How To Become A Substance Abuse Counselor

Substance abuse counselors work with clients who are addicted to alcohol and other drugs. They work with clients to help them receive proper treatment for their addictions. The goal is to help clients work towards a successful recovery.

This involves setting up a treatment plan with patients, giving them resources to help them in their recovery, and meeting with them on a regular basis to assess their progress. In order to become a substance abuse counselor, a person must have a master’s degree and license in the state where they practice.

Why Become A Substance Abuse Counselor

There are unfortunately many people who become addicted to alcohol and other drugs. Substance abuse counselors work with patients to get them on the road to recovery. Some places where substance abuse counselors work are outpatient treatment facilities, halfway houses, and rehabilitation clinics.

Substance abuse counselors meet with patients on an individual basis. They take inventory of their health, and assess their addiction problems. They develop a treatment plan for clients. Together they develop skills that the client can use to help themselves on the road to recovery.

They meet with clients on a regular basis and review their progress with drug rehabilitation. They give clients a list of resources in their community so they can continue to be successful in their treatment. They may run group therapy sessions or other treatment programs for patients.

This is a good profession for somebody who enjoys counseling, wants to work directly with others, and is good at listening and giving advice. Substance abuse counselors must be patient and compassionate. This work can be stressful because overcoming addiction is not easy. On the other hand, being a substance abuse counselor is a rewarding profession, because substance abuse counselors get to see their patients overcome their battles with addiction.

Substance Abuse Counselors should possess the following qualities and skills:

Substance Abuse Counselor Work Environment

Substance abuse counselors work with people who have addictions to alcohol, drugs and other substances. There are a variety of places where substance abuse counselors work, including halfway houses, residential treatment centers, and outpatient clinics. Substance abuse counselors often have a large amount of clients that they see.

Their clients tend to have complicated medical and mental health issues. Some clients may not be ready to give up their addiction or they may have been forced to receive treatment. This is a job that is quite stressful and substance abuse counselors must have lots of patience.

Usually substance abuse counselors run individual sessions with patients, but they may also hold family counseling or group counseling. They usually have regular hours that they work each week. They must fill out paperwork regarding their clients after their sessions.

Substance Abuse Counselor Salary

The median salary for substance abuse counselors was $43,300 in 2016 according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Salaries for this profession can vary depending on many different factors. Those with more education and experience tend to earn higher salaries. Those who work in certain industries may be able to earn a higher salary. For example, those who work as substance abuse counselors for the federal or state governments made a median salary of $50,000 in 2016.

Those who worked in outpatient treatment centers and rehabilitation clinics tended to make the least amount of money, about $38,000 annually. These factors are important to consider when honking about what industry to work in.

Average Substance Abuse Counselor Annual Salary


The average annual salary for substance abuse counselors is $46,560 a year. Salaries start at $27,310 a year and go up to $70,840 a year.

Average Substance Abuse Counselor Hourly Wage


The average hourly wage for a substance abuse counselor is $22.38. Hourly wages are between $13.13 and $34.06 an hour.

Stats were based out of 241,930 employed substance abuse counselors in the United States.

Highest Paying States For Substance Abuse Counselors

Top Paying Cities For Substance Abuse Counselors

Data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Substance Abuse Counselor Career Outlook

Employment for substance abuse counselors is expected to increase by 23 percent between 2016 and 2026. This is a much faster rate of growth than other professions within the United States. This will lead to about 24,000 new jobs in the next 10 years for substance abuse counselors.

There are unfortunately a great deal of people who have addictions to various drugs. Drug addictions have been on the rise in many areas of the United States. Many times addiction can lead to issues such as incarceration.

Often those with addiction are required to enter into a drug treatment program. Substance abuse counselors will be needed to help those people get on the path to recovery. Substance abuse counselors are an important resource in the local community.

Substance Abuse Counselor Degree

In order to become a substance abuse counselor, you must have a master’s degree. Master’s degree programs in substance abuse counseling, psychology, clinical social work and other fields are a good fit for this profession. Master’s programs consist of lecture classes as well as clinical experience. A listing of coursework typical in a program is found in the next section.

In addition to a master’s degree, substance abuse counselors must have clinical experience. Depending on the state, this involves up to 4,000 supervised hours, working with patients undergoing current drug rehabilitation treatment.

All substance abuse counselors must be licensed in the state in which they want to work. After receiving their master’s degree and fulfilling the required number of clinical hours, counselors must pass a licensing exam. Counselors must take continuing education classes to maintain their license.

Substance Abuse Counselor Coursework

Here is a brief overview of some of the classes that are taken during a typical substance abuse counseling program.

Pharmacology: Students will learn about many different kinds of drugs and their potential for dependency and addiction.

Behaviors of Chemical Dependency: Students will learn the classic symptoms that people with substance abuse issues exhibit.

Psychology: This foundational class teaches students about the basics of human psychology.

Substance Abuse Counselor Career Path

A substance abuse counselor is a rewarding career. There are many opportunities for advancement within this field. Below we have listed just a few ways you can advance in this field. Please note that there are many advancement opportunities available within this career field.

Career Overview Responsibilities Education Required Benefits
School Psychologist A school psychologist works as a counselor inside of a school system A school psychologist’s duties include meeting with students, taking clinical evaluations, and coming up with treatment plans A school psychologist must have a doctoral degree in psychology Becoming a school psychologist is a good choice for those who want to work with children
Director of Counseling A director of counseling oversees the counseling program at a treatment facility The director’s responsibilities include planning treatment programming, overseeing the progress of patients, and helping their counselors This requires a master’s degree and licensure, plus several years of leadership experience This is a good position for somebody who enjoys counseling and wants to work in a management position

Related Substance Abuse Counselor Careers

Being a substance abuse counselor is a rewarding career. If you are interested in this profession there are many others you may want to consider. Below we have listed a few careers which are similar in nature to a substance abuse counselor.

Mental health counselor: A mental health counselor sees patients with a variety of mental health issues

Social worker: Social workers work with clients, teaching them to cope with personal issues they are facing

Rehabilitation counselor: Rehabilitation counselors help people with physical, emotional and mental disabilities to live independently

Leave A Comment