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What is a Substance Abuse Counselor?

Drug and alcohol abuse is a problem that continues to plague society. Consequently, there is a high demand for people to work with those who suffer from addiction and related mental health issues. Substance abuse counselors ensure these people get the help they need. 

During the pandemic, emergency calls rose by 40%, and 42 states experienced increases in overdose deaths. As the opioid crisis continues to impact communities across the country, demand for substance abuse counselors is expected to grow, with a 22% job growth outlook from 2021 to 2031

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Substance abuse counselors help people with drug problems in various ways. They may work in places like hospitals, clinics, rehabilitation centers, schools, or other locations where people are struggling with addictions. 

If you’re considering a career as a substance abuse counselor, here are the main things you should know.

What is a Substance Abuse Counselor?

A substance abuse counselor is a mental health professional who works with people who have an addiction to drugs like alcohol, marijuana, opioids, stimulants, and so on. They may also work with people who have an addiction to gambling, sex, or other issues. 

This job is challenging and requires a lot of patience, but it can also be incredibly rewarding.

What Does a Substance Abuse Counselor Do?

Substance abuse counselors talk to patients, create personalized treatment programs, help educate the patients and their families, manage case histories, and communicate with law enforcement and the courts. This care is provided in a number of settings. 

Individual Therapy

Substance abuse counselors work with the patient individually to process difficult aspects of their personal lives, assess situational stressors, such as work, family, and other issues that may be pushing them to self-medicate. 

Group Therapy

Group therapy sessions give people with addictions the opportunity to talk about their experiences and struggles with others who share them, and learn from people who have been where they are. These sessions help individuals realize they’re not alone in the battle and that there is hope for recovery.

Family Counseling

Substance abuse doesn’t only affect the individual. One study found that one in eight children aged 17 and below live with someone who has a substance abuse disorder. The National Center for Substance Abuse and Child Welfare reported that in 38.9% of cases, substance abuse was the reason children were removed from their homes.

Substance abuse counselors help family members heal and better understand their role in the patient’s recovery.

Aftercare Services

Dealing with addiction is a complex process that requires ongoing effort. Substance abuse counselors continue working with the patient to help them develop coping mechanisms and strategies to help them move forward and avoid relapse. Aftercare services also focus on helping patients build life skills, maintain their recovery status, prevent relapse, and achieve a life with a sense of purpose. 

How to Become a Substance Abuse Counselor

Now that you know what a substance abuse counselor does, how can you become one?  

Earn an Associate Degree

If you’re interested in becoming a substance abuse counselor, you first need to earn an Associate of Science (AS) in Substance Abuse Counseling degree. The program will introduce you to counseling, crisis intervention, and patient education. You may also take up psychology or social work. This can help you gain insight into the challenges faced by people with addiction and the best ways to help them. 

Start a Career as a Substance Abuse Counselor

If you’re interested in helping people work through addictions and build better lives for themselves, this can be a very rewarding career. However, it also requires resilience, empathy, and strong interpersonal skills.

An associate degree and proper experience are the first steps to becoming a substance abuse counselor. You’ll then be well-equipped to help people from all walks of life, working with them to manage their addictions and build a better future—and in the process, you’ll become part of the solution to some of society’s toughest problems.

Explore our Programs to get started in your journey to become a substance abuse counselor and make a difference in your community!

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