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Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselor: Career Info

Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors require varying amounts of formal education. Learn about the education, job duties and licensure requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

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A career as a substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselor involves working with people who suffer from addiction or addictive tendencies. Patients could include alcoholics, drug addicts, or individuals with eating disorders. They may work at for a community health organization, a treatment center, a hospital, or have a private practice.

Essential Information

A substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselor works with people who have trouble controlling relationships with alcohol, drugs, food, gambling and more. They create a recovery plan and council the individual and family members affected by the addiction. They also monitor progress and help prevent the patient from relapsing into the addictive behavior.

Required Education Varies from high school diploma and on-the-job training to master's degree
Other Requirements Licensure for private practice
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 22%
Average Annual Salary (2015)* $42,920

*Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Career Info

Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors support and advise those that have eating disorders or problems abusing alcohol, drugs and gambling. They work at private practices, community health organizations, various treatment centers and hospitals.

A substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselor records their patients' medical history, reviews their records and evaluates their mental and physical health to determine a suitable recovery program. They also collaborate with social workers, doctors and psychologists to provide other necessary services. These plans and services take into account the triggers that lead to the patient's addictions or behavioral problems. Coping mechanisms and healthier alternative behaviors are discussed with the patient.

Individual and group counseling sessions may be conducted on a daily, weekly or on a drop-in basis. This is usually in a private setting due to confidentiality concerns and the nature of the conversations that take place. Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors also conduct sessions for family members affected by the person with the addiction. Some counselors may also go to areas that are highly affected by addiction to educate the public about how to prevent substance abuse. High emotional and physical energy is required due to the stressful nature of the problems they address on a daily basis.

A substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselor reviews and assesses the patient's progress to determine if the treatment plan is working and goals are being reached. Adjustments are made if the treatment plan isn't helping the patient work through his or her problems. Once a patient is discharged from a treatment program, an aftercare plan is implemented.

Salary and Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the mean salary of substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors in May 2015 was $42,920 a year. The BLS projected that between 2014 and 2024, employment in this industry will increase by 22%. This increase may be due to a greater awareness of addictions, which leads to more people seeking treatment. Additionally, some drug offenders are being sent to treatment programs rather than jail.

The job requirements for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors vary. Employers may require only a high school diploma and on-the-job training for some positions, while others could require an undergraduate or graduate degree. A license is required for those working in private practice.

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