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Become A Substance Abuse Counselor

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Working As A Substance Abuse 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

  • $54,048

    Average Salary

What Does A Substance Abuse 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 Substance Abuse 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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Substance Abuse Counselor Career Paths

Substance Abuse Counselor
Clinical Supervisor Clinical Director
Administrative Director, Behavioral Health Services
11 Yearsyrs
Program Coordinator Home Health Aid Registered Nurse Case Manager
Clinical Care Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Clinician Therapist Clinical Supervisor
Clinical Program Manager
10 Yearsyrs
Program Coordinator Registered Nurse Staff Nurse
Clinical Services Director
11 Yearsyrs
Adjunct Professor Communications Consultant Communications Project Manager
Communications Program Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Specialist Therapist School Counselor
Counseling Director
5 Yearsyrs
Social Worker Program Director
Director Of Residential Services
7 Yearsyrs
Therapist Medical Social Worker
Director Of Social Services
6 Yearsyrs
Mental Health Counselor Social Worker
Director Of Social Work
7 Yearsyrs
Program Director Service Director
Director Of Support Services
10 Yearsyrs
Mental Health Counselor Clinician
Health Care Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Adjunct Professor Solo Practitioner Housing Counselor
Housing Program Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Program Director Registered Nurse Case Manager
Medical Case Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Clinician Clinical Supervisor Clinical Director
Outpatient Services Director
10 Yearsyrs
Social Worker Specialist Direct Support Professional
Residential Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Specialist Case Manager Program Supervisor
Residential Program Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Therapist Program Manager
Service Program Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Clinical Coordinator Registered Nurse Supervisor Utilization Review Coordinator
Utilities Manager
9 Yearsyrs
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Average Length of Employment
Clinical Counselor 2.6 years
Primary Counselor 2.5 years
Family Counselor 2.3 years
Intake Counselor 2.1 years
Counselor 2.0 years
Top Careers Before Substance Abuse Counselor
Case Manager 14.1%
Internship 13.8%
Counselor 12.4%
Therapist 4.7%
Volunteer 3.7%
Teacher 2.6%
Clinician 2.4%
Supervisor 2.4%
Top Careers After Substance Abuse Counselor
Case Manager 13.6%
Counselor 13.5%
Therapist 9.8%
Clinician 5.6%
Internship 3.7%
Specialist 3.0%
Supervisor 2.4%

Do you work as a Substance Abuse Counselor?

Substance Abuse Counselor Demographics

Gender

Female

66.7%

Male

31.4%

Unknown

2.0%
Ethnicity

White

61.5%

Hispanic or Latino

16.1%

Black or African American

12.2%

Asian

6.5%

Unknown

3.8%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

79.5%

French

5.8%

Portuguese

3.1%

Russian

2.4%

Chinese

1.4%

Italian

1.0%

Vietnamese

0.7%

Lakota

0.7%

Greek

0.7%

German

0.7%

Japanese

0.7%

Polish

0.7%

Swahili

0.3%

Swedish

0.3%

Aleut

0.3%

Mandarin

0.3%

Korean

0.3%

Khmer

0.3%

Hawaiian

0.3%

Ukrainian

0.3%
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Substance Abuse Counselor Education

Schools

University of Phoenix

12.3%

Capella University

11.2%

Liberty University

10.4%

Grand Canyon University

10.2%

Walden University

7.4%

Troy University

5.7%

Florida State University

5.0%

Webster University

4.5%

Springfield College

4.2%

Nova Southeastern University

3.7%

Ashford University

3.1%

Fordham University

2.8%

Kaplan University

2.8%

Southern Illinois University Carbondale

2.7%

Valdosta State University

2.6%

University of Alabama

2.3%

New York University

2.3%

East Carolina University

2.3%

Virginia Commonwealth University

2.2%

Lindsey Wilson College

2.2%
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Majors

Social Work

17.5%

Psychology

14.2%

Mental Health Counseling

13.7%

School Counseling

11.0%

Counseling Psychology

7.7%

Human Services

7.1%

Criminal Justice

6.8%

Business

3.0%

Sociology

2.8%

Education

2.3%

Clinical Psychology

2.2%

Rehabilitation Science

2.0%

Family Therapy

1.9%

Pharmacy

1.9%

Nursing

1.4%

Chemical Engineering

1.1%

Liberal Arts

1.0%

Human Development

0.9%

Human Resources Management

0.9%

Management

0.8%
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Degrees

Masters

48.6%

Bachelors

27.2%

Other

11.2%

Associate

5.5%

Certificate

3.8%

Doctorate

3.1%

Diploma

0.4%

License

0.3%
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Substance Abuse Counselor Videos

A Day in the Life - Drug/Alcohol Counselor

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Part Time
Internship
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Real Substance Abuse Counselor Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Substance Abuse Couselor Bartlett Regional Hospital Juneau, AK Jun 02, 2014 $61,713
Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors A.C. Rao P.C. New York, NY Dec 01, 2009 $60,000
Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselor People Encouraging People Inc. Baltimore, MD Aug 19, 2008 $55,890
Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors Hazelden Foundation Center City, MN Nov 08, 2012 $52,881
Substance Abuse Counselor Texas Community Supervision Alternatives, LLC Austin, TX Jan 01, 2016 $52,175 -
$73,045
Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselor Camillus Health Concern, Inc. Miami, FL Dec 16, 2009 $50,000
Substance Abuse Counselor HHC Poplar Springs Inc. Petersburg, VA Sep 18, 2011 $50,000
Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors Teen Challenge of East Bay, Inc. Oakland, CA May 28, 2013 $48,339
Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors Healthmark of Walton, Inc. De Funiak Springs, FL Mar 17, 2014 $48,000
Substance Abuse Counselor Services for The Underserved, Inc. New York, NY Apr 04, 2011 $48,000
Mental Health & Substance Abuse Counselor Doug Uhlig Psychological Serrvices PLLC NY May 19, 2016 $47,278
Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors TOX Integrated Guidance Inc. Oklahoma City, OK Nov 05, 2007 $45,600
Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselor Crisis Management Services, Inc. Philadelphia, PA Apr 25, 2012 $45,351
Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors Akeela Inc. Anchorage, AK Mar 23, 2010 $41,740 -
$48,001
Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselor Crisis Management Services, Inc. Philadelphia, PA Apr 18, 2008 $40,446
Counselor and Coordinator: Hispanic Substance Abus Council On Alcohol and Drug Abuse Hahnville, LA Dec 09, 2016 $40,000
Counselor and Coordinator: Hispanic Substance Abus Council On Alcohol and Drug Abuse New Orleans, LA Sep 22, 2016 $40,000
Latino Substance Abuse Counselor Positive Impact Inc. Atlanta, GA Nov 01, 2010 $39,500
Substance Abuse Counselors Hope Homes Inc. Smyrna, GA Feb 11, 2011 $39,229
Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors DR. Attaman, PLLC Seattle, WA Sep 24, 2014 $39,000
Substance Abuse & Behavioral Disorder Counselor (Clinician) The Devereux Foundation Rutland, MA Aug 19, 2016 $38,979 -
$73,084
Substance Abuse Counselor Wabash Valley Alliance, Inc. Lafayette, IN Jul 01, 2010 $36,335
Substance Abuse Counselor Wabash Valley Hospital, Inc. Lafayette, IN Jul 01, 2010 $36,335
Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska, Inc. Lincoln, NE Aug 07, 2012 $36,300
Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors Burrell, Inc. Springfield, MO Feb 28, 2014 $36,000 -
$40,000
Bilingual Substance Abuse Counselor Peer Services Inc. Evanston, IL May 18, 2012 $36,000
Bilingual Substance Abuse Couselor Peer Services Inc. Evanston, IL May 14, 2012 $36,000
Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors Substance Abuse Center of Kansas, Inc. Wichita, KS Aug 01, 2012 $36,000

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Top Skills for A Substance Abuse Counselor

  1. Treatment Plans
  2. Substance Abuse
  3. Intake Assessments
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Developed individualized treatment plans and provided therapeutic services to clients.
  • Provide substance abuse assessments and individual/group counseling services to individuals, typically involved with the criminal justice system.
  • Conducted intake assessments to determine treatment level/intervention needs, along with individual counseling.
  • Facilitated substance abuse intensive outpatient treatment to adult populations by planning and co-leading group therapy sessions.
  • Conducted individual and group counseling sessions, implementing behavior management systems and conducting crisis intervention counseling as necessary.

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Top 10 Best States for Substance Abuse Counselors

  1. Maine
  2. Alaska
  3. New Jersey
  4. Wyoming
  5. Pennsylvania
  6. Nevada
  7. Rhode Island
  8. Connecticut
  9. North Dakota
  10. Massachusetts
  • (31 jobs)
  • (11 jobs)
  • (149 jobs)
  • (16 jobs)
  • (291 jobs)
  • (57 jobs)
  • (18 jobs)
  • (60 jobs)
  • (14 jobs)
  • (608 jobs)

Top Substance Abuse Counselor Employers

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Jobs From Top Substance Abuse Counselor Employers

Substance Abuse Counselor Videos

A Day in the Life - Drug/Alcohol Counselor

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