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Substance Abuse Counselor

If you are looking for a profitable healthcare career that is also personally rewarding in nature, you can start your steps towards becoming a substance abuse counselor. A substance abuse counselor, who is otherwise known as ‘drug abuse counselor’, is a health care professional who identifies the primary causes of a person’s addictive behavior and then, start following the particular person through a systematic regimen of physical as well as psychological therapies.

Work Settings:

As a substance abuse counselor, you could have the opportunities to work in various settings like:

  • Hospitals

  • Residential treatment facilities

  • Government facilities:

    • Prisons

    • Juvenile detention centers

    • Probation offices

  • State or local government

  • Substance abuse centers

  • Mental health centers

  • Parole agencies

  • Detox centers

  • Employee assistance programs

Job Description:

As a substance abuse counselor, you may have to perform the following tasks:

  • Assessing and evaluating the patients’ mental as well as physical health, addiction problem, and their willingness to get treatment

  • Helping patients in developing treatment objectives and plans

  • Reviewing and recommending treatment choices with the patients and their families

  • Helping patients to develop skills and/or behaviors required in order to recover from their addiction

  • Working with patients in order to find out the behaviors/situations that hinder their recovery

  • Teaching families on addiction

  • Helping the clients to develop strategies for coping with the addiction problems

  • Referring the patients to other resources and/or services like:

    • Job placement services

    • Support groups

  • Conducting outreach programs to help identifying the signs of addiction and steps to avoid addiction

How to Become a Substance Abuse Counselor?

Educational Requirements:

The educational requirements for becoming a substance abuse counselor would vary depending on the various factors like:

  • Work settings

  • Type of work

  • State regulations

  • Level of responsibility

Thus, the requirements would range from a high school diploma to a postgraduate degree. Candidates with more education are trusted without much immediate supervision.

Study fields relating to substance abuse counseling are:

  • Nursing

  • Rehabilitation services

  • Social work

  • Psychology

Licensure and Certification:

All the substance abuse counselors in private practice need to be licensed. In the United States, the licensing requirements would vary from state to state. However, all the states require the candidate to have a master’s degree plus 2000-4000 hours of supervised clinical experience. Additionally, the applying candidates must pass an exam and fulfill continuing education each year. For further information on licensure and certification, you may look at:

  • National Board for Certified Counselors

  • Addiction Technology Transfer Center

Job Outlook and Opportunities:

The job opportunity for substance abuse counselors has been projected to increase by 31% from the year 2012 to 2022. This rate is much faster than the median for all the occupations.


According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual pay for a substance abuse counselor was found to be $38,520 per year in May 2012. This equals the hourly pay of $18.52.


Average Pay                                        :           $38,520

Education                                            :           High school diploma or more

Number of Jobs, 2012                         :           89,600

Employment Growth from 2012 to 2022         :           31%

On-the-job training                              :           Moderate-term on-the-job training

Work Experience                                 :           None