Behavioral Health Service Use Among Licensed Social Workers: A Qualitative Inquiry

Jeffrey Steen, S. Lala Straussner, Evan Senreich, Anne Dempsey, Fengtao Huang, Michelle Willoughby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper presents qualitative data collected from 996 licensed social workers in the United States who reported mental health and/or alcohol and other drug problems and indicated the types of services they used to address these issues. Outpatient therapy was the most commonly accessed modality to treat mental health issues. Regarding problems with alcohol and other drugs, self-help groups were the most frequently utilized intervention. Qualitative findings suggest that behavioral health service use has influenced respondents’ work with clients, personal and professional development, and career trajectories. Barriers to service use, such as stigma and limited access to care, were also identified. Implications for social work education and professional practice are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)345-358
Number of pages14
JournalSocial Work in Public Health
Issue number5-8
StatePublished - 2023


  • Behavioral health service use
  • mental health
  • professional impairment
  • qualitative research
  • social workers
  • substance misuse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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