Substance Abuse Counselor Careers
Becoming a substance abuse counselor is a rewarding, if challenging, career choice.
Over 20 million Americans are classified with alcohol and drug dependency each year. With more than nine percent of the population seeking counseling and/or treatment for substance abuse, the demand for a qualified substance abuse counselor remains high.
Substance abuse counseling, also called behavioral disorder counseling, is arguably the most challenging career choice for mental health counselors. People suffering from drug and alcohol problems are likely to have other behavioral or mental health issues, and the likelihood of relapse during a person's lifelong treatment is a harsh reality.
Still, a substance abuse counselor career can be rewarding, and jobs for substance abuse counselors are available in many areas:
- Half-way houses
- Homeless shelters
- In/out patient therapy (individual or group)
- Jails and prisons
- Drug and alcohol treatment centers
- Social welfare agencies
- State and community departments
Working with Youth
Because the highest percentage of growth in substance abusers is in young adults and teenagers, there is also a great need for substance abuse counselors in high schools and colleges. Not only are counselors called upon to treat people in recovery, they also work to prevent drug and alcohol abuse at an early age and educate parents on how to get involved in their children's exposure to drugs and alcohol.
Although you can begin working in a social service setting with a bachelor's degree, a master's degree is required to become a licensed substance abuse counselor in most states. You can receive an MA, MS or MSW, then specialize in substance abuse counseling either during your program (if available), or by receiving a certification after graduation.
Check your state's licensing requirements for counselors.
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