How to Become a Substance Abuse Counselor

If you have an empathetic nature, are a great communicator, and genuinely enjoy helping people in need, then you might like to become a substance abuse counselor.

These specialists help people come through some of the darkest times of their lives, and overcome some tough obstacles.

Working as a substance abuse counselor is without a doubt challenging, but ultimately can be very rewarding.

A substance abuse counselor helps people to overcome their addictions to things like alcohol or drugs.

Counselors may work with a patient one on one, or in a group situation.

To work in this field, you will need to be licensed, and this requires at least a masters degree.

Employment prospects are excellent, as the job opportunities in this area are set to outnumber the candidates due to graduate in the coming years.

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Education Requirements to Become a Substance Abuse Counselor

While you must be licensed in all states to become a substance abuse counselor, the requirements for licensure vary from place to place.

In most places you will need a masters degree to work as a counselor.

To begin with, you’ll need to complete a four years bachelors degree.

Your major should be in social work, psychology, or a similar area.

You’ll then need to go to graduate school to complete a masters degree in counseling, which will take between two and three years to finish.

Masters degree programs are made up partially of coursework, and you will be able to select a program that has a focus on substance abuse counseling.

You will also complete supervised professional practice, where you will have the opportunity to work with clients.

While at college, it’s good to gain some other experience also.

You could volunteer your time to work in a treatment centre or hospital, or you might also work for a phone hot line for people with addiction problems.

You can find state specific accreditation information and degree programs at the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs website.

Substance Abuse Counselor Job Description

When you become a substance abuse counselor, you will work with individuals attempting to overcome the grip of addiction.

You may work with people suffer from alcoholism, drug addiction, gambling or sex addiction, or with eating disorders.

A counselor may work with a client one on one.

They usually design a treatment program which could involve individual counseling or group therapy.

Many treatment programs involve the client doing volunteer or community work.

Many substance abuse counselors work within hospitals or for social welfare agencies.

Some work within treatment facilities, while others work privately out of their own offices.

Here are some of the duties of a substance abuse counselor:

  • Scheduling appointments with clients
  • Leading group therapy sessions
  • Counseling sessions with clients
  • Making a treatment plan for clients
  • Providing counseling to family members of clients
  • Keeping patient notes and files
  • Research into substance abuse

Substance Abuse Counselor Salary and Career Path

Once you have completed the educational requirements and supervised professional practice, you will be ready to start work as a substance abuse counselor.

Most begin their career as an employee, working within a hospital or for a treatment facility.

Some later go on to become self-employed.

Some counselors go on to become researchers in the area of social welfare, and others go into other areas of psychology, counseling, social work, or go on to teach counseling at a college.

When you become a counselor, you can expect to earn close to the median salary of $49,000 a year once you have a few years of experience.

The top 10% of earners make around $70,000 a year.

If you are self-employed you will have the opportunity to earn more.

Some roles that are similar to that of a substance abuse counselor include:

  • Marriage counselor
  • Psychologist
  • Social worker
  • College professor
  • School counselor
  • Occupational therapist
  • Physical therapist

With strong growth and excellent job opportunities, you might like to become a substance abuse counselor if you are looking for a career in health.

It’s an excellent opportunity to help someone through some of the greatest challenges of their life, and make a positive contribution to your own community through your work.

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