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Substance Abuse Counselor

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Life As a Substance Abuse Counselor

Substance Abuse Counselor Job 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.

What Do Substance Abuse Counselors Do On a Daily Basis?

  • Interview clients, review records, and confer with other professionals to evaluate individuals' mental and physical condition and to determine their suitability for participation in a specific program.
  • Provide clients or family members with information about addiction issues and about available services or programs, making appropriate referrals when necessary.
  • Plan or implement follow-up or aftercare programs for clients to be discharged from treatment programs.
  • Intervene as an advocate for clients or patients to resolve emergency problems in crisis situations.
  • Develop, implement, or evaluate public education, prevention, or health promotion programs, working in collaboration with organizations, institutions, or communities.
  • Develop client treatment plans based on research, clinical experience, and client histories.

Skills Needed to be a Substance Abuse Counselor

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.

Types of Substance Abuse Counselor

  • Alcohol and Drug Counselor
  • Licensed Clinician
  • Quitline Counselor
  • Certified Abuse and Drug Addiction Counselor
  • Clinical Counselor

Are There Job Opportunities for Substance Abuse Counselors?

In 2016, there was an estimated number of 102,400 jobs in the United States for Substance Abuse Counselor. 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. Due to new job openings and attrition, there will be an average of 14,100 job openings in this field each 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?

Below is a list of the types of tools and technologies that Substance Abuse Counselors may use on a daily basis:

  • 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?

Learn what Substance Abuse Counselor education requirements there are.


What work experience do I need to become a Substance Abuse Counselor?


Similar Careers

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

Are you already one of the many Substance Abuse Counselor in the United States? If you’re thinking about changing careers, these fields are worth exploring:


Image Credit: Staff Sgt. Katie Spencer via Public domain

More about our data sources and methodologies.

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