A 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health showed 21.5 million Americans are battling a substance abuse disorder; young adults are the highest affected population.1 Substance abuse counselors play an ongoing role in the lives of these people, from their most critical moments to monthly check-ins. They work to help people of all age groups take a comprehensive approach to battling addiction and dependence.
Substance abuse counselors help their clients in many ways, through helping them change everyday life habits and personal interactions to minimizing addiction stimuli. Counselors evaluate readiness to change, and even help clients rebuild their lives post-addiction. People with empathy and patience who want to work toward social justice and help others in their community can find a rewarding career in substance abuse counseling.
Antioch University’s online Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling prepares students for substance abuse counseling jobs.
What substance abuse counselors do
Regardless of setting, substance abuse counselors take a multifaceted approach to helping people overcome their addictions. They may treat people with alcohol or drug dependence, or they may use the same principles to help people overcome non-substance addictions such as gambling addictions or eating disorders. In each case, they work with the client, friends and family and other professionals to create a comprehensive treatment plan.2
Substance abuse counselors help clients through every stage of their addiction recovery, performing roles such as3:
● Evaluating clients’ readiness for treatment
● Reviewing treatment options with clients
● Teaching families about addiction
● Helping clients identify and avoid triggers
● Teaching clients coping mechanisms4
● Helping families to set up interventions
● Helping clients find jobs
They also help educate their communities about the dangers of addiction and how to identify addictive behaviors.
Types of substance abuse counseling jobs
Substance abuse counselors work in a variety of settings and may choose to specialize in specific addictions or age groups. They may work in correctional facilities, schools, hospitals, government agencies or even private practice5. Most of these jobs have flexible hours, and though the stress level can be high, so is the reward of increasing social justice and helping people rebuild their lives.
Substance abuse counselors can work in places like:
• Schools, helping teens avoid addiction by addressing the topic early with at-risk youth.
• Correctional facilities, evaluating and treating patients with judge ordered counseling.
• Veterans’ hospitals, helping veterans overcome trauma and transition to civilian life.
• Private practice, either treating a variety of people or specializing in one type of counseling.
Substance abuse counselors enjoy a comfortable salary and meaningful job helping people through one of life’s greatest challenges6. Recovery is difficult, and counselors help people overcome huge challenges to change their lives. Though some people can find substance abuse counseling jobs with a bachelor’s, a master’s degree opens opportunities for more jobs, specialization and even private practice7.
If you’re interested in becoming a substance abuse counselor, consider Antioch’s online M.A. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, which prepares students for a range of careers promoting social justice in their communities.