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What's the Job Description of an Addictions Counselor?

Are you interested in working with people who are addicted to certain substances or actions? Do you want to act as a positive force in the lives of these individuals and their families? If so, a career as an addictions counselor could be right for you. Read on to find out about the specific duties, educational requirements, licensing regulations, and salary statistics for addictions counselors.

Duties and Responsibilities

As an addictions counselor, also known as substance abuse, alcohol, and drug, chemical dependency, or behavioral disorder counselor, you'd be responsible for helping people overcome various addictions. You might encounter people who are addicted to a substance, such as alcohol or drugs, as well as people with addictive behaviors, such as gambling or sex. You could work in group settings, providing assistance to several people experiencing the same issue, or counsel people individually to formulate a specialized treatment plan. You might also advise your patients' families and friends to instruct them on how to deal with their loved one's addiction at home.

An important aspect of your job would be getting your patients to recognize that they have a problem because they might be in denial of their addiction or its causes. You could help patients realize the effect that their addiction and behaviors have on themselves, their loved ones, and their personal environment. You can then work with your patient to determine the desired outcome and treatment plan. You might also set up community outreach programs for the purposes of teaching the public and stopping addiction on a larger scale.

Important Facts About Addictions Counselors

On-the-Job Training Not provided formally, but acquired through work experience
Key Skills Empathy, clear communication, close listening, patience, social sensitivity
Work Environment Typically full-time; may require evenings, nights and weekends
Similar Occupations Social workers; social and human service assistants; rehabilitation counselors; mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists; social and community service managers

Education and Licensure Requirements

Education requirements for addictions counselors can vary significantly from state to state. Additionally, many states have different levels of addictions counseling that come with their own educational requirements. These requirements can range from a high school diploma and certification to a master's degree. You're advised to check with your state to determine the amount of education that you'll need.

After obtaining the necessary education, you'll typically need to apply to your state's licensing board for an addictions counseling license. Some states require you to complete specific college-level coursework, or you might need some experience in the field. In a few instances, you could be required to earn professional certification, such as that offered by the NAADAC, the Association for Addiction Professionals. Certification eligibility requirements could exceed those mandated by your state.

Employment and Salary Statistics

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov), there were about 267,730 substance abuse, behavioral disorders, and mental health counselors nationwide, and they earned a median salary of $44,630 in 2018. Most of these counselors were employed at outpatient care centers and individual and family services. However, professionals who worked in junior college settings earned the highest average salaries in 2018, estimated at $63,760 a year by the BLS. The Bureau anticipated this occupation would increase by 23% between 2016 and 2026, which is much faster than the average.