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NIDA. (2013, May 1). Counselors’ Perceptions of Organizational Justice and Support Predict Job Turnover. Retrieved from

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May 01, 2013

NIDA-supported researchers who previously reported that 25 percent of counselors in a national sample of substance abuse treatment programs left their jobs voluntarily during a single year (see “High Rates of Job Leaving Among Addiction Counselors”) now report that 47 percent quit within 3 years.

Job satisfaction was the strongest single predictor of retention, say study leaders Dr. Lillian Eby and Dr. Tanja Rothrauff-Laschober, of the University of Georgia. At the start of the study, 598 counselors rated their degree of concurrence (from 1= strongly disagree to 5 = strongly agree) with 6 statements that reflect job satisfaction—for example, “I enjoy nearly all the things I do in my job.” The likelihood that a counselor would quit during the ensuing 3 years was reduced 23 percent for each unit increase in his or her composite score. Stronger endorsements of statements designed to reflect organizational traits of justice and support were similarly associated with reduced likelihood of quitting:

  • Distributive justice: e.g., “I am fairly rewarded considering my responsibilities” (-18 percent for each unit increase)
  • Procedural justice: e.g., “Job decisions are made by center management in an unbiased manner” (-15 percent for each unit increase)
  • Organizational support: e.g., “My organization cares about my opinions” (-14 percent for each unit increase)

Contrary to the researchers’ expectations, the counselors’ responses to statements designed to capture key aspects of their clinical supervisors’ leadership effectiveness were not associated with staying or leaving. These measures included:

  • Relationship quality with supervisor: e.g., “The relationship between my supervisor and me is very effective”
  • Supervisor job performance: e.g., “My supervisor provides feedback on my clinical work with individual patients”

The study did not specifically examine every factor that may influence substance abuse counselors’ decisions to stay or leave their jobs. Among potentially significant factors omitted were pay-related factors, the availability or unavailability of other job opportunities for counselors, and relationships with coworkers and patients. Nevertheless, the researchers say that substance abuse treatment programs may be able to reduce counselor attrition—with its associated costs and disruptions—by increasing emphases on job satisfaction, procedural and distributive justice, and organizational support for counselors.

This study was supported by NIH grants: DA019460-01A2, DA019460-02, DA019460-03, DA019460-04, DA019460-05, and DA019460.


Eby, L.T. and Rothrauff-Laschober, T.C. The relationship between perceptions of organizational functioning and voluntary counselor turnover: a four-wave longitudinal study. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment 42(2): 151-158, 2012. Full Text