Establishing competencies for substance abuse professionals

The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse has published a draft set of core competencies for substance abuse and allied professionals in Canada and has simultaneously embarked on a broad consultation process to refine and validate the proposed list of measurable job performance skills and knowledge areas.

The need to “promote the development of national standards and competencies for the addiction workforce that can be tailored to meet the needs of provincial-territorial jurisdictions” was first identified in a 2005 CCSA survey of executive directors, agency heads and front-line staff working in specialized substance abuse services. A similar priority—“sustaining workforce development”—was later recognized in the National Framework for Action. The core competencies project has also been endorsed by the Canadian Executive Council on Addictions (CECA) and the National Advisory Group on Workforce Development (NAGWD).

The job of identifying, analyzing and compiling core competencies is being carried out by CCSA’s Workforce Development Division with help from a management consulting firm and input from stakeholders across Canada. The project is also linked to the National Treatment Strategy, whose objectives are rooted in another key priority area of the National Framework.

It is expected that these two initiatives will reflect and support one another wherever appropriate.

A new phase of the core competencies project began recently with the launch of a broad consultation process aimed at gathering additional input on the usefulness and validity of the core competencies. Among the strategies being employed to engage the field is a blog that can be accessed through the Canadian Network of Substance Abuse and Allied Professionals website until Aug. 15. Other engagement strategies will include regional focus groups, teleconferences and key informant interviews. People can also email their comments to

The competencies document will be revised to reflect feedback from the field, matched against recommendations arising from the National Treatment Strategy, finalized and presented to CECA, senior provincial and territorial officials, and the academic community for endorsement. Competencies are expected to serve a variety of uses, including the development of job profiles, evaluation of job performance, identification of training and professional development requirements, and identification of succession planning requirements.

To view the core competencies, please visit the Canadian Network website at


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