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Substance Abuse Counselor

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What is a Substance Abuse Counselor?

Job Description & Duties Counsel and advise individuals with alcohol, tobacco, drug, or other problems, such as gambling and eating disorders. May counsel individuals, families, or groups or engage in prevention programs.

Life As a Substance Abuse Counselor

  • Plan or implement follow-up or aftercare programs for clients to be discharged from treatment programs.
  • Assess individuals’ degree of drug dependency by collecting and analyzing urine samples.
  • Coordinate activities with courts, probation officers, community services, or other post-treatment agencies.
  • Participate in case conferences or staff meetings.
  • Complete and maintain accurate records or reports regarding the patients’ histories and progress, services provided, or other required information.
  • Provide clients or family members with information about addiction issues and about available services or programs, making appropriate referrals when necessary.

Substance Abuse Counselor Skills

Substance Abuse Counselors state the following job skills are important in their day-to-day work.

Active Listening: Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.

Social Perceptiveness: Being aware of others’ reactions and understanding why they react as they do.

Speaking: Talking to others to convey information effectively.

Reading Comprehension: Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.

Critical Thinking: Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.

Service Orientation: Actively looking for ways to help people.

  • Chemical Dependency Technician
  • Substance Abuse Counselor (SA Counselor)
  • Assessment Specialist
  • Student Assistance Counselor (SAC)
  • Domestic Violence Advocate

Are There Job Opportunities for Substance Abuse Counselors?

In the United States, there were 102,400 jobs for Substance Abuse Counselor in 2016. New jobs are being produced at a rate of 23.2% which is above the national average. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 23,800 new jobs for Substance Abuse Counselor by 2026. The BLS estimates 14,100 yearly job openings in this field.

Forecasted Number of Jobs for Substance Abuse Counselors in U.S.

The states with the most job growth for Substance Abuse Counselor are Utah, Arizona, and Colorado. Watch out if you plan on working in Rhode Island, Maine, or Idaho. These states have the worst job growth for this type of profession.

Tools & Technologies Used by Substance Abuse Counselors

Although they’re not necessarily needed for all jobs, the following technologies are used by many Substance Abuse Counselors:

  • Microsoft Excel
  • Microsoft Word
  • Microsoft Office
  • Microsoft PowerPoint
  • Microsoft Outlook
  • Web browser software
  • Email software
  • Word processing software
  • Spreadsheet software
  • Database software
  • Scheduling software
  • Statistical software
  • Presentation software
  • IBM Lotus Notes
  • Case management software
  • Athena Software Penelope Case Management
  • Addison Health Systems WritePad EMR Systems
  • Practice Technology Prevail

How to Become a Substance Abuse Counselor

What education or degrees do I need to become a Substance Abuse Counselor?

Substance Abuse Counselor Degree Level

How many years of work experience do I need?

Substance Abuse Counselor Work Experience

Those thinking about becoming a Substance Abuse Counselor might also be interested in the following careers:

Those who work as a Substance Abuse Counselor sometimes switch careers to one of these choices:


Image Credit: Staff Sgt. Katie Spencer via Public domain

More about our data sources and methodologies.

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