The Main Responsibilities of Substance Abuse Counselors

Substance abuse counselors are trained professionals who help people with drug and alcohol problems. They listen to the client, identify their needs, discuss options for treatment, and create a recovery plan. Substance abuse counselors are experts in their field of study and typically have a master’s degree or higher in clinical psychology or social work.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the many responsibilities of substance abuse counselors. 

Roles and Responsibilities of Substance Abuse Counselors

While millions of people worldwide experience substance use disorders (SUDs), it’s estimated that only 1 out of every 7 seek out and receive treatment. It’s clear that substance abuse counseling is in great demand, and it often provides good pay and a flexible working environment. If you’re keen on exploring this career, here are the roles and responsibilities that you’ll handle regularly:

  • Conduct One-on-One Counseling Sessions

Some patients prefer attending private counseling sessions because of the confidentiality it provides. During these sessions, the counselor will address the client’s concerns about substance abuse to help them find ways to cope.

It’s essential to note that many patients don’t come to a counselor voluntarily. Some will do it because a family member asked them to, or they had to see a professional because of a medical illness, and were referred to a counselor for further treatment. They may also be mandated to do so by the justice system.

One-on-one counseling sessions often start by helping clients understand and acknowledge how substance use has consumed their lives. During the session, counselors may engage the client in various forms of psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is the gold standard for addiction treatment because it contains many useful strategies to help the client recover and avoid relapse.

  • Develop Relapse Prevention Programs

More than 85% of individuals experience a relapse after treatment. To help clients maintain sobriety, counselors create a program tailored to their client’s needs and preferences. Some programs focus on one aspect of substance abuse, while others may address several factors simultaneously.

The therapist will talk with the client about what triggers the client’s addictive behaviors and what motivates them to stop using substances. They should also consider any other mental health issues that might be present in addition to substance use disorders. The counselor can then help create strategies and design a program to address their substance use disorder with the aim to prevent relapse. The program can be short or long term, and may include individual or group therapy sessions. Some programs are in person, while others are online.

  • Organize Family Conferences

Family conferences are a vital part of the counseling process and allow the counselor to meet with the family and discuss their concerns. Counselors encourage family members to support their loved ones while they recover. Their meetings aim to establish a treatment plan and may include discussion on medications, therapy recommendations and preferences, counseling options, or goal setting for future progress.

Below is an infographic from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) that can help families support their loved one facing addiction issues: 

Image Source

  • Facilitate Group Sessions

Group counseling provides an environment where individuals with similar experiences can come together and share their stories, which is physically and emotionally beneficial.

Group sessions are helpful for clients who may feel more comfortable in a group setting. This can be especially true for people with substance abuse issues, who may feel stigmatized without others to relate to. Group sessions can also provide you and your clients an opportunity to build relationships, which is vital for providing support during recovery.

Additionally, when working as part of a group therapy team, counselors listen and collect feedback about the groups’ needs so they can better assist individuals in their own treatment plans.

  • Aftercare Follow-ups

Aftercare is the process of monitoring and maintaining contact with clients following their discharge from treatment. Aftercare counselors work with family members and friends, who may be called upon to provide various services such as transportation, housekeeping assistance, grocery shopping, or help with laundry. The counselor also provides emotional support to clients who have been through traumatic experiences during treatment.

  • Formulate Educational Programs

Counselors are responsible for providing care and developing educational programs tailored to their clients’ needs, whether it’s helping a client to become more self-sufficient or improving their relationships with others. They should be aware of the latest research in the field and keep up to date with trends to provide services that reflect current practices and standards.

Become a Substance Abuse Counselor With Training From HCI 

Substance abuse counselors take on many roles to help their clients and establish trusting relationships. They work with their clients to identify problems, develop healthy coping skills, build support networks, and learn how to manage stress.

As a substance abuse counselor, you will be an expert in helping people who struggle with addiction and its related issues through meaningful therapy sessions and other strategies. You’ll also provide access to resources, such as peer groups, that can help assist in the recovery process.

If you’re interested in becoming a substance abuse counselor, we encourage you to explore the offerings at HCI College or contact us today to request more information. 

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