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5 Careers for Substance Abuse Counselors

What is Substance Abuse Counseling?

Substance abuse counseling is one of the most beneficial counseling options available for mental health. Substance abuse, especially in the United States, is one of the lead causes of death. It is also one of the more common routes taken for those with untreated mental health disorders. When individuals experience trauma and don’t seek mental health services to help them work through it, they often end up struggling with drug abuse, alcohol abuse, and unhealthy behavior patterns. This is where substance abuse counseling services come into play and can save someone’s life. They are also a great resource for family therapy in the case where a loved one is struggling substance use.

Job satisfaction among substance abuse counselors and their careers is high because they are equipped with a set of skills that can help turn a person’s life around. After earning a bachelor’s degree,often times also a master’s degree, and then the proper required licensein the field, one can become a substance abuse counselor and be qualified to give professional medical advice.

A rigorous degree program and hands on experience at treatment facilities do require dedication and commitment, but professionals in this ever growing field consider their jobs to be extremely rewarding. The ability to assess patients, apply proper intervention techniques and reach patients through counseling are skills that can support clients and improve their lives when they are engaging in addictive behavior. As a substance abuse counselor, you may work with a clients with a variety of issues, including drug and alcohol addictions, eating disorders and other behavioral issues.

Where Do Substance Abuse Counselors Work?

When it comes to mental health counseling, there are endless career options available nowadays. Luckily, mental health is becoming more of a priority in today’s society.

For a mental health counselor that specializes in addiction counseling and treating substance use disorder, there are some common careers that may be a great option for you. From owning your own private practice, to working in mental health centers, to hosting family therapy sessions, and more, addiction counselors work in many different conditions. Here are five popular careers for substance abuse counselors…

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1. DWI counselors

Substance abuse counselors with clients who have received a sentence for Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) or Driving Under the Influence (DUI) often work with outpatient clients who are less than willing to cooperate since many are forced to get counseling by a judge. This may require special intervention techniques. These counselors also work within the criminal justice system to assist those clients directly.

2. Halfway House Workers

Substance abuse counselors working at halfway houses work with addicts on the cusp of recovery — those who are applying all of the coping mechanisms and techniques they learned in counseling. While they still need guidance, these patients also need a helping hand to regain employment, housing and, sometimes, regain custody of their children. Halfway house workers are mentors who enforce life skills and encourage patients to stay on track.

3. Residential Facility Employees

Substance abuse counselors may have careers in residential facilities and are, typically, those who work with patients who have hit rock bottom and require special care to recover. These counselors work with patients throughout the day, so their duties are not limited to counseling sessions or documentation. Duties often include driving, helping clients with hygiene, serving meals, acting as a role model, accompanying clients on trips outside the facility and teaching clients life skills.

4. Substance Abuse Education Specialists

Specialists work directly with substance abuse counselors as administrators for a facility. This substance abuse counselor career often requires one to maintain records and medical documentation. Specialists are often the counselors deciding initial treatment for newly-admitted clients and consult with the client’s family at the time of admission and release. Specialists are often psychologists or psychiatrists who have been certified and licensed in their respective fields and go on to acquire additional certification in treating substance abuse.

5. Family Life Services Drug and Alcohol Counselor

Substance abuse counselors who work with families, including teens and at-risk youth, to create safe havens for every member of the family. This includes helping those without substance abuse problems cope with the addictions of other family members. These counselors work with family members in both individual and group sessions in an effort to create ideal environments, schedules, rules and consequences for the family.

Are You Interested in a Career in Substance Abuse Counseling?

According to the United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, substance abuse counselors earn a median pay of $39,980 per year. The bureau’s Occupational Outlook Handbook also states that the demand of those in the field has increased by 22 percent, which is faster than average. Regardless of which substance abuse counselor career you choose as a substance abuse counselor, you will formulate unique treatment schedules that include group or individual sessions, wherein you will identify issues, teach coping mechanisms, create an aftercare plan and build an adequate support system for each individual.

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