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What Does An Addiction Counselor Do

Details On What Its Like To Be A Drug And Alcohol Addiction Counselor

What does it take to be an addiction counselor?

Youve reached a new chapter in your life where youre now considering a new career path. Whether you just recently graduated from high school, or are just looking for a new path in life, youve been considering becoming an addict counselor. Maybe youve suffered from addiction yourself or have seen ones you love suffer from it and are ready to make a difference.

No matter what your reasons are, youll be appreciated by many. Not only will those who youre helping benefit from this career decision, but youll benefit from it as well. Interested in knowing all the details on what its like to be a drug and alcohol addiction counselor?

Continue reading below to learn more!

Doctorate Degree In Addiction Counseling

Some substance abuse professionals choose to earn a doctoral degree. Typically, a masters degree is the minimum educational requirement for taking clinical licensure exams, but you could also qualify with a doctorate.

In fact, to become a professionalpsychologist, you must earn a doctoral degree. In settings like hospitals, medical clinics, rehabilitation centers, and private practices, psychologists can provide drug counseling services for people who have addictions.

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Having a doctorate can also open the door for other opportunities in this field. You might become a researcher who studies addiction science and treatment methods, or you might teach students who want to become substance abuse counselors.

Your doctorate may also make you an outstanding candidate for leadership positions in treatment facilities and non-profit organizations.

What Substance Abuse Behavioral Disorder And Mental Health Counselors Do About This Section

Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors advise people who suffer from alcoholism, drug addiction, eating disorders, mental health issues, or other mental or behavioral problems. They provide treatment and support to help clients recover from addiction or modify problem behaviors.

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Who Would Benefit From Attending An Addiction Counsellor

People who will most likely benefit from the specialised skill of an addiction counsellor are likely to be those who are directly affected by the impact of a behaviour or chemical that is causing or has caused them harm or distress irrespective of the amount, frequency or usage now or in the past. Examples could include people who are currently chronically abusing alcohol or drugs or caught up in compulsive gambling or addiction to pornography, to people who are just concerned about their usage of certain chemicals such as prescription drugs or eating behaviours. Some people may have stopped their alcohol or drug use for years but are still unhappy and carrying the effects of the past with them and are seeking to recover from earlier, problematic situations in their lives.

Individual Vs Group Therapy

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While any counseling therapy for drug abuse treatment is better than none, group therapy is generally preferred over individual therapy. In group therapy, youâre more likely to be both challenged and supported by peers who are also going through rehab.

Twelve-step programs like Narcotics or Alcoholics Anonymous are also peer support groups. They can be a useful part of your recovery program. But keep in mind that they arenât led by a trained psychotherapist and, thus, arenât the same as group therapy.

Individual therapy can help when you have depression, bipolar disorder, or another significant mental health condition that requires treatment in its own right, separate from your substance use disorder.

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Substance Abuse Social Workers

They help people struggling with substance abuse by using different methodologies, including counseling, interview sessions, referrals, group therapy, and psychiatric services. These workers are compassionate, empathizers, and good listeners and have brilliant problem-solving skills to ensure patient compliance.

Substance Abuse Counselor Salary

Nationwide, the salaries for substance abuse counselors typically falls within the range of $46,240 and $76,080.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2019. National 50th 90th percentile range for Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder and Mental Health Counselors.Salaries based on national data not school specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed March 2021.

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Description Of A Behavioral Health Specialist

Typically working for clinics and learning institutions, a behavioral health specialist is in charge of counseling and treating patients with behavioral issues. Their responsibilities revolve around conducting initial assessment through interview and observation, maintaining records and data, developing treatment plans, and referring patients to other support services when necessary. Moreover, a behavioral health specialist must communicate with the patient’s families or guardians, discuss conditions, and provide advice on taking care of them. Aside from treating patients, it is also essential to continuously monitor their behavior while building positive relationships with them.

Now, we’ll look at Behavioral Health Specialists, who generally average a higher pay when compared to Alcohol And Drug Counselors annual salary. In fact, the difference is about $6,750 per year.

While both Alcohol And Drug Counselors and Behavioral Health Specialists complete day-to-day tasks using similar skills like Substance Abuse, Treatment Plans, and Crisis Intervention, the two careers also vary in other skills.

Behavioral Health Specialists earn a higher salary in the Government industry with an average of $52,804. Whereas, Alcohol And Drug Counselors earn the highest salary in the Government industry.

Masters Degree In Addiction Counseling

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Earning a MS degree is an important step for many mental health counseling professionals in this field. In some states, you must achieve this level of education before youre allowed to practice as a substance abuse counselor.

All states require you to get a masters if you want to become clinically licensed.

In states other than Kansas, a masters degree can be a good way to break into this field for the first time. A number of masters programs dont require you to hold a particular bachelors degree.

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On the other hand, certain undergraduate prerequisites may qualify you for an advanced-standing masters program. The masters program you pursue can come in a number of fields. For example, some students earn a masters in applied behavior analysis or a masters in psychology.

Some graduate counseling programs are specifically designed to prepare you for licensure. Youll first need to earn work hours and take an exam.

Licensure can allow you to practice independently, and it can qualify you to take advanced roles with increased responsibilities or higher pay.

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What Is A Substance Abuse Counselor


Helping people overcome addictions to intoxicants and cope with life’s stresses make up the substance abuse counselor’s core mission. Substance abuse counseling begins with an evaluation of an addicted person’s physical and mental behaviors. Depending on the complexity of the problem, a counselor may call in other professionals, such as psychiatrists and social workers.

Do I Need To Have A Degree In Addiction Counseling To Be An Addiction Counselor

A bachelors degree in addiction counseling demonstrates your knowledge about working with people who have substance use disorders, but states have different rules about the education levels they require.

If you have an undergraduate degree in an unrelated field, you could get a masters degree in addiction counseling in order to start working as a counselor for the first time. Counseling programs to consider include Addiction Studies, Psychology, Social Work, or Counseling.

Professional mental health counselors may be able to shift their focus to addiction by pursuing certifications from NCC AP.

The National Board for Certified Counselors also issues a Master Addictions Counselor certification.

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Career Opportunities As A Drug And Alcohol Abuse Counselor

There are several types of jobs in this field, so as a first step to creating your career path, youll want to research what is available in your community and area of interest. Counseling jobs in this field are found in outpatient programs, community health centers, prisons, homeless shelters, halfway houses, juvenile facilities, adolescent treatment facilities, hospitals, residential facilities, mental health centers, and private practice. Most positions are full time and often require working evening and weekend hours.

Substance abuse counselor salary ranges depend on several factors, including the level of education, number of hours of field experience, and employment setting. Nonprofit organizations tend to offer lower salaries, while compensation at top-quality residential facilities can be higher.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median wage for a substance abuse counselor in 2017 was $43,300. The lowest ten percent in this field earned less than $27,310 and the highest ten percent earned over $70,840. Dr. Posson finds that most drug and alcohol abuse counselors are following a passion for helping people, more than just striving for a paycheck. People are to the field theyre not just seeking a job, he says.

Career Paths For Substance Abuse Counselors

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These are some career paths a substance abuse counselor may pursue:

  • Outpatient addictions counselor: These counselors work with patients by scheduling appointments to meet with and discuss their plans for addiction recovery, coping mechanisms and maintaining a healthy environment.

  • Community facilitator: A community facilitator is someone who leads recovery workshops for those suffering from substance abuse. They have experience in substance abuse or behavioral health.

  • Mental health counselor: A mental health counselor can address problems other than just substance abuse, including conditions like depression, anxiety and compulsive disorders.

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Becoming An Addiction Counselor

Is your interest to join this profession still intact?

Yes? Excellent! Now you need to know what it takes to become an addiction counselor.

First, earn a counseling degree. Ensure the program is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs.

The good news is most universities and colleges offer accredited programs. However, be sure to learn more about what a counseling course entails before applying for enrollment.

After earning your degree, acquire supervised clinical experience. Next, apply to your states licensing board for licensure and registration. You will need to pass a licensing examination and undergo a background check.

How To Get A Drug And Alcohol Counseling Certificate

More than 19 million Americans ages 12 and up battled a substance abuse disorder in 2017. Of those, 74% struggled with alcohol and 38% with illicit drug use. One in eight were affected by both.

These numbers from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health may be startling, and they arent figures anyone wants to see. However, these statistics demonstrate the dire need perhaps more than ever for qualified professionals to help others with their addiction.

Addiction counseling is a fast-growing area in the mental health profession. Depending on where you live and where you work , you might need further education or credentials to work specifically with substance abuse cases. You may have searched for drug and alcohol counseling certificate, but to practice in California, what youll officially need is certification from an approved organization.

Before we cover what this certification entails, well share more about the career path itself, including demand and duties.

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What Are The Skills Of A Successful Addiction Counselor

Substance abuse counseling can be a rewarding career, but it can also present many challenges. Your education and clinical experiences can help you prepare for the rough parts of the job, and your personal skill set can help you achieve success as well.

To be a good counselor over the long term, you must be able to manage your personal and professional stress. You must also be able to confidently set boundaries so that your work responsibilities dont become overwhelming.

Good people skills can make all the difference. You must be an empathetic listener who pays attention to what others say and cares about making a difference.

Occupational Employment And Wage Statistics

About Addiction Counseling and Group Therapy

The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link below go to OEWS data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

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Where Do Substance Abuse Counselors Work

Outpatient treatment centers employ 19% of addiction counselors, and another 10% work at residential facilities, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

These counselors in the substance abuse counseling field may also find employment with hospitals, medical clinics, correctional facilities, halfway houses, schools, youth centers, government agencies, or non-profit organizations. Others are employed by individual businesses to provide employee support.

Addictions Counselor Assistant Skills And Personality Traits

We calculated that 10% of Addictions Counselor Assistants are proficient in Crisis Intervention, Substance Abuse, and Counselors. Theyâre also known for soft skills such as Communication skills, Organizational skills, and Problem-solving skills.

We break down the percentage of Addictions Counselor Assistants that have these skills listed on their resume here:

  • Crisis Intervention, 10%

    Served as on-call clinician once per week providing crisis intervention and insurance authorizations for mental health benefits.

  • Substance Abuse, 9%

    Used information obtained to make critical recommendations regarding substance abuse and employee assistance related issues and referrals to other agencies.

  • Counselors, 7%

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What Sort Of Person Becomes An Addictions Counselor

Addiction mental health counselors are a diverse group. As you begin to practice, you’ll see that this diversity is a great strength in the field. That’s because substance use addicts are likewise diverse. There is not one single set of characteristics that will fit every substance abuse sufferer. Therefore, in order to connect with an addict, there needs to be a counselor that they can relate to. Your unique story and approach will surely be a great benefit to an addict and his family.

While many addicts appreciate counselors who have been through the wringer of substance abuse, a lack of a alcohol and drug addiction shouldn’t hold you back from pursuing the profession. In fact, you can bring a more objective view to the table. This can be of great help in a clinical setting, where a rehab center wants to have a diversified staff.

  • Objectivity
  • Open-mindedness

While diversity is something of a rule in this field, alcohol and drug addiction counselors need to be dedicated to helping people with substance abuse find a solution to a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body. This condition frequently involves relapse and it is nobody’s fault when this happens. Neither modern science nor ancient wisdom traditions have discovered a silver-bullet solution that works for everybody after a single treatment. Therefore, you will need to have patience not only with your clients, but with yourself and with the entire process of getting sober.

Diagnoses Of Mental Illness

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Substance abuse is usually escalated by various contributing factors, such as an underlying mental disorder. Treating the mental illness with the substance abuse disorder increases the chances of complete healing rather than focusing on the abuse alone. The professionals understand the nature of these combined factors and conduct tests and diagnoses to find the fundamental cause of the behavior and offer suitable treatment to prevent relapse.

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Dispelling Addiction Counselor Myths

Myth: Counselors are the same as psychiatrists.

Truth: Psychiatrists are medical doctors who have completed formal degrees, internships and residencies, and who are licensed to prescribe medicine. The next level down is the licensed psychologist, who has a non-medical doctorate in psychology and is certified to diagnose mental/behavioral illnesses but not to write prescriptions.

There are many other types of counselors, from clinical social workers to Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselors: exact titles and certifications are regulated by state laws.

When being treated for addiction disorder, you will work with someone who is specifically certified as an addiction counselor: an LCDC, Certified Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselor, certified addiction counselor, licensed substance abuse therapist or similar title.

Myth: Counselors are out to fix you and will treat you like a mass-produced machine.

Truth: Counselors are very much concerned about their clients individual personalities and needs. And they dont tell you what to do: like Socrates, they gently steer you toward discovering problems and solutions for yourself.

Myth: Its the counselors job to make everything all better.

What Makes A Good Addiction Counselor

An addiction counselor collaborates with their patients to evaluate their situation and establish goals to develop a customized treatment plan. Your counselor should be a good listener and possesses an overall demeanor of compassion. The initial counseling sessions are designed to lay the foundation for mutual trust, which is imperative for a successful outcome.

I contribute hard work, and my friends at AA for helping me stay sober. Im still in contact with my counselor at the Greenhouse, my rehab. I love talking to other recovering addicts.

– Janis J, recovering addict

Through a counselors empathy and patience, they create a safe environment for the user to openly communicate. This will help the counselor identify the underlying issues that may be driving the addictive behavior. This part of therapy is on of the keys, because without pinpointing the underlying issue, long-term recovery is less likely.

A good therapist will also be able to diagnose and treat any co-occurring mental health conditions. The most important quality in a good addiction counselor is a desire and commitment to help their patients move through the stages of change with the ultimate goal of achieving long-term sobriety.

Break free from addiction.

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The Role Of Addiction Counselors In Recovery

Addiction is a deep-rooted disease. Drug and alcohol addicts suffer from more than just the effects of substance abuse. Their issues are psychological, usually resulting from a mental disorder or even from an event in their past.

This is why addicts need professional psychological help during the recovery process. Addiction counselors aid an addict in various areas of recovery, understanding their addiction and assuring them of their decision to recover.

Are you thinking of becoming an addiction counselor? Understand the role before taking courses. Read on to learn more.

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