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Find out how to Develop into a Substance Abuse Counselor: 5 Steps to Comply with

Within the phrases of famend dependancy professional Dr Gabor Maté: “It’s not possible to know dependancy with out asking what aid the addict finds, or hopes to seek out, within the drug or the addictive habits.”

Certainly, though seen by many as a alternative, dependancy is usually a response to a stressor — akin to trauma or psychological sickness — and never a habits to be remoted and brought out of context.

Because you’re right here, likelihood is that you simply perceive this, and that you simply empathize with the hundreds of thousands who battle with substance use issues. So, let’s discuss it: right here’s every part it’s worthwhile to find out about changing into a substance abuse counselor.

What’s a substance abuse counselor?

Substance abuse counselors are chargeable for offering help and steerage to people who battle with substance use issues. Oftentimes, nevertheless, their work revolves round dependancy extra broadly, which means they’re certified to help these with different kinds of addictive behaviors, akin to playing and compulsive consuming.

What are the several types of substance abuse counselors?

There are a lot of totally different paths to changing into a substance abuse counselor. A few of the professionals on this discipline shall be educated to doctorate stage, whereas others will maintain bachelor’s or grasp’s levels plus certification that has been issued by their native dependancy board.

As such, dependancy counselors could maintain one of many following titles:

  • Alcohol and Drug Counselor (ADC)
  • Licensed Habit Skilled (CAP)
  • Licensed Habit Counselor (CAC)
  • Licensed Skilled Counselor (LPC)
  • Licensed Psychological Well being Counselor (LMHC)
  • Licensed Scientific Social Employee (LCSW)

After all, licensed psychologists and psychiatrists additionally typically work with sufferers with substance abuse issues, even when they haven’t pursued any particular specialization across the subject.

What does a substance abuse counselor do?

Substance abuse counselors have numerous duties, together with:

  • Assessing sufferers’ psychological and bodily well being, figuring out the severity of the substance use dysfunction
  • Developing with a remedy plan, which can contain a mix of strategies and interventions akin to medical care, rehabilitation packages and group remedy periods
  • Offering discuss remedy to sufferers (this may be on a person or group stage), in addition to the sufferers’ buddies and households the place wanted
  • Offering documentation akin to affected person progress reviews to regulation enforcement or courtroom techniques

What’s the work surroundings like?

Habit counselors can discover employment in numerous settings, the most typical ones being rehabilitation amenities, correction amenities, hospitals and their very own non-public practices.

Professionals working in non-public practices are inclined to spend extra of their time facilitating one-on-one discuss remedy periods, often liaising with different colleagues when their sufferers require entry to exterior sources and help.

Substance abuse counselors who work in clinics and facilities are sure to have extra “social” work lives, sharing the house with fellow healthcare professionals and different employees.

What number of hours do they work?

Most psychological well being counselors, together with those that focus on substance abuse counseling, work full time.

Identical to their working environments can fluctuate, although, their working hours can fluctuate too. For instance, self-employed professionals understanding of personal practices can determine their very own schedule, whereas these working in facilities and hospitals may match night shifts, night time shifts and on weekends.

In some instances, they might additionally reply to emails, calls or messages outdoors their working hours, if a affected person is in disaster.

How a lot do they earn?

In keeping with the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics survey, substance abuse counselors take dwelling a imply annual earnings of $60,080. That’s an hourly charge of $28.89.

The bottom tenth percentile earns an annual wage of $36,700, whereas the very best tenth percentile makes about $89,920 a 12 months.

The highest 5 highest-paying states for substance abuse counselors are:

  • Alaska ($77,430/12 months)
  • Utah ($70,310/12 months)
  • District of Columbia ($67,750/12 months)
  • New Jersey ($67,250/12 months)
  • New York ($67,240/12 months)

In a snapshot:

Substance Abuse Counselor Salary

What’s their job outlook?

As of 2022, there have been round 388,200 substance abuse, behavioral dysfunction and psychological well being counselors in employment within the US, in keeping with the BLS Employment Projections survey. By 2032, the quantity is anticipated to rise to 459,600, a proportion change of 18.4% over the 10-year interval.

Of those counselors, 8.4% are self-employed, a determine that’s anticipated to develop to 9.2% by 2032.

The anticipated progress of this occupation is in line, sadly, with the nation’s worsening psychological well being disaster. Certainly, over current years, increasingly more folks (together with kids) have been reporting signs of melancholy and nervousness, and the variety of drug overdose deaths has risen dramatically.

What are the entry necessities?

We’ve seen what dependancy counselors do, how a lot they earn and what their work surroundings is like. Now, let’s discuss what it takes to change into one:


The necessities for working towards this occupation fluctuate by state. Nevertheless, most substance abuse counselors full a minimum of an undergraduate diploma program in a associated topic akin to psychology.

Some states additionally require aspiring counselors to carry a related grasp’s diploma.

Abilities and qualities

Habit counselors work with people who find themselves weak, and should subsequently possess the next abilities and qualities:

  • Empathy
  • Robust communication abilities, together with energetic listening
  • Integrity
  • Confidentiality
  • Stress administration
  • A real need to assist others in want

Licenses, certifications and registrations

Your employer and the state you find yourself working towards your occupation in will affect the licensure and certification you’ll want.

To change into licensed, you’ll sometimes must move some kind of examination, such because the Worldwide Certification & Reciprocity Consortium’s Alcohol and Drug Counselor Examination.

Do you’ve gotten what it takes?

Working as a licensed dependancy counselor is undoubtedly a rewarding occupation, one which lets you make an actual, seen distinction in folks’s lives. On the identical time, it’s a demanding occupation that comes with super accountability, which may rapidly result in emotional exhaustion.

Earlier than committing to this profession path (or any profession path, for that matter), chances are you’ll wish to assess your work motivators, strengths, profession pursuits and several types of reasoning so that you simply make an knowledgeable choice.

Our personal career-matching platform, CareerHunter, includes six assessments that may offer you the insights it’s worthwhile to determine your dream occupation.

Steps to change into a substance abuse counselor

If you wish to change into a psychological well being skilled specializing in substance abuse counseling, you’ll sometimes must observe these 5 steps:

Step 1: End your highschool training

Working as a licensed substance abuse counselor is generally preceded by a number of years of finding out at college stage. Ending your highschool training, subsequently, will present a strong basis for the years to return.

Most faculties additionally settle for the Common Schooling Diploma rather than a highschool diploma for scholar admission. If obligatory, your GED will also be accomplished on-line via the GED Reside program, created by the GED Testing Service along with Kaplan Check Prep

Step 2: Earn your bachelor’s diploma

Though the training necessities for counselors fluctuate by state, most often you’re going to wish to finish a bachelor’s diploma in a topic like psychology, social work or counseling.

These majors are designed to equip you with the mandatory abilities and information to enroll in a extra specialised graduate diploma, the place you may deal with a particular topic like treating substance use issues.

Step 3: Earn your postgraduate diploma

Psychological well being counselors, no matter specialization, sometimes want a grasp’s diploma to change into licensed and be allowed to observe. These graduate levels generally embrace a clinically supervised practicum, getting ready college students for the demanding, high-stakes occupation of dependancy counselor.

Graduate levels in substance abuse counseling take two to 3 years to finish. Programs are inclined to delve into subjects like psychopathology, case administration, evaluation strategies, group counseling and counseling ethics.

Step 4: Apply for licensure and/or certification

State necessities for substance abuse counselors fluctuate, so it’s essential to know what the factors are for the realm you propose to work in. Finishing a sure variety of educational hours and practicum hours, and passing an examination are the most typical necessities to change into licensed.

Substance abuse counselors working in non-public practices should even be licensed. Equally, the steps to buying licensure will fluctuate considerably relying on location, although all states require you to carry a grasp’s diploma and to have accomplished a particular variety of work expertise hours below the supervision of a licensed counselor.

Step 5: Preserve an energetic license

Habit counselors are required to take care of an energetic license for so long as they observe their occupation. The license renewal necessities can fluctuate by state, though they’ll sometimes entail paying a renewal price and finishing a predetermined variety of persevering with training hours as indicated by the state board.

Finest practices and laws within the discipline of psychology carry on evolving, so CE is significant in offering efficient help to sufferers and developing with probably the most acceptable plan for remedy.

Steadily requested questions

We talked a couple of lot of issues thus far, so you could have some questions. Let’s take a look at a number of ceaselessly requested ones!

Q: How lengthy does it take to change into a substance abuse counselor?

Sometimes, it takes between 6–8 years to change into an dependancy counselor. This time is spent on finishing an undergraduate diploma, a grasp’s diploma and supervised work expertise.

Q: Are there any on-line dependancy counseling levels?

Sure, many universities supply undergraduate and graduate diploma packages that may be accomplished on-line, together with the College of South Dakota, the College of Cincinnati and Arizona State College.

Q: Do I’ve to finish a supervised internship?

Within the majority of instances, finishing an internship below the supervision of a licensed skilled is a requirement for working as a substance abuse counselor.

For counselors in non-public observe, particularly, finishing an internship is non-negotiable, no matter the place they stay.

Last ideas

In keeping with the American Habit Facilities, 16.7% of Individuals aged 12 and over (that’s almost 47 million folks) struggled with a substance use dysfunction in 2022. Understanding that substance abuse is an issue affecting numerous folks, together with kids, could be fairly unsettling.

For these decided to assist, although, these statistics solely function further motivation for striving to make a distinction within the lives of many.

Are you able to see your self working as an dependancy counselor, now that you simply’re somewhat extra aware of what it entails? Share your ideas with us within the feedback part!

This text is an entire replace of an earlier model initially revealed on March 19, 2018.

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