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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

  • $41,950

    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 jobs

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Substance Abuse Counselor Career Paths

Substance Abuse Counselor

Substance Abuse Counselor Demographics

Gender

  • Female

    66.5%
  • Male

    31.6%
  • Unknown

    2.0%

Ethnicity

  • White

    80.2%
  • Hispanic or Latino

    11.4%
  • Asian

    6.2%
  • Unknown

    1.5%
  • Black or African American

    0.6%
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Languages Spoken

  • Spanish

    78.3%
  • French

    5.5%
  • Portuguese

    3.1%
  • Russian

    2.8%
  • Italian

    1.4%
  • Chinese

    1.4%
  • Vietnamese

    0.7%
  • Lakota

    0.7%
  • Korean

    0.7%
  • Ukrainian

    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%
  • Khmer

    0.3%
  • Hawaiian

    0.3%
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Substance Abuse Counselor

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Substance Abuse Counselor Education

Substance Abuse Counselor

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Real Substance Abuse Counselor Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
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 Counselor Services for The Underserved, Inc. New York, NY Apr 04, 2011 $48,000
Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors Healthmark of Walton, Inc. De Funiak Springs, FL Mar 17, 2014 $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 Immanuel Church of America Los Angeles, CA Mar 25, 2008 $45,017
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 New Orleans, LA Sep 22, 2016 $40,000
Counselor and Coordinator: Hispanic Substance Abus Council On Alcohol and Drug Abuse Hahnville, LA Dec 09, 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 Substance Abuse Center of Kansas, Inc. Wichita, KS Aug 01, 2012 $36,000
Bilingual Substance Abuse Counselor Peer Services Inc. Evanston, IL May 18, 2012 $36,000
Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors Burrell, Inc. Springfield, MO Feb 28, 2014 $36,000 -
$40,000
Substance Abuse & Behavioral Disorder Counselor People Encouraging People, Inc. Baltimore, MD Jan 07, 2012 $35,917

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Top Skills for A Substance Abuse Counselor

IndividualTreatmentPlansSubstanceAbuseTreatmentIntakeAssessmentsCrisisInterventionCaseloadAppropriateReferralsMentalHealthIssuesAlcoholRelapsePreventionGroupTherapySessionsDischargePlanningTreatmentProgramAngerManagementIndividualSessionsMethadoneCommunityResourcesChemicalDependencyLifeSkillsSafetyCognitiveBehavioralTherapy

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Top Substance Abuse Counselor Skills

  1. Individual Treatment Plans
  2. Substance Abuse Treatment
  3. Intake Assessments
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Designed, and initiated individual treatment plans for each participant.
  • Conducted substance abuse treatment and recovery groups for both adolescent and adult populations.
  • Completed intake assessments, discharge summaries, follow up recommendations and treatment plans with clients.
  • Provided crisis intervention for preschool children not enrolled in the program
  • Assessed and wrote treatment plans and weekly progress notes for each client assigned to caseload.

Top Substance Abuse Counselor Employers

Substance Abuse Counselor Videos

A Day in the Life - Drug/Alcohol Counselor

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