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Substance Abuse Counselor

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All About Substance Abuse Counselors

Career Description Counsel and advise individuals with alcohol, tobacco, drug, or other problems, such as gambling and eating disorders. May counsel individuals, families, or groups or engage in prevention programs.

Life As a Substance Abuse Counselor

  • Modify treatment plans to comply with changes in client status.
  • Counsel family members to assist them in understanding, dealing with, and supporting clients or patients.
  • Instruct others in program methods, procedures, or functions.
  • Review and evaluate clients’ progress in relation to measurable goals described in treatment and care plans.
  • Confer with family members or others close to clients to keep them informed of treatment planning and progress.
  • Train or supervise student interns or new staff members.

Substance Abuse Counselor Needed Skills

These are the skills Substance Abuse Counselors say are the most useful in their careers:

Active Listening: Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.

Social Perceptiveness: Being aware of others’ reactions and understanding why they react as they do.

Speaking: Talking to others to convey information effectively.

Reading Comprehension: Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.

Critical Thinking: Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.

Service Orientation: Actively looking for ways to help people.

  • Counselor
  • Primary Substance Abuse Counselor
  • Addictions Counselor
  • Certified Alcohol Counselor
  • Chemical Dependency Professional

Is There Job Demand for Substance Abuse Counselors?

In the United States, there were 102,400 jobs for Substance Abuse Counselor in 2016. New jobs are being produced at a rate of 23.2% which is above the national average. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 23,800 new jobs for Substance Abuse Counselor by 2026. There will be an estimated 14,100 positions for Substance Abuse Counselor per year.


The states with the most job growth for Substance Abuse Counselor are Utah, Arizona, and Colorado. Watch out if you plan on working in Rhode Island, Maine, or Idaho. These states have the worst job growth for this type of profession.

What Tools do Substance Abuse Counselors Use?

Although they’re not necessarily needed for all jobs, the following technologies are used by many Substance Abuse Counselors:

  • Microsoft Excel
  • Microsoft Word
  • Microsoft Office
  • Microsoft PowerPoint
  • Microsoft Outlook
  • Web browser software
  • Email software
  • Word processing software
  • Spreadsheet software
  • Database software
  • Scheduling software
  • Statistical software
  • Presentation software
  • IBM Lotus Notes
  • Case management software
  • Athena Software Penelope Case Management
  • Addison Health Systems WritePad EMR Systems
  • Practice Technology Prevail

How do I Become a Substance Abuse Counselor?

What education or degrees do I need to become a Substance Abuse Counselor?


How Long Does it Take to Become a Substance Abuse Counselor?


Those interested in being a Substance Abuse Counselor may also be interested in:

Those who work as a Substance Abuse Counselor sometimes switch careers to one of these choices:


Image Credit: Staff Sgt. Katie Spencer via Public domain

More about our data sources and methodologies.

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