Substance Abuse Counselor

Substance abuse counselors assist people who are addicted to alcohol and drugs and develop treatment plans to help their clients recover. Not only do they work with clients battling addiction, but they also help clients’ family members cope. They determine the triggers that may cause clients to relapse and establish methods to help them handle their problems. They also help their clients build healthy relationships so that they can discuss addiction.

Job Responsibilities

A substance abuse counselor is responsible for administering treatment and assistance to those suffering from drug and alcohol addiction. They work with a client’s addiction, determine methods for the client to overcome their challenges and develop a recovery treatment plan. The substance abuse counselor recognizes potential situations or behaviors that may interfere with recovery. Additionally, they discuss treatment plans with the client’s family members to help them cope with the issues.

Substance abuse counselors assist clients in building professional and personal relationships and teach them how to communicate their problems with others. Sometimes, the counselor will integrate the principles of 12-step programs into treatments.

Pursue a Career in Counseling

With our CSWE-accredited online MSW, you can pursue a career in a wide range of areas, including therapy and counseling, community mental health, child protection, and more.

Explore Degrees

Substance abuse counselors need to enjoy working with individuals or groups of people for extended periods of time. They can work in a variety of environments, including in crisis or non-crisis settings and individual or group practices. Some facilities where counselors may be employed include mental health and substance abuse hospitals, outpatient care centers, general medical and surgical hospitals, detox centers and individual and family services. They may also work within non-medical settings, such as halfway houses, employee assistance programs, juvenile detention centers, prisons or probation and parole agencies.

The job can be stressful with a heavy caseload but it can also prove rewarding. Substance abuse counselors sometimes have to work with patients who are agitated, and they might not always have the resources they need to administer services.

Substance Abuse Counselor Salary

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that the median annual salary for substance abuse counselors was $49,710 as of 2022. Pay can vary depending on the industry in which the counselor works. For example, those working in the top sector –hospitals – earned a median income of $54,740 per year. In contrast, professionals working in residential mental health and substance abuse facilities earned a median annual wage of $44,150.

The BLS also projects that employment for substance abuse counselors will grow 18 percent through 2032, much faster than the national average for all occupations. This growth is partially attributed to state governments utilizing more counseling and treatment services for drug users instead of jail time.

Education Requirements

The requirements for becoming a substance abuse counselor vary by employer and by state. Many roles require at least a bachelor’s degree, though some agencies hire individuals with only a high school diploma. A master’s degree in psychology, mental health counseling or clinical social work can help candidates provide additional services to their clients.

Many states require substance abuse counselors to complete an exam and enroll in continuing education courses. Substance abuse counselors must also be licensed if they work in a private practice.

Campbellsville University’s online bachelor’s in social work (BSW) and online master’s in social work (MSW) teach students crisis intervention, social policies, and marriage and family relationships. Graduates from these programs know how to advise clients from a perspective backed by ethical and Christian beliefs and how to succeed in social work. These fully online programs offer students convenience and flexibility so that they can work their studies into their busy agenda.