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5 Characteristics of a Substance Abuse Counselor

Top 5 Personality Traits of a Successful Substance Abuse Counselor

  • Compassion for Others
  • Interpersonal Skills
  • Ability to Listen
  • Patience
  • Effective Communicator

A person who is considering a career in substance abuse counseling should know about these five characteristics of a substance abuse counselor. These personality traits are essential to doing this job well and to enjoy this job. Most of these traits come naturally to the right person, but some of them can be developed or honed through a person’s education, training and career.

1. Compassion for Others

One of the top characteristics of a substance abuse counselor is compassion for others. It can be easy to pass judgment on a person who has become addicted to drugs or alcohol, but the counselor has to avoid this in order to help their clients. People with substance abuse disorders are often stressed and dealing with a lot of difficulty, and the counselor should be able to show compassion and empathy.

2. Interpersonal Skills

A substance abuse counselor needs strong interpersonal skills. They have to be easy to relate to. Their patients should feel comfortable discussing difficult topics and deeply personal issues. The counselor should be able to inspire trust and confidence while also nurturing the professional relationship with the client. Most substance abuse counselors work on a team of addiction medicine and counseling services, so they also have to be good at communicating and getting along with social workers, physicians, nurses and other professionals in the field.

3. Ability to Listen

Another one of the characteristics of a substance abuse counselor is the ability to listen. A person with a substance abuse disorder needs to let their feelings and thoughts out in order to approach recovery. Over the course of their addiction, they may have lost friends or family members. Their social support network may be eroded. The counselor needs to listen in order to find out what motivates the patient and what triggers them into abusing different substances.

4. Patience

Treating a person with a substance abuse disorder takes a long time. The treatment might last for a person’s entire life. Many people need ongoing counseling or therapy in order to prevent a relapse. People with a substance abuse disorder may also need ongoing help with avoiding triggers, developing healthy coping mechanisms and creating a social support network of people who will lift them up instead of facilitating their addictions. The counselor needs to be patient with people who have trouble opening up and sharing their feelings, thoughts or personal histories related to addiction and other mental health disorders.

5. Effective Communicator

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a substance abuse counselor should also be an effective communicator. Some people with addictions have trouble understanding the feelings of others. They may have shut down parts of themselves, and they may be uncooperative. The counselor may need to try different methods of communication in order to cut through the walls that a person with the addiction has built around themselves. The counselor should be able to communicate with people of different backgrounds and from different walks of life.

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These are not the only necessary characteristics of a substance abuse counselor, but they are critical to the job. A person who wants to work in this career should also be good at collaborating, creating written documentation and reports and maintain a lifelong love of learning. Each of these five characteristics of a substance abuse counselor is key to providing the best possible level of service to a patient.