What is Substance Abuse and Addiction Counseling?
Substance abuse and addiction counseling is considered one of the more difficult areas of social service. The role of the counselor is to identify addiction and its underlying causes and then assist the client in achieving and maintaining sobriety. Substance abuse and addiction counselors will work with other social services, such as lawyers, psychologists, social workers, and career counselors in order to assist the client transition toward sobriety. In addition, counselors will try to find causes for addiction and attempt to assist in the remedy and removal of such sources in order to prevent relapse into detrimental abuse behavior.
The educational requirements for becoming a substance abuse and addiction counselor varies from state to state, and can be as low as a high school diploma or as high as a master's degree. Most states also require a license or certification and it is prudent to check the state's licensure requirements. Supervised internships for certification or degree are mandatory; and the necessary hours once again vary by state and the degree one is pursuing. It is important to note that individuals who pursue a degree, particularly graduate degrees, will have an easier time finding work, as the amount of knowledge provided by such a program allows for a broad spectrum of techniques and a more focused approach to client concerns when needed.
A curriculum in substance abuse counseling may include:
- Human Behavior
- Drug Abuse, Causes and Treatments
- Counseling Techniques
Programs for substance abuse and addiction counseling will include classes in group and individual counseling techniques, patient assistance, case management and crisis intervention. Additionally classes will be taken in broader fields of study including sociology, criminology and psychology. This is to ensure that the counselor will have a good understanding of the personal and social causes of substance abuse and addiction.
Employment Opportunities, Licensure, and Turnover
Upon completion of an accredited program, individuals will look for positions as a counselor at hospitals, community centers, mental health facilities, and preventive education centers. A counselor may choose to pursue a specialization, for example working with kids, single parents or ex-convicts, or may perform their duties without a specialization. Typically a program will provide job placement opportunities for graduates through various connections and time tested contacts with counseling services either locally or regionally. Licensure may or may not be required by a given state, and it is up to the individual to research state policy prior to seeking employment.
It is important to note that substance abuse and addiction counseling is considered a high stress job with a high turnover rate. This is due to the personal connections that can form between client and counselor and the high amount of relapse among clients. Substance and abuse and addiction counselors can branch into other social services, the opportunities of which are generally dependent on level of education.
Job Growth, Salary and Related Fields
Though social work is expected to grow as a field quite rapidly over the next decade, substance abuse and addiction counseling will see smaller growth overall due to the high turnover rate requiring new counselors to replace outgoing counselors more often than filling new positions. That is not to say there will not be growth or need for such counselors, only that compared to the field as a whole, growth will be smaller.
The average salary for a substance abuse and addiction counselor is approximately $50,000 per year, though individuals in managerial or supervisory positions tend to make significantly more. Individuals with experience or higher levels of education will also earn more, particularly degreed individuals looking for entry level positions.