What does a Substance Abuse Counselor do?

substance abuse counselor leading group therapy

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A substance abuse counselor primarily supports and assists people with behavioral problems such as drug addiction, alcoholism, eating disorders, gambling and other addictions or issues. They help their clients correct and modify their behavior. In addition, they may continue to give support during their client’s treatment and recovery in group counseling, prevention programs, and meeting one-on-one.

Watch a video to learn what a substance abuse counselor does:

How to Become a Substance Abuse Counselor

substance abuse counselor leading group therapy

Most employers want a substance abuse counselor to have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. However, it becoming more frequent that most employers are requiring a master’s degree and many would like to see several years of supervised work experience as well. Degrees in behavioral sciences, psychology, and social sciences are the most common for these counselors. You must get licensed to work in private practice in all states. Check with your state to see what the requirements are.

A substance abuse counselor must be knowledgable in counseling, therapy, psychology, and sociology. They need to have a knowledge of methods and principles for training design, instruction and teaching for individual or group dynamics and curriculum. He or she needs to know how to assess the client’s needs, evaluation of satisfaction, and meeting relevant counseling standards. You must have the ability to actively listen, give full attention to a client’s needs, and communicate with them in a way that is easily understood. The ability to be socially perceptive is important as well in order to understand a patient’s reaction and why they behave as they do.

Job Description of a Substance Abuse Counselors

A substance abuse counselor helps individuals overcome addictions or dependencies on drugs, alcohol, gambling, or any other behavioral problem that interferes with everyday activities. They help t by counseling the person in either a group session, one-on-one or in an intervention situation. The research treatment plans through studies of patient history, clinical experience or even with the assistance of those in other professional health careers such as mental health, social workers, or doctors. They also offer and give orientation programs and/or sessions for groups of individuals as preventative measures or support. They may collect urine samples to analyze and determine the degree of drug dependency of a person.

A substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselor plan a course of treatment for a client’s behavioral problems. They track progress during treatment, in follow-up programs, and after a patient is discharged. They keep careful records and accurate reports of progress, history, service provided, and other relevant information pertinent in their client’s recovery process. They also perform an interview process to determine if a client is suitable for a specific program and attend staff meetings and/or case conferences.

Substance abuse counselors need monitoring abilities for corrective action when needed for individuals that are treating. They need to be able to make decisions and quick judgments concerning patient care to include, benefits, treatment or cost for their clients. They need a solid command of English grammar in order to give information through documentation, recording, or other written reports. Resolving problems from a grievance, complaint, or other conflict is also necessary for this job. Most substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors work in community health centers, prisons, mental health centers or private practice usually full-time.

Substance Abuse Counselor Career Video Transcript

Individuals struggling with mental health issues or substance abuse often need focused help to recover their well-being and make changes in behavior that will improve their lives. Counselors offer the treatment and support that helps people recover. Substance abuse counselors and behavioral disorder counselors, teach clients how to cope with life’s problems without turning to substances, modify problem behaviors, help them rebuild relationships and, if necessary, reestablish their career.

Mental health counselors treat clients with a variety of mental and emotional health issues and relationship problems. They may specialize in a population such as students, children, or the elderly. Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors work in a wide variety of settings, including mental health centers and hospitals, prisons, and addiction or eating disorder treatment centers. Although rewarding, the work can be stressful, with large workloads, and often limited resources. They also may have to intervene in crisis situations or work with disturbed clients.

Most counselors work full-time. In some settings, they may need to work evenings, nights, or weekends. All states require mental health counselors to be licensed, which requires a master’s degree, internship, and a period of professionally supervised practice. For substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselor positions, educational requirements can vary from a high school diploma and certification to a master’s degree. Licensure requirements vary by state and position, though all who work in private practice must be licensed.

Article Citations

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors.

National Center for O*NET Development. 21-1011.00. O*NET OnLine.

The career video is in the public domain from the U. S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration.

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