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Become A Primary Counselor

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Working As A Primary Counselor

  • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
  • Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships
  • Documenting/Recording Information
  • Getting Information
  • Organizing, Planning, and Prioritizing Work
  • Deal with People

  • Unpleasant/Angry People

  • Mostly Sitting

  • Make Decisions

  • Stressful

  • $45,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Primary Counselor Do

Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors advise people who suffer from alcoholism, drug addiction, eating disorders, or other behavioral problems. They provide treatment and support to help the client recover from addiction or modify problem behaviors.

Duties

Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors typically do the following:

  • Evaluate clients’ mental and physical health, addiction, or problem behavior and assess their readiness for treatment
  • Help clients develop treatment goals and plans
  • Review and recommend treatment options with clients and their families
  • Help clients develop skills and behaviors necessary to recover from their addiction or modify their behavior
  • Work with clients to identify behaviors or situations that interfere with their recovery
  • Teach families about addiction or behavior disorders and help them develop strategies to cope with those problems
  • Refer clients to other resources and services, such as job placement services and support groups
  • Conduct outreach programs to help people identify the signs of addiction and other destructive behavior, as well as steps to take to avoid such behavior

Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors, also called addiction counselors, work with clients individually and in group sessions. Many incorporate the principles of 12-step programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) to guide their practice. They teach clients how to cope with stress and life’s problems in ways that help them recover. Furthermore, they help clients rebuild professional relationships and, if necessary, reestablish their career. They also help clients improve their personal relationships and find ways to discuss their addiction or other problems with family and friends.

Some addiction counselors work in facilities that employ many types of healthcare and mental health professionals. Addiction counselors may work with psychiatrists, social workers, physicians, and registered nurses to develop treatment plans and coordinate care for patients.

Some counselors work with clients who have been ordered by a judge to receive treatment for addiction. Others work with specific populations, such as teenagers, veterans, or people with disabilities. Some specialize in crisis intervention; these counselors step in when someone is endangering his or her own life or the lives of others. Other counselors specialize in noncrisis interventions, which encourage a person with addictions or other issues to get help. Noncrisis interventions often are performed at the request of friends and family.

Some substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors work in private practice, where they work alone or with a group of counselors or other professionals. These counselors manage their practice as a business. This includes working with clients and insurance companies to receive payment for their services. In addition, they market their practice to bring in new clients.

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How To Become A Primary Counselor

Most positions require a bachelor’s degree. However, depending on the employer, educational requirements can vary from a high school diploma and certification to a master’s degree.

Education

Most positions require a bachelor’s degree. However, depending on the employer, educational requirements can vary from a high school diploma and certification to a master’s degree. Workers with more education are able to provide more services to their clients, such as private one-on-one counseling sessions, and they require less supervision than those with less education. Those interested should research their state’s educational requirements.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors in private practice must be licensed. Licensing requirements vary by state, but all states require a master’s degree and 2,000 to 4,000 hours of supervised clinical experience. In addition, counselors must pass a state-issued exam and complete continuing education every year. Contact information for your state's regulating board can be found through the National Board for Certified Counselors.

The licensure or certification criteria for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors outside of private practice vary from state to state. For example, not all states require a specific degree, but many require applicants to pass an exam. Contact information for your state’s licensing board can be found through the Addiction Technology Transfer Center Network.

Important Qualities

Compassion. Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors often work with people who are dealing with stressful and difficult situations, so they must be compassionate and empathize with their clients.

Interpersonal skills. Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors must be able to work with different types of people. They spend most of their time working directly with clients or other professionals and must be able to develop and nurture good relationships.

Listening skills. Good listening skills are essential for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors. They need to give their full attention to a client to be able to understand that client’s problems and values.

Patience. Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors must be able to remain calm when working with all types of clients, including those who may be distressed or angry.

Speaking skills. Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors need to be able to effectively communicate with clients. They must express ideas and information in a way that their clients easily understand.

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Primary Counselor Career Paths

Primary Counselor
Therapist Case Manager
Director Of Social Services
6 Yearsyrs
Therapist Clinician Case Manager
Medical Case Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Therapist Case Manager Program Manager
Service Program Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Clinician Clinical Supervisor Nursing Director
Director Of Health Services
10 Yearsyrs
Clinician Clinical Supervisor Program Director
Director Of Program Services
8 Yearsyrs
Addictions Counselor Clinical Supervisor Program Director
Director Of Residential Services
7 Yearsyrs
Addictions Counselor Mental Health Therapist Clinical Social Worker
Clinical Care Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Addictions Counselor Program Manager Clinical Director
Health Director
9 Yearsyrs
Senior Counselor Program Director Clinical Director
Outpatient Services Director
9 Yearsyrs
Program Coordinator Clinical Social Worker Social Work Supervisor
Director Of Social Work
6 Yearsyrs
Program Coordinator Administrator Registered Nurse Case Manager
Utilities Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Program Coordinator Behavioral Specialist Residential Supervisor
Residential Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Senior Counselor Office Manager House Manager
Housing Director
6 Yearsyrs
Specialist Social Worker Clinical Social Worker
Clinical Program Manager
10 Yearsyrs
Senior Counselor Program Supervisor
Residential Program Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Specialist Administrator Nurse Manager
Administrative Director, Behavioral Health Services
11 Yearsyrs
Specialist Administrator Registered Nurse Case Manager
Health Care Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Primary Therapist Marriage And Family Therapist Mental Health Clinician
Mental Health Program Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Primary Therapist Psychotherapist
Health Unit Supervisor
5 Yearsyrs
Mental Health Therapist Program Supervisor Center Director
Director Of Family Service Center
9 Yearsyrs
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Average Length of Employment
Juvenile Counselor 3.2 years
Primary Counselor 3.0 years
Clinical Counselor 2.5 years
Family Counselor 2.4 years
Primary Therapist 2.3 years
Group Counselor 2.1 years
Intake Counselor 2.1 years
Counselor 2.0 years
Program Counselor 1.9 years
Top Careers Before Primary Counselor
Counselor 16.9%
Internship 12.8%
Case Manager 10.2%
Volunteer 3.9%
Therapist 3.9%
Top Careers After Primary Counselor
Counselor 14.5%
Case Manager 10.8%
Therapist 8.5%
Internship 4.9%
Clinician 4.5%
Specialist 3.0%

Do you work as a Primary Counselor?

Highest Primary Counselor Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Primary Counselor, Substance Abuse Women's Recovery Association Burlingame, CA Oct 15, 2010 $43,827
Primary Counselor, Substance Abuse Women's Recovery Association Burlingame, CA Mar 20, 2012 $43,680
Primary Counselor Argus Community Inc. New York, NY Sep 13, 2014 $35,000
Primary Counselor Clinic for Education, Treatment and Prevention of Norcross, GA Sep 21, 2012 $27,000

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Top Skills for A Primary Counselor

  1. Treatment Plans
  2. Group Therapy Sessions
  3. Crisis Intervention
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Developed individualize treatment plans for chronically mentally ill adults.
  • Developed curriculum for and facilitated weekly group therapy sessions and specialized psycho-education groups.
  • Provided assessment, case management, crisis intervention group therapy, individual and family counseling
  • Served as primary coordinator of clinical services for pregnant and/or parenting women engaged in outpatient substance abuse treatment.
  • Scheduled and monitored finishing of initial intake assessments.

Primary Counselor Demographics

Gender

Female

58.8%

Male

29.8%

Unknown

11.5%
Ethnicity

White

64.3%

Hispanic or Latino

14.3%

Black or African American

11.2%

Asian

6.7%

Unknown

3.4%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

78.6%

French

4.8%

Russian

4.8%

Dakota

4.8%

Portuguese

2.4%

Yoruba

2.4%

Italian

2.4%
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Primary Counselor Education

Schools

University of Phoenix

11.9%

Walden University

11.5%

Capella University

11.1%

Marywood University

6.7%

Grand Canyon University

5.5%

Monmouth University

5.1%

Chicago School of Professional Psychology

4.7%

Liberty University

4.3%

College of New Rochelle

4.0%

University of Scranton

3.6%

University of Alabama

3.2%

Eastern Washington University

3.2%

Arizona State University

3.2%

Barry University

3.2%

Temple University

3.2%

Georgian Court University

3.2%

State University of New York Albany

3.2%

Adelphi University

3.2%

Winona State University

3.2%

Hazelden Graduate School of Addiction Studies

3.2%
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Majors

Social Work

19.6%

Psychology

14.1%

Mental Health Counseling

12.1%

Counseling Psychology

8.9%

School Counseling

8.6%

Human Services

6.5%

Criminal Justice

4.1%

Sociology

3.4%

Clinical Psychology

3.3%

Rehabilitation Science

3.0%

Business

2.8%

Family Therapy

2.8%

Education

2.3%

Chemical Engineering

1.5%

Nursing

1.3%

Pharmacy

1.2%

Human Development

1.2%

Elementary Education

1.1%

Management

1.1%

Health Care Administration

1.1%
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Degrees

Masters

49.2%

Bachelors

24.3%

Other

13.3%

Associate

5.1%

Doctorate

4.0%

Certificate

3.4%

Diploma

0.5%

License

0.3%
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Top Primary Counselor Employers

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Primary Counselor Videos

Working with Children in Counselling - Counselling Children

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