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Treatment Center Drug & Alcohol Counselors: Job Description & Requirements

Explore the training and job duties of a treatment center drug and alcohol counselor. Learn about the salary expectation and the employment outlook during the current decade, to see if this job is a good fit.

Career Definition for a Treatment Center Drug Counselor

Treatment center drug counselors work with patients who are trying to recover from a drug addiction. Depending on the type of treatment center, these patients may live in the facility, or they may be undergoing treatment on an outpatient basis. Treatment center drug counselors' typical duties include processing patient check-in, assessing patient needs, helping to create treatment plans, conducting individual and group therapy sessions, monitoring patient progress and making treatment referrals.

Required Education Varies by employer and state; a bachelor's degree in social and behavioral science or related field required minimum in most cases
Job Skills Assessing patient needs, making treatment referrals, empathy, communication skills
Median Salary (2017)* $43,300 (all substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors)
Job Outlook (2016-2026)* 23% growth (substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Depending on the facility at which you work and state requirements, the necessary education to become a treatment center drug counselor will vary. In most cases, you'll need at least a bachelor's degree in a field like social and behavioral science, social work, family therapy, substance abuse therapy or counseling; in some cases or treatment settings, you may need a master's degree in one of these areas or a related field. Coursework in a 4-year bachelor's program or 2- or 3-year master's program includes developmental psychology, human development, individual and group therapy techniques, the biology of chemical dependency and theories of substance abuse counseling.

Required Skills

To work as a treatment center drug counselor, it is important that you can foster a trusting relationship with your patients. Being empathetic and communicative and strictly following ethical guidelines will help ensure a good, open relationship with your patients. These relationships will be crucial to your patients' recovery and to your success as a treatment center drug counselor.

Economic and Employment Forecast

The employment outlook for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors, including treatment center drug counselors, is very good, with employment in the field expected to grow by 23% from 2016-2026. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), www.bls.gov, the median annual earnings of substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors were $43,300 in May 2017.

Alternate Career Options

Here are some examples of alternative career options:

Rehabilitation Counselor

These counselors usually need a master's degree in rehabilitation counseling, or a similar field, to enter this career where they assist physically and disabled individuals learn to live independently. A faster than average job growth of 13% was expected by the BLS from 2016-2026 for this profession that offered an annual median salary of $34,860 in 2017.

Mental Health Counselor

Normally having a master's degree in counseling, psychology or social work, rehabilitation counselors treat groups, couples and individuals, helping their clients deal with issues such as grief, depression and anxiety in treatment centers, hospitals and private practices. In 2017, the BLS reported their annual median wage as $43,300. The BLS also predicted much faster than average employment growth of 23% from 2016-2026.


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