What is a Substance Abuse Counselor?

A person interested in a career in psychology may want to know what a substance abuse counselor is. This type of counselor specializes in helping people who have a substance abuse disorder. They offer counseling and behavioral therapy to help the person move past their addiction.

Role of a Substance Abuse Counselor

to help people recover from their disorders, including help with finding housing and a job after the completion of treatment. Many people with a substance abuse disorder also have another mental health condition. The counselor may treat both conditions at the same time to give the patient the best possible chance at success for recovery. These counselors also work with addiction medicine physicians, psychiatrists, psychiatric or mental health nurses, social workers and corrections officials to provide a full range of care for a person who has an addiction.

Who a Substance Abuse Counselor Counsels

A substance abuse counselor counsels anyone who has an addiction to substances. The substances of abuse could include alcohol, prescription drugs or illegal drugs. Some of the counselors focus on a specific population. For example, they might focus on teenagers, pregnant women or people who also have another mental illness along with their addiction. Some of the counselors work in specific environments, such as in a prison or a mental health treatment facility.

Duties of Substance Abuse Counselors

Substance abuse counselors perform many duties, which vary a little based on their work environment. The typical daily job duties of these counselors include evaluation of a client’s mental and physical health and their addiction. The counselors also assess a person’s readiness for treatment and make a recommendation for a treatment plan based on the person’s addiction, personal history, personality and other factors. Some of the other job duties of a substance abuse counselor include working with clients to identify situations that could impede their recovery and helping them develop plans of action to avoid those situations or not relapse when exposed to such situations.

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Types of Services Provided By Substance Abuse Counselors

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, substance abuse counselors provide a range of services to their clients. Those services include individual and group therapy sessions. The individual therapy sessions may include cognitive behavioral therapy, crisis intervention and aspects of 12-step programs. The goal of the therapy sessions is to help a person overcome their addiction, learn better coping mechanisms for stress and how to identify triggers that have lead them to abuse substances. The group therapy sessions often include coping mechanisms for families so that families can heal from the stress of addiction.

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Understanding what substance abuse counselors do could help a person decide if this area of psychology is the right one for their skills and preferences. These counselors work in a variety of environments, including clinics, inpatient and outpatient hospitals, mental health and addiction centers, adult education centers, government agencies and in private practice. Knowing what a substance abuse counselor is prepares a person for selecting an area of specialty and choosing the right classes to complete a degree in psychology.