Substance abuse: Salary, career path, job outlook, education and more

Substance abuse counselors and behavioral disorder counselors, also called addiction counselors, work with clients individually and in group sessions. Many incorporate the principles of 12-step programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), to guide their practice. They teach clients how to cope with stress and lifes problems in ways that help them recover. Furthermore, they help clients rebuild professional relationships and, if necessary, reestablish their career. They also help clients improve their personal relationships and find ways to discuss their addiction or other problems with family and friends.

Some addiction counselors work in facilities that employ many types of healthcare and mental health professionals. Addiction counselors may work with psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, physicians, and registered nurses to develop treatment plans and coordinate care for patients.

Some counselors work with clients who have been ordered by a judge to receive treatment for addiction. Others work with specific populations, such as teenagers, veterans, or people with disabilities. Some specialize in crisis intervention; these counselors step in when someone is endangering his or her own life or the lives of others. Other counselors specialize in noncrisis interventions, which encourage a person with addictions or other issues, such as difficulty managing anger, to get help. Noncrisis interventions often are performed at the request of friends and family.

Education Required
Most substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselor positions require at least a bachelors degree. However, depending on the state and employer, educational requirements for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors can vary from a high school diploma and certification to a masters degree. Workers with psychology, clinical social work, mental health counseling, and similar masters degrees can provide more services to their clients, such as private one-on-one counseling sessions, and they require less supervision than those with less education. Those interested should research their states educational requirements.
Job Outlook
The projected percent change in employment from 2016 to 2026: 20% (Much faster than average)
(The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.)
Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors in private practice must be licensed. Licensing requirements vary by state, but all states require these counselors to have a masters degree and 2,000 to 4,000 hours of supervised clinical experience. In addition, counselors must pass a state-issued exam and complete continuing education every year. Contact information for your state's regulating board can be found through the National Board for Certified Counselors.
Median pay: How much do Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors make?
$42,150 Annual Salary
$20.27 per hour

Careers for Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors

  • Addiction counselors
  • Addiction therapists
  • Alcohol and drug counselors
  • Behavior disorder counselors
  • Certified abuse and drug addiction counselors
  • Certified alcohol and drug counselors
  • Chemical dependency counselors
  • Clinical mental health counselors
  • Drug abuse counselors
  • Drug counselors
  • LCMHCs
  • LMHCs
  • Licensed clinical mental health counselors
  • Licensed mental health counselors
  • Mental health counselors
  • Substance abuse counselors

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