addictions and people with co-occurring disorders. Topics will include an overview of the social costs of addiction, psychopharmacology, and the impact of substance misuse/ addiction on the brain and behavior. Students will examine different theoretical models that help to explain substance misuse and addiction at the individual, family, and community level. Prevention strategies and treatment models for addictions including harm reduction and medical models are examined. Counseling models consistent with the theoretical approach of this course, including motivational interviewing, cognitive behavioural therapy, and family based approaches are reviewed. The curriculum focus includes a strengths based approach to the treatment of addictions. Intersecting issues of gender, ethnic background, sexual orientation, and age are explored.

Course Content

Course content will be guided by research, empirical knowledge and best practice. The following values and principles, consistent with professional standards, inform course content.

  • Theoretical models of addictive behavior have changed over time (as evident in the literature) and these guide best practices for social workers.
  • Individual problems are related to larger family, socio-economic, and political issues.  This includes the need for both personal and social change:  the need to explore and reflect on the life of each individual (personality, gifts, needs, and motivation) and the structural context of society (class, gender, race, age, government institutions).
  • Whether beginning or experienced, practitioners need to be aware of their biases, personal history, and helping approach in working with addicted clients.
  • Social workers are best guided by knowledge of the impact of substances on the brain and a broad understanding of how the short-term and long-term consequences of substance use/misuse impact people’s lives.
  • Poverty and substance use/misuse are closely related. Socio-economic status is related closely to the procurement, access, and recovery options available to people. Those who are disenfranchised are more likely to suffer harm and be denied service options.
  • Social policy strategies for addictions need to be appropriate for diverse populations and must account for the impact of factors such as history, culture, and access to the legal, political, and social structures of society.
  • The social worker’s choice of counselling models varies depending on the needs of the individual and the emphasis of intervention.  Individual, family, and community-based approaches are implemented with these considerations in mind. 

Methods of Instruction

Group exercises
Student discussion
Use of multimedia resources.

Means of Assessment

This course will conform to Douglas College policy regarding the number and weighting of evaluations. Typical means of assessment may include some or all of the following: 

  • Examinations
  • Written Papers
  • Participation
  • Attendance.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, the student will be able to:

  1. Explain models and theories of addictive behaviour;
  2. Compare harm reduction strategies and the medical model;
  3. Explain the impact of different drugs on brain and behavior and describe recent developments in brain and drug research;
  4. Analyze the historical and contemporary relationship between social policy and addictions with regard to treatment approaches; policy at the municipal, provincial and federal levels; the impact on marginalized people; and legal issues;
  5. Evaluate the use of therapeutic models including motivational interviewing, cognitive behavioural therapy, and family systems approaches to treat substance misuse and addiction, and co-occurring disorders;
  6. Explain the intersectionality of poverty, gender, culture and other factors with substance misuse/ addiction.

course prerequisites





CFCS 1260

curriculum guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester/year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

course schedule and availability
course transferability

Below shows how this course and its credits transfer within the BC transfer system. 

A course is considered university-transferable (UT) if it transfers to at least one of the five research universities in British Columbia: University of British Columbia; University of British Columbia-Okanagan; Simon Fraser University; University of Victoria; and the University of Northern British Columbia.

For more information on transfer visit the BC Transfer Guide and BCCAT websites.


If your course prerequisites indicate that you need an assessment, please see our Assessment page for more information.