What Does a Substance Abuse Counselor Do?

Substance abuse counselors provide both individual and group therapy for patients suffering from addictions, including alcohol and drug addiction. You may offer help to prevent addictions or assist individuals recovering from an addiction as a substance abuse counselor. Schools offering Addiction Counseling degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Job Description

Substance abuse counselors work with individuals and groups in various treatment settings, including healthcare facilities, rehabilitation institutes, correctional institutes, community organizations, and social agencies. As of 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov), substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health counselors held 267,730 jobs. The industries employing the highest level of workers were outpatient centers, residential centers, and individual and family services. In this career, you may provide prevention, crisis care, and recovery services. You may also work with families of addicts. In addition to helping individuals with addictions to alcohol or drugs, you may work with people affected by behavioral issues, such as eating disorders or gambling.

Important Facts About Substance Abuse Counselors

Median Salary (2018) $44,630 (for substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health counselors)
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 23% growth
Work Environment Mental health centers, prisons, probation or parole agencies, juvenile delinquent facilities, halfway houses, detox facilities, employee assistant programs, residential treatment centers, outpatient treatment centers, or private practice office
Key Skills Patience, compassion, active listening, interpersonal, excellent presentation and negotiation

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Duties and Responsibilities

Your work duties as a substance abuse counselor may include conducting interviews with potential patients, administering periodic drug tests, and conducting counseling sessions. You will also handle duties such as reviewing records to assess treatment program readiness, keeping records detailing treatment and progress, and developing appropriate plans for treatment based on individual history and needs. To ensure patients receive the proper care, you may review and analyze patient treatment plans to evaluate progress and meet with other staff members and health professionals to discuss patient progress. When patients are ready to leave treatment, you continue to help by developing aftercare programs and follow-up procedures.

Employment Requirements

Each state handles its own regulations for substance abuse counselors, and there is no standard among the requirements. Some states may only require a high school diploma and certification for employment. Some states require licensure, which may entail meeting education standards, having experience in the field, and passing a licensing exam. In addition, you may need to submit continuing education documentation to maintain your license. Some state requirements may mandate the completion of at least a master's degree program or certification to become licensed.

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