How To Become A Substance Abuse Counselor After Treatment And Recovery

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How To Become A Substance Abuse Counselor After Treatment And Recovery

Substance abuse counseling involves helping people overcome and conquer dependencies to addictive substances. Today, dealing with substance abuse is more critical than ever, and counselors are needed in many treatment centers and other healthcare institutions.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statics, the job outlook in this field for the next ten years is that it will grow at a rate of 23%, which is much faster than the average of 7% for all occupations. By 2026, the number of those employed in this profession is expected to increase by more than 60,000.

There’s a clear-cut reason for this growth – in the United States, the abuse of many illicit substances is rising dramatically across the board. Substances of use include, but are not limited to heroin, methamphetamine, and cocaine. Also, the misuse of prescription narcotics and alcoholism are rampant.

Substance Abuse Counselor | Just Believe RecoveryPeople who have been through addiction treatment and recovery may erroneously believe that their former condition precludes them from becoming an addictions counselor – however, this is the farthest thing from the truth.

People who have experienced addiction firsthand have a nuanced view of substance abuse and can relate to people who are going through the same process of recovery in a way that others cannot.

On Becoming a Substance Abuse Counselor

There are a few different learning options that can lead to careers in substance abuse counseling. Like most professions, there is a link between the level of education and training you complete and the salary and responsibilities you will ultimately receive when you begin your career.

A bachelor’s degree is typically the first milestone on this career path. The most common major is something like Alcohol & Drug Abuse Studies or Addictions Counseling. After a bachelors has been achieved, students can focus on a more specialized area of study by entering a graduate program and seeking a master’s degree or Ph.D.

Substance Abuse Counselor | Just Believe RecoveryThere are also certificate programs such Certified Addictions Counselor that are available to those who have completed a degree in a related field such as psychology.

These programs usually meet the education and training requirements to become certified by a state’s department of health.

To pursue a career as a license or certified addictions counselor, a masters degree with a major in substance abuse counseling and several hours of clinical training will most likely be required.

What Does An Addictions Counselor Do?

It is important to note that a substance abuse counselor cannot change someone who doesn’t seek change. They must ensure that their clients are earnest in their desire to stop engaging in substance abuse. Indeed, most of the time suffering individuals only seek help when they are truly ready to receive it.

Others, however, may be forced to seek counseling through an intervention by the family or are legally required due to involvement with the justice system, such as being on probation or parole.

Substance Abuse Counselor | Just Believe RecoveryTo create a counseling plan for the client, an addictions counselor will need to determine the type and severity of the individual’s substance use. This is accomplished through an interview and encouraging the client to be honest about his or her behavior.

A substance abuse counselor will also help clients learn how to identify triggers and cues, which are specific people or situations that drive them to want to engage in substance abuse. For example, some people might succumb to abuse during periods of stress, while the behavioral patterns of others may revolve around a certain group of friends or family.

Once triggers are identified, the counselor works with the client to find ways to avoid them, or cope with them if avoidance is difficult.

Throughout the recovery process, the counselor offers guidance and encouragement and often helps the client set up a support network of individuals and repair damaged relationships with people who can help him or her continue their work toward recovery.

Where Do Substance Abuse Counselors Work?

Addictions counselors can work in a wide variety of settings, including addiction treatment centers, hospitals, schools, and social service facilities. Some also have their own private practice.

What Is the Average Salary for a Substance Abuse Counselor?

In 2011, the average yearly salary for addictions counselors was approximately $38,560 as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and this figure increased dramatically to more than $41,000 in 2016.

The top 10% of professionals in this field earn an average annual wage of $61,420. In addition to education completion, salary may also vary depending on location – moreover, professionals in metro areas with large populations tend to earn more than those in rural areas.


Substance abuse counselors are in high demand due to the increasing number of people dependent on drugs and alcohol. People who receive treatment and recover have a unique, much-needed perspective that can help them better relate to clients. This career path can be especially rewarding to those who are also in recovery, as they can learn more, help others, and give back to the community.

Get Help Today

If you or someone you love is abusing substances, please seek treatment as soon as possible. There are many resources available to help you or your loved one.

Please call us today at 888-380-0667 for a free consultation.

~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology


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