Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors are crucial figures who help different kinds of patients towards recovery. More specifically, an addiction counselor is a person who’s specialized in helping patients that have a history of alcoholism or drug addiction.

Not only substance abuse counseling can help individuals overcome addiction and become self-sufficient, but it can also prevent these problems in people who fear they’ll turn into drug addicts.

Drug and alcohol counseling allows a person to come in contact with many different problems and addictions. Therefore, a counselor can choose whether to specialize in a specific category or not.

In this article, we’re going to cover the duties of a substance abuse counselor and also explain how you can become one yourself.

Duties of a Drug and Alcohol Counselor

A drug counselor will have to deal with several kinds of addictions and meet a lot of different people who will have different reactions and behaviors.

The aim of a counselor is to show the individuals the right paths towards giving up their addictions, encourage them and explain to them how they can change their attitudes and their behaviors in order to achieve a long-lasting and complete recovery.

It’s not unusual for patients to have relapses and fall back into their old routines. Therefore a substance abuse counselor needs to work with clients regularly, whether the meetings are scheduled twice a week or once a month, the important thing is following them and showing the support.

General duties addiction counselors include:

  • Scheduling meetings with clients to check their health conditions and which kinds of addictions they have: This is the first step. More specifically, getting to know the client and assessing the situation.
  • Understand the client’s issues: This includes creating goals and a plan in order to treat the patient step by step.
  • Showing healthy coping methods: An addiction counselor has to be able to provide correct coping methods to patients. People suffering from drug addictions are usually used to turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with their emotional or physical pain. Teaching them a healthy way of doing that is a crucial factor of a complete recovery.
  • Help Individuals find a job: Having a job, even if it’s not the position they’ve always wanted, can be a great boost for a patient’s self-esteem. Not to mention, it’s also going to give them a purpose and help them move on from the past.
  • Participating in addiction group therapy activities: A substance abuse counselor needs to be the leader of group therapy sessions, which can help several patients with similar addictions.
  • Show clients support groups: This means referring a patient to a group where the person can find additional support during their path towards recovery.
  • Meeting with the client’s family members: Providing guidance and advice to a client’s loved ones is an important factor for a full recovery. Patients need to have all the support they can get, especially that of their family members. For this reason, drug counseling has to include the people who are close to the client.

Although these are the main duties, it’s also important for a drug abuse counselor to provide an aftercare plan for the client, in order to avoid possible relapses.

How to Become an Addiction Counselor?

To successfully become a licensed addiction counselor, in some states, one will need a master’s degree in social work or counseling, while other states only require higher degrees.

The certificate to become a certified addictions counselor can be obtained through the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC), but the exam can only be taken after having achieved a master’s degree and two years of work experience.

Usually, a master’s degree and 3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience are compulsory if you wish to take the exam and run a private practice.

After passing the exam, a counselor will need to choose the field they want to specialize in, and then, based on the state where they’ll practice, they’ll need to obtain a re-certification after three to ten years.

In case you want to know more about the employment statistics of substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics offers specific information on the matter.