Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors Overview
Prospective substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors should be able to inspire confidence, trust and respect in addition to have a strong desire to help people. A masters degree is usually required to attain a license to practice, but education and training requirements vary by state. Because there will be more job opportunities than qualified graduates, job prospects are expected to be favorable.
Nature of the Work for Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors
Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors provide counseling, support and rehabilitation services in diverse community settings. Despite a specialty, many counselors work with adults, families, adolescents and children that have more than one issue ranging from mental health disorders and addition to trauma. They must be able to identify these issues to provide appropriate counseling.
Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors work with individuals struggling with drugs, alcohol, gambling and eating disorders. They help their clients identify behaviors and problems that are related to their addiction. Typically this type of counseling is done in group settings, though it can be done on an individual basis. Drop-in counseling support as well as daily or weekly counseling are common. Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors help to develop personalized recovery programs with the goal of establishing healthy behaviors and providing coping strategies. It’s not uncommon for these counselors to work with family members of addicted clients as well as they can be affected by their behavior. Community outreach and preventative education programs are often offered by substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors as well. These workers must look at the whole picture—not just how an addiction affects on aspect of a person’s like, but how it affects the entire person and his or her social circle.
Training, Other Qualifications and Advancement for Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors
The requirements for education and training of substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors can be detailed and vary from state to state. Usually a masters degree is a must to attain a license. Because requirements vary, prospective substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors should consult prospective employers, national voluntary certification organizations and sate and local governments to determine which will apply.
College and university counselor education programs can be found in human services, education and psychology departments. Specializations include agency or community counseling, substance abuse or addictions counseling and rehabilitation counseling. Courses cover core groups such as human growth and development, relationships, group work, social and cultural diversity, counseling techniques, assessment, program evaluation and professional ethics. For masters degree programs a supervised clinical internship is typically required as part of 48 to 60 hours of graduate study. Some new hires receive on the job training while others are given tuition assistance or time off to complete a graduate degree. To maintain certifications and licenses, many substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors must complete graduate studies, workshops and personal studies.
Licensing requirements for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors vary from state to state. Counselors working outside of schools almost always need some form of counselor licensure. Typically, substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors are governed by a state agency that’s different form what governs other counselors, which means requirements can vary more greatly than for other counseling specialties. Some jobs only require a high school diploma and certification. Prospective substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors should research requirements by state.
The most successful substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors have a strong desire to help people. They’re also good at inspiring confidence, respect and trust. These workers will need to work both on a team and independently. In accordance with their certification or license, they must follow a code of ethics. High physical and emotional energy are required to deal with client problems and to handle the associated stress.
The National Board for Certified Counselors certifies some counselors as National Certified Counselors. Even though it’s a voluntary certification and separate from state licensing, some states will except those who are certified from the state exam. The board also offers specialty certifications in addiction counseling and other specialties.
Other certifications are offered through a variety of counseling organizations. While certifications are voluntary they can improve job prospects.
Advancement opportunities vary by field. Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors can become supervisors or administrators. Others move into private or group practice, consulting, college teaching or research. To improve chances for advancement some choose to pursue an advanced degree.
Top 10 Most Popular Substance Abuse/Addiction Counseling Schools
1. San Antonio College (San Antonio, Texas)
2. Alvernia University (Reading, Pennsylvania)
3. Rio Salado College (Tempe, Arizona)
4. San Diego City College (San Diego, California)
5. Fresno City College (Fresno, California)
6. Governors State University (Park Forest, Illinois)
7. Community College of Philadelphia (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
8. Intercoast Colleges, Carson (Carson, California)
9. City Colleges of Chicago - Kennedy - King College (Chicago, Illinois)
10. San Jose City College (San Jose, California)
Most Popular Online Substance Abuse/Addiction Counseling Schools
Employment and Job Outlook for Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors
Number of People in Profession
Changing Employment (2008-2018)
Employment is projected to grow much faster than average (increase 20% or more).
Job Opportunities & Competition
Good or favorable job opportunities. Job openings compared with job seekers may be in rough balance.
About 78,470 substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors held jobs. More and more counselors are self-employed working in private or group practices. This is in part because insurance agencies are willing to pay for counseling services and people are becoming more aware of the professionalism of counselors.
In the field of counseling, substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors will see the best job prospects. Much faster than average employment growth is expected for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors with jobs growing about 21 percent. More people are seeking treatment for addiction as society becomes more knowledgeable on the subject. In addition, treatment programs are growing as an alternative to jail for drug offenders.
Earnings and Salary for Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors
Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors earn median annual wages of $37,700. The highest 10 percent earn above $60,060, the lowest 10 percent earn under $24,580 and the middle 50 percent earn between $29,860 and $48,060. Broken down by industries employing the largest number of substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors, median annual salaries were as follows:
Residential mental retardation, mental health and substance abuse facilities: $34,250
Individual and family services: $38,180
Outpatient care centers: $38,830
Local government: $45,350
General medical and surgical hospitals: $45,640
Typically, self-employed substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors with well-established practices and those in group practices earn the highest wages.
Annual Salary for Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors
On average, Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors earn $37,700 per year.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook