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Career profile Substance Abuse Counselor

Also known as Addictions Counselor, Case Manager, Chemical Dependency Counselor (CD Counselor), Chemical Dependency Professional, Clinical Counselor, Correctional Substance Abuse Counselor, Counselor, Drug and Alcohol Treatment Specialist (DATS), Prevention Specialist, Substance Abuse Counselor (SA Counselor)

Substance Abuse Counselor

Also known as Addictions Counselor, Case Manager, Chemical Dependency Counselor (CD Counselor)

Interests Profile
  • Social
  • Artistic
  • Investigative
Pay Range
$30,590 - $78,700 (annual)
Required Skills
  • Speaking
  • Active Listening
  • Critical Thinking
Knowledge Areas
  • Therapy and Counseling
  • Psychology
  • Education and Training
Core tasks
  • Complete and maintain accurate records or reports regarding the patients' histories and progress, services provided, or other required information.
  • Counsel clients or patients, individually or in group sessions, to assist in overcoming dependencies, adjusting to life, or making changes.
  • Follow progress of discharged patients to determine effectiveness of treatments.
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What does a Substance Abuse Counselor do?

Substance Abuse Counselors counsel and advise individuals with alcohol, tobacco, drug, or other problems, such as gambling and eating disorders.

In addition, Substance Abuse Counselors may counsel individuals, families, or groups or engage in prevention programs.

What kind of tasks does a Substance Abuse Counselor perform regularly?

Substance Abuse Counselors are often responsible for overseeing or executing some or all of the following tasks:

  • Complete and maintain accurate records or reports regarding the patients' histories and progress, services provided, or other required information.
  • Counsel clients or patients, individually or in group sessions, to assist in overcoming dependencies, adjusting to life, or making changes.
  • Follow progress of discharged patients to determine effectiveness of treatments.
  • Conduct chemical dependency program orientation sessions.
  • Assess individuals' degree of drug dependency by collecting and analyzing urine samples.
  • Review and evaluate clients' progress in relation to measurable goals described in treatment and care plans.
  • Modify treatment plans to comply with changes in clients' status.
  • Coordinate activities with courts, probation officers, community services, or other post-treatment agencies.
  • Develop client treatment plans based on research, clinical experience, and client histories.
  • Coordinate counseling efforts with mental health professionals or other health professionals, such as doctors, nurses, or social workers.
  • Plan or implement follow-up or aftercare programs for clients to be discharged from treatment programs.
  • Intervene as an advocate for clients or patients to resolve emergency problems in crisis situations.
  • Interview clients, review records, and confer with other professionals to evaluate individuals' mental and physical condition and to determine their suitability for participation in a specific program.
  • Attend training sessions to increase knowledge and skills.
  • Instruct others in program methods, procedures, or functions.
  • Participate in case conferences or staff meetings.
  • Act as liaisons between clients and medical staff.
  • Provide clients or family members with information about addiction issues and about available services or programs, making appropriate referrals when necessary.
  • Train or supervise student interns or new staff members.
  • Counsel family members to assist them in understanding, dealing with, or supporting clients or patients.
  • Confer with family members or others close to clients to keep them informed of treatment planning and progress.
  • Develop, implement, or evaluate public education, prevention, or health promotion programs, working in collaboration with organizations, institutions, or communities.

The above responsibilities are specific to Substance Abuse Counselors. More generally, Substance Abuse Counselors are involved in several broader types of activities:

Getting Information
Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events
Identifying information by categorizing, estimating, recognizing differences or similarities, and detecting changes in circumstances or events.
Processing Information
Compiling, coding, categorizing, calculating, tabulating, auditing, or verifying information or data.
Making Decisions and Solving Problems
Analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems.
Assisting and Caring for Others
Providing personal assistance, medical attention, emotional support, or other personal care to others such as coworkers, customers, or patients.

What is a Substance Abuse Counselor salary?

The median salary for a Substance Abuse Counselor is $47,660, and the average salary is $51,550. Both the median and average roughly describe the middle of the Substance Abuse Counselor salary range, but the average is more easily affected by extremely high or low salaries.

Many Substance Abuse Counselors earn significantly more or less than the average, due to several factors. About 10% of Substance Abuse Counselors earn less than $30,590 per year, 25% earn less than $36,950, 75% earn less than $61,760, and 90% earn less than $78,700.

Between the years of 2020 and 2030, the number of Substance Abuse Counselors is expected to change by 22.9%, and there should be roughly 41,000 open positions for Substance Abuse Counselors every year.

Median annual salary
$47,660
Typical salary range
$30,590 - $78,700
Projected growth (2020 - 2030)
22.9%

What personality traits are common among Substance Abuse Counselors?

Interests

Career interests describe a person's preferences for different types of working environments and activities. When a person's interest match the demands of an occupation, people are usually more engaged and satisfied in that role.

Compared to most occupations, those who work as a Substance Abuse Counselor are usually higher in their Social, Artistic, and Investigative interests.

Substance Abuse Counselors typically have very strong Social interests. Social occupations frequently involve working with, communicating with, and teaching people. These occupations often involve helping or providing service to others.

Also, Substance Abuse Counselors typically have moderate Artistic interests. Artistic occupations frequently involve working with forms, designs and patterns. They often require self-expression and the work can be done without following a clear set of rules.

Lastly, Substance Abuse Counselors typically have moderate Investigative interests. Investigative occupations frequently involve working with ideas, and require an extensive amount of thinking. These occupations can involve searching for facts and figuring out problems mentally.

Values

People differ in their values, or what is most important to them for building job satisfaction and fulfillment.

Compared to most people, those working as a Substance Abuse Counselor tend to value Relationships, Achievement, and Independence.

Most importantly, Substance Abuse Counselors very strongly value Relationships. Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to provide service to others and work with co-workers in a friendly non-competitive environment.

Second, Substance Abuse Counselors strongly value Achievement. Occupations that satisfy this work value are results oriented and allow employees to use their strongest abilities, giving them a feeling of accomplishment.

Lastly, Substance Abuse Counselors strongly value Independence. Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to work on their own and make decisions.

Psychological Demands

Each occupation brings its own set of psychological demands, which describe the characteristics necessary to perform the job well.

In order to perform their job successfully, people who work as Substance Abuse Counselors must consistently demonstrate qualities such as concern for others, integrity, and stress tolerance.

Below, you'll find a list of qualities typically required of Substance Abuse Counselors, ranked by importance:

Concern for Others
Job requires being sensitive to others' needs and feelings and being understanding and helpful on the job.
Integrity
Job requires being honest and ethical.
Stress Tolerance
Job requires accepting criticism and dealing calmly and effectively with high-stress situations.
Dependability
Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
Self-Control
Job requires maintaining composure, keeping emotions in check, controlling anger, and avoiding aggressive behavior, even in very difficult situations.

What education and training do Substance Abuse Counselors need?

Many Substance Abuse Counselors have earned a graduate degree. For example, they may require a master's degree, and some require a doctoral degree, such as a Ph.D., M.D., or J.D..

Substance Abuse Counselors may need some on-the-job training, but most candidates will already have the required skills, knowledge, work-related experience, and/or training.

Educational degrees among Substance Abuse Counselors

  • 0.9% did not complete high school or secondary school
  • 3.7% completed high school or secondary school
  • 7.7% completed some college coursework
  • 5.5% earned a Associate's degree
  • 26.1% earned a Bachelor's degree
  • 51.8% earned a Master's degree
  • 4.3% earned a doctorate or professional degree

Knowledge and expertise required by Substance Abuse Counselors

Substance Abuse Counselors may benefit from understanding of specialized subject areas, such as therapy and counseling, psychology, or education and training knowledge.

The list below shows several areas in which most Substance Abuse Counselors might want to build proficiency, ranked by importance.

Therapy and Counseling
Knowledge of principles, methods, and procedures for diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of physical and mental dysfunctions, and for career counseling and guidance.
Psychology
Knowledge of human behavior and performance; individual differences in ability, personality, and interests; learning and motivation; psychological research methods; and the assessment and treatment of behavioral and affective disorders.
Education and Training
Knowledge of principles and methods for curriculum and training design, teaching and instruction for individuals and groups, and the measurement of training effects.
Customer and Personal Service
Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.
Administrative
Knowledge of administrative and office procedures and systems such as word processing, managing files and records, stenography and transcription, designing forms, and workplace terminology.

Important Abilities needed by Substance Abuse Counselors

Substance Abuse Counselors must develop a particular set of abilities to perform their job well. Abilities are individual capacities that influence a person's information processing, sensory perception, motor coordination, and physical strength or endurance. Individuals may naturally have certain abilities without explicit training, but most abilities can be sharpened somewhat through practice.

For example, Substance Abuse Counselors need abilities such as speech clarity, problem sensitivity, and oral expression in order to perform their job at a high level. The list below shows several important abilities for Substance Abuse Counselors, ranked by their relative importance.

Speech Clarity
The ability to speak clearly so others can understand you.
Problem Sensitivity
The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing that there is a problem.
Oral Expression
The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
Inductive Reasoning
The ability to combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events).
Written Comprehension
The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.

Critical Skills needed by Substance Abuse Counselors

Skills are developed capacities that enable people to function effectively in real-world settings. Unlike abilities, skills are typically easier to build through practice and experience. Skills influence effectiveness in areas such as learning, working with others, design, troubleshooting, and more.

Substance Abuse Counselors frequently use skills like speaking, active listening, and critical thinking to perform their job effectively. The list below shows several critical skills for Substance Abuse Counselors, ranked by their relative importance.

Speaking
Talking to others to convey information effectively.
Active Listening
Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
Critical Thinking
Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to problems.
Social Perceptiveness
Being aware of others' reactions and understanding why they react as they do.
Writing
Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.

What is the source of this information?

The information provided on this page is adapted from data and descriptions published by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration under the CC BY 4.0 license. TraitLab has modified some information for ease of use and reading, and the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment, and Training Administration has not approved, endorsed, or tested these modifications.

If you have any questions or suggestions about this information, please send a message.