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Substance Abuse Counselor

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What is a Substance Abuse Counselor?

Occupation 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.

A Day in the Life of a Substance Abuse Counselor

  • 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.
  • Counsel family members to assist them in understanding, dealing with, and supporting clients or patients.
  • Participate in case conferences or staff meetings.
  • Assess individuals’ degree of drug dependency by collecting and analyzing urine samples.
  • Act as liaisons between clients and medical staff.
  • Develop, implement, or evaluate public education, prevention, or health promotion programs, working in collaboration with organizations, institutions, or communities.

What Skills Do You Need to Work as a Substance Abuse Counselor?

Substance Abuse Counselors state the following job skills are important in their day-to-day work.

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.

  • Assessment Specialist
  • Chemical Dependency Technician
  • Certified Alcohol Counselor
  • Clinician
  • Drug Abuse Technician

Substance Abuse Counselor Employment Estimates

There were about 102,400 jobs for Substance Abuse Counselor in 2016 (in the United States). 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

Becoming a Substance Abuse Counselor

Individuals working as a Substance Abuse Counselor have obtained the following education levels:


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


Similar Careers

Those thinking about becoming a Substance Abuse Counselor might also be interested in the following careers:

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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