History and Acknowledgements

The Technical and Behavioural Competencies for Canada’s Substance Use Workforce were developed with the involvement of a wide range of stakeholders. Extensive consultation was a priority to ensure the competencies were informed by evidence from researchers and experts, and grounded in the realities of people working in the substance use field and people with lived and living experience of substance use and their families and friends.

Input was gained from:

  • Direct treatment service and program delivery staff
  • Allied professions in the field such as nurses and probation officers
  • People with lived and living experience of substance use and their families and friends
  • Provincial and territorial departments of health
  • Key national organizations focused on substance use and mental health
  • Expert review panels
  • Mental health workers

A variety of formats were used to engage stakeholders, including focus groups, informant interviews, and teleconferences with groups and blog contributors.




A culture shift in the substance use field is occurring due to the recognition of the neurobiological underpinnings of substance use disorders and the harmful impact of stigma around substance use. We responded to this shift by updating the Competencies (version 2) through more community consultations and with input from subject-matter experts, advisory groups and people with lived and living experience and their families and friends to reflect changes in best practices, knowledge, skills and language, and to apply a perspective oriented to well-being.

An overview of the development of the Competencies provides more detail.

Historical Development Timeline

Click here to see the historical development timeline of CCSA’s competencies for the substance use workforce.

Competencies identified as a national priority

Technical Competencies v.1

Behavioural Competencies v.1

Technical Competencies v.2

Behavioural Competencies v.2

Technical Competencies v.3

Update of Job Clusters


The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) gratefully acknowledges the significant contributions and support received from individuals, subject-matter experts and CCSA’s workforce competencies advisory group members who participated in interviews, focus groups and consultations across Canada to update the Technical and Behavioural Competencies for Canada’s Substance Use Workforce.

We also thank the Lived and Living Experience and Families and Friends (LLEAFF) Working Group and sub-committee who participated in the revision and development of new and revised competencies through their valuable feedback and diverse expertise.

We acknowledge members of the historical National Advisory Group on Workforce Development and Knowledge Exchange Network on Workforce Development who participated in the original reviews of both the Technical and Behavioural Competencies. Special thanks to the Mental Health Commission of Canada which participated in the review of the concurrent disorders competency and with which we continue to work to identify needs for integrated substance use and mental health competencies.

We also acknowledge Kiran Somjee, RN, Knowledge Broker, Claire Rykelyk-Huizen, RSW, MSW, Knowledge Broker, Cheryl Arratoon, MSc, as well as CCSA’s Information Systems and Web Services and Public Affairs and Communications teams for their contributions in revising, publishing, disseminating and mobilizing the competencies. We would like to thank our contractors, the Human Resources Services Group and the Industrial design agency, for their involvement on this project.

It is only with the valuable feedback, participation and strategic recommendations from those above that the Technical and Behavioural Competencies for Canada’s Substance Use Workforce could be updated.