PTTC Post Article - July 2024

Preventing Behavioral Health Workforce Burnout by Promoting Workforce Development 

The behavioral health workforce comprises a varied group of professionals who work in a number of different settings, serving diverse populations, and fulfilling a wide range of functions. Developing a sector of the workforce specifically trained to prevent and treat substance use disorders remains one of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) highest priorities. According to SAMHSA, behavioral health professionals operate in a broad spectrum of prevention, healthcare, and social service settings. These include prevention programs, community-based initiatives, inpatient treatment facilities, primary care health delivery systems, emergency rooms, criminal justice systems, and educational settings (SAMHSA, 2024). 

The professionals who make up the behavioral health workforce include, but are not limited to: 

  • Addiction counselors 
  • Advanced practice psychiatric nurses 
  • Certified prevention specialists 
  • Marriage and family therapists 
  • Mental health/professional counselors 
  • Paraprofessionals in psychiatric rehabilitation and addiction recovery fields (e.g., case managers, homeless outreach specialists, or parent aides) 
  • Peer support specialists 
  • Psychiatric aides and technicians 
  • Psychiatric rehabilitation specialists 
  • Psychiatrists 
  • Psychologists 
  • Recovery coaches 
  • Social workers 

The prevention workforce is an important component of the behavioral health workforce.  The Prevention Technology Transfer Center (PTTC) Network, established by SAMHSA in 2018, has pinpointed six key areas for enhancing resources and training for prevention professionals nationwide: 

Community coalitions and collaborators 

Building Health Equity and Inclusion 

Data-informed decisions 

Implementation Science 

Cannabis Prevention 

Workforce Development Priority Area 

Behavioral Health Workforce Burnout 

The behavioral health workforce faces many challenges, placing individuals working in the field at a high risk for job-related stress, fatigue, and burnout. The SAMHSA resource guide Addressing Burnout in the Behavioral Health Workforce Through Organizational Strategies identifies several factors that can contribute to workforce burnout (SAMHSA, 2022). 

Staffing shortages and high rates of turnover place enormous demands on the workforce 

The nature of the work, which often involves helping individuals manage mental health issues, substance use issues, trauma, or behavioral health crises, can be emotionally taxing. 

The SAMHSA guide recommends both organizational and individual strategies to address burnout. It highlights that organizational strategies have the potential for a more enduring impact on reducing burnout because they affect all staff and place accountability on the organization rather than the individual. Organizational level strategies include: 

  • prioritizing workforce development, 
  • organizational culture change,  
  • workflow modifications,  
  • organizational support for training at all levels of the organization,  
  • expanding resources for staff, and  
  • practice delivery improvements (SAMHSA, 2022). 

Workforce Development 

In 2022, the U.S. Surgeon General called for a whole-of-society approach to address health worker burnout at the systems level and to build a thriving health workforce (SAMHSA, 2022). Prevention organizations can enhance the field of prevention, implement and sustain effective programming, and reduce and prevent burnout by focusing on workforce development and building a thriving workforce. 

The PTTC Network’s Workforce Development workgroup strives to identify and support the collective needs of the prevention workforce. They achieve this through the development and adaptation of evidence-based training products and services that are foundational to the field of prevention across the United States. The PTTC Network makes resources available to increase the understanding of prevention science and the skills of the prevention workforce. 

NAADAC Collaboration 

To further support the development of the prevention workforce, the PTTC Network collaborates with the Association for Addiction Professionals, known as NAADAC. NAADAC’s members are addiction counselors, educators, and other health care professionals, who specialize in addiction prevention, treatment, and recovery. NAADAC members and its 53 state and international affiliates work to create healthier individuals, families, and communities through prevention, intervention, quality treatment, and recovery support. 

The PTTC Network participates on NAADAC’s prevention committee, providing consultation and training. The NAADAC Prevention Committee is responsible for identifying and advancing evidence-based and promising methods for the primary prevention of substance use/misuse and addiction across all populations, particularly those at risk of developing a substance use disorder. This committee informs the Board of Directors, NAADAC members, and the public regarding prevention methods, practice standards, and the development of mentorship programs for professionals who provide substance use prevention services. As part of this collaboration, the PTTC participated in a free NAADAC webinar series Broadening Your Scope of Care: A Focus on Prevention. The PTTC also provided a special session of the Introduction to the Prevention Core Competencies for prevention professionals at the 2023 NAADAC Annual Convention. 

The 2024 NAADAC Conference will be at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center from October 18 - 23, 2024. This year's theme is “Learn, Connect, Advocate, Succeed”, and the conference provides an opportunity to enhance workforce development and support prevention professionals. This year’s conference will feature dozens of educational sessions presented by nationally recognized speakers, an exhibit hall, and networking opportunities. 


Over 50 percent of behavioral health providers report experiencing symptoms of burnout (SAMHSA, 2022). Building the behavioral health workforce involves both bringing new individuals into the field, and supporting and retaining those who are already part of it. The PTTC works with NAADAC and other organizations to support standards, training, and competencies for the behavioral health field. This effort aims to build and strengthen the workforce while reducing burnout. 


Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2022). Addressing burnout in the behavioral health workforce through organizational strategies (SAMHSA Publication No. PEP22-06-02-005). National Mental Health and Substance Use Policy Laboratory. 

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2024). Workforce. SAMHSA. Last updated January 31, 2024.  

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