Substance abuse counselors wear many hats in their line of work. This field comes with numerous challenges, but it is also an incredibly rewarding job. Substance abuse counselors have the unique opportunity to help people overcome addiction and achieve sobriety. They can serve as part of a long-term management team or may intervene in cases of a crisis. Counselors often provide support beyond therapy sessions and work in a variety of environments.
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Although substance abuse counselors may work in a variety of settings, their responsibilities span to include many of the same tasks. Counselors work directly with clients providing numerous services in therapeutic settings. Responsibilities often include:
- Interviewing/assessing clients’ mental health and addiction issues
- Developing treatment plans
- Working one-on-one with clients weekly or bi-weekly
- Participating in or leading group therapies i.e. relapse prevention
- Teaching coping mechanisms
- Providing addiction-prevention resources to the community
- Working with the family, partners, or employers of clients to determine the approach for care
- Helping clients find jobs or re-establish their career
- Providing progress updates to courts
- Referring clients to support groups
- Setting up aftercare/relapse prevention plans
Availability & Scheduling
In most cases, substance abuse counselor works full-time and depending on their caseload, many will work much more than forty hours a week. Counselors often find themselves on-call and available at different hours due to the unpredictable nature of triggers, crises, and risks for relapse. This includes days, night, weekends, and even holidays.
Substance abuse counselors work in a variety of environments. While substance abuse counselors have regular, recurring sessions with clients and other scheduled obligations, because of the nature of addiction, the work of a substance abuse counselor may be done at any time in any location. In most cases, substance abuse counselors may find themselves working in places such as:
- Detention centers
- Social and human services facilities
- Prisons and jails
The state you practice in, the place you work, and the certifications you have obtained will play a large role in the amount of money a substance abuse counselor may make. Salaries range from $25,000 a year to $63,000 a year with the median hovering around $43,000 a year. Those with advanced degrees or those who work in hospitals tend to get paid more while those residential facilities make less. There are some cases in which counselors work in private practice or in high-end facilities and make more.
The substance abuse treatment field is continuing to grow exponentially. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the job outlook will continue to rise in this field faster than the average rate of job growth in the upcoming years. This is largely due to a combination of factors including:
- Increases in rates of substance abuse among the general population
- Destigmatizing of addiction, which has encouraged more people to seek help than ever before
- Changes in health plans that now cover addiction treatment to some extent
- More courts are issuing rehabilitation sentences over incarceration to help address the epidemic
As more non-profit and low-profit treatment options become available, the job market is continuing to explode with growth.
While anyone can become a substance abuse counselor with the right education and training, some are more naturally inclined to be successful in the job due to a number of characteristics. In many cases, those who have successfully completed treatment for addiction tend to be successful in a substance abuse counselor role due to their unique ability to understand the experiences of those in treatment. While this is certainly not a prerequisite to becoming a substance abuse counselor, it does offer a unique advantage. Learn more about the skills and characteristics of substance abuse counselors.
Those who possess some of the following traits may find the role of a substance abuse counselor to be a great fit:
- Social skills
- Active and passive listening skills
- A desire to help others
- Personal boundaries
- The ability to manage stress effectively
For those looking to start a career in substance abuse counseling, it is important to determine where you would like to work before beginning the journey. Education requirements for substance abuse counselors vary state-by-state. You’ll first need to check your state’s requirements for substance abuse counselor education.
Depending on the type of work you would like to do, there are numerous education paths you can follow. The most common paths followed include:
- Certification programs: Certification programs offer the fastest timeline for completion. In many cases, these can help you obtain your substance abuse counselor certification online as well.
- Degree programs: Depending on the type of degree you are looking to obtain, this can take anywhere from two to five years to achieve. Costs largely depend on the type of institution you attend.
- Tech Schools: Tech schools can offer a quick path to achieving certifications in substance abuse counseling.
Regardless of the path you take, these options allow you to specialize. You can complete education with a focus on specific populations, treating specific forms of addiction, and other unique factors that may contribute to individual experience.
There are numerous career paths that may be followed in substance abuse counseling. Depending on the types of service you would like to provide and the certifications you obtain, options include:
- Prevention Specialist (PS): PS work within communities to promote substance-free living. They may help develop community structures or programs that support sober living
- Registered Alcohol & Drug Technician (RADT): In this field, RADTs would work to help collect samples to test for drug or alcohol content. They may work with clients to collect urine, blood, saliva, hair, or other specimens for testing
- Certified Alcohol & Drug Counselor (CADC): CADCs work directly with clients to provide therapy and help them develop healthy coping mechanisms. They may work within communities to help establish resources
- Certified Alcohol & Drug Counselor Clinical Supervisor (CADC CS): CADC CS work with counselors to develop treatment plans and assist in the care of clients
- Certified Criminal Justice Professional (CCJP): In this role, a CCJPs can provide addiction counseling to those within the criminal justice system
- Intervention Specialist (IS): IS work with families to help develop, lead, and follow-through on interventions
There are also higher-level certifications and degrees that may be completed to provide a wider variety of services. These include:
- Licensed Advanced Alcohol & Drug Counselor (LAADC)
- Licensed Advanced Alcohol & Drug Counselor Supervisor (LAADC-S)
To learn more about how to become a substance abuse counselor, please give us a call at 866.615.3276 or send us a message to discuss your options. We are able to work with you to determine if our counseling program would be right for you and direct you to a variety of resources to start the process.