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What Does a Substance Abuse Counselor Do in Treatment?

Discover what a substance abuse counselor does and how to become one in this comprehensive article.

What Is a Substance Abuse Counselor?

A substance abuse counselor specializes in substance abuse and addiction. Addiction counselors work with individuals and groups of people with substance use disorders and provide the necessary education, support, and therapy to help achieve long-lasting recovery.

A substance abuse professional works with patients to treat a wide range of substance use disorders. They provide counseling for addictions such as alcohol, marijuana, heroin, and prescription medication.

Substance Abuse Counselor

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Demand for Substance Abuse Counselors

According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 21.6 million people aged twelve and older in the United States needed treatment for a substance use disorder. Of that number, only 4.2 million people received addiction treatment.1

As substance abuse continues to be an ongoing issue, the demand for addiction treatment professionals rises. Between 2020 and 2021 alone, the need for substance use treatment rose by 9%.2

Substance Abuse Counselor Requirements

There are specific requirements potential practitioners must meet. The requirements are generally divided into state, practice, and educational requirements.

Education Requirements

Earning a bachelor’s degree in substance counseling or a related field is the minimum requirement. This level of education is a common starting point for many addiction professionals, with 71% holding at least a bachelor’s degree.3

Some counselors go beyond a bachelor’s degree and further their education to obtain a master’s or doctorate degree. In fact, according to a survey, 48% hold a master’s or doctorate degree.4

Location Requirements

Substance abuse counselor requirements also affect where the professional can practice. Thus, the services offered by addiction professionals depend on their education and expertise. For example, only those with master’s degrees in psychology, social work, and related fields may work in private practice. Additionally, counselors who want to enter private practice must be licensed by their state.

Of course, the specific licensing requirements vary from state to state. Thus, it is best to research the requirements specific to the state potential practitioners wish to work.

What Does a Substance Abuse Counselor Do?

This job description is extensive and generally involves many responsibilities. Although the fundamental role is to provide much-needed support and therapy to people dealing with substance abuse issues, their responsibilities reach a broader scope.

For example, addiction counselors may also direct patients to support groups or treatment facilities to help improve their chances of successful recovery.

Responsibilities of a Substance Abuse Counselor

The primary duties include the following:

  • Perform assessments
  • Develop individualized treatment plans
  • Conduct group and individual therapy
  • Work with patients to avoid relapse
  • Refer patients to other support resources
  • Keep records

The role of this counselor isn’t restricted to just the patient. They also work with the families and partners of those with addiction. Drug addiction counselors help them understand, cope with, and support their loved ones.

Substance Abuse Counseling Techniques

No two substance use disorder conditions are quite the same. These counselors have to adopt different techniques to ensure optimal treatment results. Programs include the following:

  • Behavioral therapies
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)
  • Motivational therapies
  • Family counseling and therapy
  • 12-Step facilitation therapy
  • Alternative and holistic therapies

These treatment approaches are based on different counseling theories for substance abuse. Substance abuse counselors often combine techniques to achieve the best therapeutic effect.

How Do I Become a Substance Abuse Counselor?

Did you know that substance abuse counseling is one of the world’s most secure professions? Further, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 22% increase in job growth rate in the coming years.5

If you are interested in becoming this type of counselor, consider the following to help you get started:

Job Responsibilities

Beyond the job security, let’s take a look at the primary responsibilities:

  • Be knowledgeable in substance use disorders and how to treat them.
  • Work with patients to help them identify the causes and triggers of their substance abuse.
  • Conduct individual and group therapy sessions.
  • Develop individualized treatment plans, including relapse prevention plans.
  • Teach effective coping skills for dealing with substance abuse.
  • Refer patients to outside resources, such as support groups, medical facilities, and other addiction programs.

Education Requirements

To become this type of counselor, you must meet specific educational requirements:

  • Earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology, substance abuse counseling, or a related field.
  • Earn a master’s or doctorate degree in psychology, substance abuse counseling, or a related field. In some states, a master’s or doctorate is required to practice as a substance abuse counselor.
  • Complete a certain amount of hours of supervised post-graduate substance abuse counseling experience.
  • Pass a written examination.
  • Become board certified.

Note that requirements differ depending on the state you want to practice. We recommend looking up your state’s specific requirement list to get the most accurate details.

Substance Abuse Counselor

How Substance Abuse Counselors Contribute to Community

These types of counselors are important for every community. They contribute to the health and well-being of the population. In fact, the more substance use counselors are in a community, the better the community becomes. Here are some of the ways these counselors contribute to community wellness:

  • Increase community safety
  • Decrease crime rates
  • Decrease substance-related hospitalizations
  • Safer roads
  • Decrease domestic violence rates

Learn More About Addiction Counseling at Ripple Ranch Recovery

Interested in becoming a substance abuse counselor? Great! A career choice in addiction counseling has many advantages, including the ability to help people, job security, and it’s in high demand.

At Ripple Ranch Recovery, we specialize in addiction counseling and treatment. So, whether you are looking for effective substance abuse treatment or to learn more about substance abuse counseling, we can help! We are happy to answer any questions you have regarding this career, substance use disorder treatment, or our recovery center.